The New Times (Kigali)

Rwanda: Oakdale's Musical Works Reverberate Across Rwanda

MUSIC brings peace, joy, reconciliation, healing and freedom. And this is the dish Oakdale music center has served to Rwandans through music. The school has touched the lives of Rwandans through music.

Twelve years since it was established by Marlene Lee, an American church missionary, the Kigali-based music school has since trained several people in music. It has given talented musicians an opportunity to obtain professional music skills. At the time, the school was established; there were no music schools in Rwanda.

"By then, music was only taught in seminaries," says Aimable Nsabayeyu, the school's acting director since 2007. "We all need music because it is a meal and medicine to the soul," he reveals.

Marlene started by training a few people and since then the number of students has increased to 120, including children and adults, with several of them going on to achieve professional acclaim in the industry. Notable among the school's products is Canada-based Rwandan singer/guitarist Ezra Kwizera and Askari Bwangamwabo.

The school has professional music teachers from Kenya, England, America and Italy. Students are taught how to operate and play various musical instruments including piano, guitar, drums, Inanga (a trough-zither) and traditional dance as well as voice and music theory.

Speaking to The New Times, Nsabayeyu said the school hopes to introduce more lessons in electric bass guitar, saxophone and recorder.

Recently, a charity concert to raise funds to support the school was organised at Kigali Serena Hotel.

"During the concert, three of our students were selected to go for music studies in Europe and when they come back, they will train those who didn't go," says Nsabayeyu.

The school also hopes to offer internationally recognised trainings, like the Associated Board of Royal Schools of Music (ABRSM), among others.

"We will keep our dream of teaching, preserving and propagating the traditional music and culture of Rwanda," adds Nsabayeyu.

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