Capilano University and Nunya: A Growing Friendship

Photos used with permission by Tae Hoon, the album where they are located can be found here.

I met Kofi Gbolonyo three years ago through our mutual friend, Curtis Andrews. Right from our first meeting I could tell there was something special about him and as he described his vision for the Nunya Academy, I was immediately intrigued. Since then, we have become very good friends and my students have had the privilege of having Kofi as a guest artist in the Jazz Studies department at Capilano University on many occasions. He always brings a great deal of joy, positive energy, and musical knowledge to our students.   

Capilano Jazz students have been involved in collecting instruments, funds, and supplies for Nunya over the past couple of years and my family and I were lucky enough to be in Dzodze with Kofi last July when the instruments arrived. I also had the privilege of teaching clarinet to the Nunya students for a few days and really enjoyed my time with them. Despite some trepidation, my daughter, Isabelle, taught her first flute lesson and had some very eager and thankful students. 

Isabelle, on flute, working with Nunya Students 

Isabelle, on flute, working with Nunya Students 

One of the most important aspects of our family’s visit to Dzodze was meeting Kofi’s family.  All of them are involved in some way in helping Nunya to grow and flourish. Of particular importance to the success of this project are Kofi’s brother Prosper and Prosper’s wife, Becky. While Kofi is traveling all over the world engaging support for Nunya, Prosper is there every day teaching the students and Becky is likewise busy organizing, keeping records, feeding people, and helping to manage all those children. They selflessly give so much of their time to the project and are truly inspired and inspiring people. The Nunya students performed an incredible concert for us that showed how much work and effort is being put into the project by so many people.

Jared working with Nunya students on the clarinet

Jared working with Nunya students on the clarinet

On Friday, April 21, 2017, we held a benefit concert at Capilano University for the Nunya Academy.  The show featured Kofi’s community dance and drum group, Adanu Habobo, along with Capilano’s Percussion Ensemble, Rhythmic Music Ensemble, C Band, and faculty guests. Adanu Habobo presented traditional music from Ghana and the Capilano groups presented a wide variety of African-influenced jazz arrangements, including big band settings of traditional pieces, Ayikoo Na MiNyame Dua, and Ghana Nyigba. A special part of the event for our student performers was wearing the colorful Ghanaian costumes provided by the Gbolonyo family. Kofi marshalled a huge contingent of percussionists on every tune aided by Capliano percussion instructor, Dave Robbins. The concert raised $1100 CDN for the Nunya Academy and the music and dance were thrilling.

I look forward to seeing all the Nunya students again when we return to Ghana in summer of 2018.

Dr. Jared Burrows is a guitarist, composer, and educator based in Vancouver, BC.  His musical work is focused on jazz and he enjoys exploring collaborations with musicians from India and Africa. Jared is the Coordinator of the Jazz Studies Department at Capilano University. His website is:  www.jaredburrows.com