Classical Star Performs at East Oakland Leadership Academy

Nokuthula Ngwenyama, on stage at Regents Theater at Holy Names University in Oakland. Photos by Fluhrer/Chin.

East Oakland Leadership Academy students greeted the artists after the performance. From left to right: Miracle Sheperd, Sandra Rivers (pianist), Nokuthula Ngwenyama (violist, violinist), Kris Rivas, Rovijon Davis, and Lizeth Castillo-Simon.

Nokuthula Ngwenyama shares her story with students at East Oakland Leadership Academy.

About 50 middle school students from the East Oakland Leadership Academy had the opportunity last week to hear a performance by classical violinist and violist Nokuthula Ngwenyama, who the L.A. Times called, “A Face to Watch,” hosted by Four Seasons Arts. Ngwenyama played pieces for the students, discussed the viola and violin and answered questions about her struggle to become an international star. Born in Los Angeles of Zimbabwean-Japanese parents, Ngwenyama told the students, “I started playing the violin at age 5.  My father was initially opposed to my playing “the white man’s music’. Much later he became supportive.” A graduate of Curtis Institute and a Fulbright scholar, Ngwenyama earned a Masters in Theology from Harvard University.  She has performed throughout the U.S. and abroad, appeared at the White House, on CBS Sunday Morning, and was featured on the Emmy Award-nominated PBS program Sound of Strings. She is an advocate for the arts who testified before Congress on behalf of the National Endowment for the Arts.  She served as visiting professor at the University of Notre Dame in 2007 where she lectured on African Music and Music and World Religions. Four Seasons Arts is bringing Music Share to East Oakland Leadership Academy, a program designed to expose students to classical music, which is strongly supported by the school’s principal Dr. Laura Armstrong. Besides attending classical concerts and in-school seminars by major performing artists, the young people are participating in classes that make classical music accessible on iPods and other technological devices. Ngwenyama performed with world renowned pianist Sandra Rivers on the piano, on Jan. 12 at Regents Theatre at Holy Names University in Oakland. Several of the children from the Leadership Academy were the first to greet the artists after the performance.
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