Dr. Kofi J. S. Gbolonyo (PhD 2009) is an Assistant Professor of Music (in ethnomusicology) and the director of the African Ensemble at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada. Having expertise in both Ewe musical traditions and Western training methods such as Orff Schulwerk, Gbolonyo describes himself as having his “feet firmly planted in two distinct, but complementary models of educational philosophies and principles.” The diversity of his own training laid the groundwork for his activity as a clinician in African and multicultural musical expressions, work that has taken him all over the world.
No one would fault Gbolonyo for settling into a successful career as a university professor and international clinician, but his passion for teaching is matched by his commitment to providing educational opportunities to Ghanaian youth, especially those with limited financial resources. This motivated him to found the Ghana School Project: Nunya (Wisdom) Academy in his hometown of Dzodze. Nunya Academy educates Ghanaian young people in traditional African music, Western music, and music technology. Gbolonyo hopes to one day have many schools throughout Ghana, providing opportunities for this type of multicultural music education.
Gbolonyo’s commitment to education extends to providing opportunities for other educators as well. This June he will offer a summer course in Ghana exploring the many connections between African music and Orff Schulwerk. Joining him in this summer course are Sofía López-Ibor, James Harding, and Doug Goodkin, leading proponents of Orff’s educational method. These expert pedagogues will help other educators “connect the material both to Orff process and related musics—jazz, Latin music, and beyond.”
Kofi Gbolonyo’s pursuit of multicultural experience and global understanding is scholarship that makes a difference—to his students and peers in the academy and the children he is reaching through the Ghana School Project. His work is an inspiring example of what can happen when our students and alumni make the connection between rigorous research and a deeply humane vision for the world.