Aghulor Uche graduated as the most outstanding student from MUSON School of Music under the auspices of MTN Foundation on July 5, 2022.
The marriage of MTN Foundation, whose bid to recognise talent and reward academic excellence has never been in doubt, and MUSON School of Music, whose preoccupation with meeting international standards in music education is unquestionable, is a laudable bid to provide well-rounded creatives, strengthen the creative industry, and extend the frontiers of music in Nigeria.
For this year, MTN Foundation graduated a total of 30 artistes from MUSON School of Music, with the highpoint of the ceremony recognising three standout talents – the most outstanding of them, of course, Aghulor.
Even though she found out about her passion and talent for music at an early stage, Aghulor’s determined foray into music received both familial and communal protests, coming from an environment where it was an oddity to venture into music as a course of study and a career path.
In her words, ‘I grew up in an underdeveloped place. Unlike the city of Lagos, I grew up in my hometown, Agbor, Delta State, Nigeria. So, talking about studying music was strange.’
‘They were like, you are going to die in poverty young lady.’
In the face of resistance, grooming to become a lawyer and hobnobbing between church choirs, Aghulor has gone on to achieve her dream of studying music, concretising innate abilities with practical, academic knowledge and kickstarting a name-making trajectory in the industry – thanks to MTN Foundation’s relentless music scholarship scheme.
Speaking with Netng, the most outstanding student talks about her unsure beginnings, the challenges, the wins, and MTN Foundation’s place as a precursor of dreams coming through.
How would you describe your experience at MUSON School of Music?
Well, my experience at MUSON has been very wonderful. Not perfect, but wonderful.
Not perfect? How come?
Well, my major challenges included the fact that we’re in Lagos and we all know how life is here in Lagos. Coming to MUSON on a daily basis with the lifestyle of Lagos wasn’t very easy for me. I had to make sure I was up every day at 4:30 AM and then most times, I got home at night, 10:00 PM. Then repeating the whole cycle again, it wasn’t very easy.
That was one of the challenges I faced as a student.
Is this your first time in Lagos?
I wasn’t in Lagos before now. I came to Lagos in 2018 and started my move towards getting into MUSON in 2019. Before then, I had gotten my first degree from the University of Benin, Department of Adult and Non-Formal Education.
At what point did you decide it was going to be music?
Well, after my first degree, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. Growing up as a child, you’ll be assured that you’d become a medical doctor or a lawyer and all that kind of fancy life. So, I grew up thinking I would become a lawyer (laughs). Having written JAMB, I got adult education and my parents were like, “you know, take it. You’re still young. Afterwards, you’ll go and do your Law.”
All of this time, I used to use music as a consolation prize, sort of (laughs). It would tear me up and I’ve always loved the choir. I joined one at the age of nine.
So, having done my first degree, it was time to get back for the Law degree and then I realized that there was no passion in all of this, it was just for the name. At that point, I knew that for a change I just had to do something that I wanted to do for myself, not for anyone else, but for myself.
That was when music came into the picture, I decided that I wouldn’t waste any time chasing what I really didn’t care about. I was just going to do something for myself. That was when I decided I wanted to study music, against all odds because my parents didn’t want that for me.
Would you say taking a Musical course was a dream come true?
I would say I studied a dream course because I’ve always wanted to do something related to music. I’ve always wanted to belong to musical groups and I’ve always wanted to sing. But, it just didn’t seem like my thoughts were going to ever be possible. So, coming to MUSON made it feel like a dream come true. I’m finally able to be in an environment that allows me to thrive as a singer.
Yes. It’s a dream come true.
What was the drive behind your emergence as one of the top three students in your class?
Well, I think it’s more of a personal thing. I’ve always had a knack for excellence.
Being average is not my thing. I don’t mean to be proud but if there’s something like excellence, why do I have to settle for good or okay. And this is not just academically: if I want to eat and there’s a better way to make the food, I would say, “why don’t I have it the best way rather than just manage the food? Or why don’t I use the best plate rather than the broken one?”
So, it’s more like a habit for me and a lifestyle for doing things differently and exceptionally. When it came down to the business of academics, B or C wasn’t negotiable for me. Because it’s a lifestyle, it didn’t take me too much thought to do my best. I would naturally want to give my best wherever I find myself.
More so, it took a whole lot coming here. A lot of people told me, “stay back home and look for what to do with your life.” So, was I trying to say to them that I would come here and still be lazy about it? No. For me, I still had a point to prove, which is the fact that I want this and I’m going to give it my all.
I was always waking up with that drive for excellence because I took a lot of risks coming here and I’m not going to joke with it.
What part of music are you interested in with regard to practice?
With regards to practice, I’m interested in vocal performance.
I’m also interested in contemporary singing and music production.
Why Music production?
I have a great interest in music production. It’s something that I started experimenting as far back as 2019. I also have an interest in music education.
I have a knack for trying to put things together, piece ideas together, come up with concepts and think of what we can do musically. But so far, that part of me hasn’t gained much ground because I was still a student just a couple of days ago.
The creative industry is one where creating or thinking alone is not enough. You need those thoughts to be pushed and supported in the background. So, if you have such kinds of support, it just allows you to bloom. So yeah, that’s pretty much it.
What’s your favourite genre of music?
I wouldn’t say I have a favourite genre. Even at MUSON, I was good at classical singing as well as contemporary singing. And I grew up listening to both actually. So, I think I share almost an equal amount of likeness or fondness for both of them.
I also love opera.
But I’m very sensitive about Nigerian music as well.
What was your most memorable moment as a student at MUSON?
I think the graduation day was my happiest moment. I say that because it was like a moment of relief for me, not just for the fact that two years of studies have come to an end, but most importantly, it was the way it ended. I had anticipated that I would go home with one award. Well, at the end of the day, I grabbed three awards.
I didn’t see that coming. If I had seen it coming, I would’ve told my father he had to be there. (Laughs)
Unfortunately, there were no family members around. Just my colleagues and fellow students. Still, it brought me so much joy. Yes, that was the happiest day for me.
What are your words for the MTN Foundation who made your music dream come true?
I love you MTN Foundation.
I am indebted to them. If there’s a way I can actually pay back, please they should let me know. I’ll be more than glad to do so. Do you know why? Because it’s hard to find people who put in so much for a long time and are not in any way deterred, even if they don’t get as much as they put in.
MTN has remained consistent. They’ve remained steadfast. That’s one amazing thing they do. And, you know, even in Nigeria, as we know it, people are laid off every now and then. MTN has every reason to decide that in the middle of it all, they are tired. They can say “let’s invest our money somewhere.” But, that never happened.
And for that, we are eternally grateful. I am grateful because not only did they pay for the tuition, but we also had these allowances that took care of our transportation expenses. That is very essential in Lagos and being in MUSON doesn’t give you enough opportunity to explore other jobs…to shuffle between the program.
So, that money helped a lot of us during our studies. We had to cut our coats according to our sizes but the money went a very long way.
I don’t think there’s any other institution or organization in Nigeria that can boast of this kind of support.
I would always, always remember this act of kindness that they’ve shown to me and my colleagues every day of my life. I would wake up 10, 15, or 20 years from now and tell anyone who cares to listen to me in any part of the world that I find myself, that in my sojourn, somebody somewhere was kind and good enough to pay for my tuition and allowance.