I am a west African native from Togo. I always say that first because I think that has a huge impact as who I am as an individual and how people view me. After that is when I would say I’m a violinist. I think those two about sum it up. I’m a sophomore on the pre-med track majoring in Health Policy and Administration. I’m also receiving a BA in music with the focus on violin.
Why did you decide to pursue music?
I started playing because my sister was doing it – it wasn’t just like I woke up and decided to do it. By the grace of God, a lot of things happened at once. There was a program in my elementary school that helped me get started because there were people looking for students to play instruments. I started playing and it helped me in school a lot because it taught me discipline. I wanted to quit at first, but my music teacher in 5th grade didn’t let me. I would say she saw something in me: potential and the ability to really grow my talent.
When I first started playing, I was doing it for social reasons – I thought it was cool. But after a while I stopped because it wasn’t cool anymore. That’s when I started to do my own thing and started playing what my audiences wanted to hear. I was playing pop covers and songs you would hear on the radio.
With the music in general, I use it as means to accomplish more than entertainment. First and foremost, I use music to connect with people. I think to connect with someone is giving them the ability to open up and allowing them to listen to what you want. I’m interested in doing that because of my career in Heath Policy. Using my music as a way to connect with people was never the initial goal, but I think it has evolved into that. I now have the ability to start conversations with people through my music.
Why do you think your music is important and meaningful on campus?
I have done a lot of performances on campus. I have performed at THON, at the Noontime Concert Series, Infusion, Penn State Best Dance Crew, Lion Ambassador’s Senior Sendoff, the Alumni Association Dinner, and many others. I also perform at this event called “Tea Time,” where some students in Simmons get together for conversation, live music, and tea.
I love when I’m covering pop songs and I get to watch people as they figure out the tune sounds familiar, and then see them as they realize what song I’m covering. Then I can play with the melody and change it around, and I really love watching people enjoy listening to that. I think it’s mind opening to the audience, and I think that’s a benefit to the community.
Furthermore, music is important on campus because of the conversations you have afterwards. For me personally, this is one of my primary reasons why I enjoy performing so much. I still remember the conversations I have with students and kids after performances. I realized that what comes out of my mouth has an impact on them. I use it as means to connect and influence and hopefully shed light on issues in a positive manner – that’s what it’s mainly about.
Recently someone commented on my YouTube Channel and said that I inspired them and that wanted to do what I do. It’s stuff like that they really humbles you and shows that you’re making a difference.
How does your work with music allow you to use your gifts and talents?
I think it’s the connection and influence that music has brought me that has allowed me to use my gifts and talents. I wanted to show kids that they all have talent and they should all pursue it. Music has allowed me to spread my vision and what I believe in – without music I wouldn’t have the same opportunities. It’s easier for me to spread my message(s) with people who are willing to sit through an hour long performance, and music provides great accessibility that leads into many conversations.
How can your music make a difference in this world?
I’ve had some great opportunities to make a difference through my music. This past Thanksgiving, I went back to my middle school to do a performance. I think my performance gave me the opportunity to provide an image that the kids could relate to. My teachers said a lot of the kids need an African American positive male role model they can feel comfortable looking up to. If you can’t relate to the person who is trying to influence and inspire you, nothing is going to get accomplished. I speak the same language as these kids, and I’m from the same community. A lot of the kids at that school are currently thinking they won’t amount to much after high school, and I was there to show them what I’m doing. I’m just a college kid trying to give back.
Anything to say for students who want to get involved with music?
First of all, I’d say to anyone looking to go into music to start now – don’t wait. Sometimes I only have 20 minutes to practice, but I try to make the best of it. I would challenge everyone to go and find out what issues affect people that you deeply care about. What I’m attempting to do covers a lot of different disciplines, but I’m really passionate about all of it.
Also, I’d say it’s important to know you story. You need to know how to sell yourself – whether you’re a musician or an entrepreneur. When people see passion in you… you’re golden.