Agape: Mélange Kampala Begins

Updated: Aug 3, 2019

Completing the inaugural Mélange Vienna project last week was such a thrill! With 15 participants from around the world in attendance, the festival in Vienna was an enriching time for us all (which you can read more about in previous posts). This year, we were excited to give festival tuition scholarships to five pianists, one of whom was a refugee from Syria, with the others coming from Brazil and Colombia.

Our summer lineup of music education projects continues with Mélange Kampala this week! As the foundation’s goals become reality, I would like to continue to share the background of each project with you, in hopes that you will see both our history and our work on the ground as a nonprofit organization. Maybe you'll even decide to become a part of our story in some way!

Mélange Kampala, like all of our projects so far, began with a personal connection. Father Kizito Kirenga, a dear family friend of ours (whom we’ve known for a decade), had been inviting me to perform in Uganda for years. Previously, the timing had not worked out, as sometimes happens when so many schedules need to line up at once! 

However, Fr. Kizito had put me in touch recently with Jude Luwaga, a choir director and church musician based in Kampala (Uganda’s capital). Jude and I hit it off immediately, conversing solely on WhatsApp, and started learning more about each other’s experiences and cultures. He directs a number of choirs in the Kampala area, and has always wanted to promote talent and a higher standard of music throughout his country. 

In fact, Jude’s choir, the Cherubim Chamber Chorale, had already reserved their next concert date at the Ugandan National Cultural Centre on July 28, 2019, and Jude asked me to come perform in concert with them, both solo and collaborative works. Since we were already in the process of putting together Mélange Vienna, I decided that now was finally the time to make a project happen in Uganda! 

As we talked more in the weeks that followed, it became clear that our visions matched closely, especially as I learned about the difficulty many Ugandan children have in accessing high-quality music education. Jude also told me that, although he graduated with a degree in music from Makerere University, he felt that there was still much he’d like to learn in order to be a more effective choir director. He told me, "Better piano skills will allow me to serve the church and community more effectively."

At that point, I asked Jude if it would be possible to launch a choir for underprivileged children in Kampala. Because we had limited resources as a new nonprofit organization at the time, I thought that starting a choir would be the best way to reach the most people at once. Jude was excited about this idea, and even willing to donate his time to this project.

Jude Luwaga and his piano teacher, Christ Tendo, having a lesson at St. Cecilia Music School in Kampala

With the goal of bringing music education to children and the larger community, Jude began formulating a Youth Choir at the Namugongo Primary School (a government-run institution in Kampala) in May 2019. Nearly every weekend, he rides a taxi or public motorcycle an hour each way to the school with a few members of the Cherubim Chamber Chorale, in order to rehearse with these children who want to sing. In return, Mélange.IMF supports weekly piano lessons for Jude with Chris Tendo, a graduate of the Kampala Music School, at Nsambya Parish’s St. Cecilia Music School in Kampala.

Together with members of the Cherubim Chamber Chorale, Jude has mentored the children in their musical development, and eventually narrowed the choir down to a group of 35 singers. Because of the motivation and pure passion of everyone involved, the Youth Choir has prepared two songs in only a few months’ time! Both choirs are excited to share the stage in an annual concert at the Uganda National Cultural Centre this July 28.

As everything began to come together, I suggested the name Agape for the concert, to represent the coming together of people from around the community, the church, and the world in unconditional love.

Jude continues to volunteer his own time in building this Youth Choir, and as the project grows, we hope to be able to sponsor not only his lessons, but also his transportation costs and time. Because of Jude's excitement and determination, I am already dreaming up ways to expand the Youth Choir into a larger music program.

Currently, Mélange.IMF has received support to sponsor not only Jude’s piano lessons in Kampala, but also Mélange t-shirts for all children involved, and the reservation of the National Cultural Centre for the concert next year where the Youth Choir will have a more prominent role.

Jude says, “This is going to change the lives of these children. Music is going to sharpen their brains to perform better and also help the community where they live to praise God better.”

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