Conductor

by Pam Chamberlain, submitted 2010

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

Duncan earned a Master of Music in Choral Conducting from the University of Alberta in 2002. 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. Plus, 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 students,” 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.

Now Duncan is pursuing a PhD in music education and conducting at the University of Florida, where he earned a fellowship award. Although the program is challenging, Duncan is finding time to start up the Pazeni Sauti Africa Choir, the first of its kind on the campus.

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