Conductor

by Pam Chamberlain, updated 2018

Since graduating from Augustana, Duncan Wambugu (BA Music ‘99) has accomplished more in twenty years than some musicians do in a lifetime.

Duncan earned a Master of Music in Choral Conducting from the University of Alberta in 2003. He taught for six years at Kenyatta University in Nairobi and became not only the first Kenyan but also the first African, to conduct the Nairobi Orchestra for a full concert. He led workshops across Kenya to train musicians and music teachers in music education and performance. He was four times a national adjudicator for the annual Kenya Music Festival. Furthermore, Duncan was invited to be the vocal coach on the American Idol-style reality TV show Idols: Eastern and Southern Africa.

“The best thing about working with [Kenyan] students [at the time],” he remembers, “was the excitement of seeing them transform from the beginning of the academic year to the end.” The challenge, he adds, was trying to raise the standard of instruction in a system where educational resources—such as instruments, books, and computers—are much scarcer than they are at universities in the developed world.

Further music studies took him to Florida where he was Founder/Director of the first ever University of Florida Africa Choir Pazeni Sauti, established in September of 2009. Duncan completed a PhD in Music Education from the School of Music at the University of Florida in 2012.

Duncan has written and presented several papers on various aspects of performance of African (Art) Music and Music Education in national and international music conferences and workshops. He’s won various awards including the Augustana University Charles K Noble Award and Onesimus Award, the University of Florida’s Alec Courtelis Award and College of Fine Arts International Student Outstanding Achievement Award, the Florida Higher Education Arts Network Advocacy Award, the University of Alberta Horizon Award and the Kenyatta University Extra Mile Award.

Since his return to Kenya, Duncan has become a member of the faculty at Kenyatta University’s Music Department, appointed the Music Director of the Safaricom Youth Orchestra (SYO), Trustee of Art of Music Foundation which runs the Ghetto Classics and National Youth Orchestra of Kenya (KNYO) programs, member of the Kenya Music and Cultural Festival Committee, facilitator for the Permanent Presidential Music Commission Talent Academies, active presenter at various conferences and workshops locally and internationally and he conducts the Nairobi Orchestra, KNYO and SYO in various concerts.

It appears Duncan won’t slow down anytime soon, and it looks like he’ll continue blazing trails as he goes.