Renowned pianist plays at Ragozzino; Musical authority melds classical European and traditional African music

Dr. William Chapman Nyaho addresses the Ragozzino Hall audience as Asia Wooten accompanies him on May 9.Photo: Chris Piepgrass

Dr. William Chapman Nyaho addresses the Ragozzino Hall audience as Asia Wooten accompanies him on May 9.
Photo: Chris Piepgrass

Dr. William Chapman Nyaho’s May 9 recital showcased material from composers of African descent.

The concert was put on by the Lane Diversity Department in collaboration with the Black Student Union whose members ushered during the event.

Before each song, Nyaho spoke a little about the piece he was about to play and explained the cultural influences and how they affected the music. The night’s theme was playful piano music from the African diaspora.

“I made a New Year’s resolution not to play any western European music until I learned a full recital of music by composers of African descent,” Nyaho said.

The diversity department has been searching for professionals to represent a storytelling series at Lane that will help inspire students that wish to become performers. At the department request, performers and speakers come to the college to speak about their lives and how they have achieved their goals.

When diversity department director Donna Koechig asked Dr. Stanley Coleman, a Lane instructor of literature and communication, if he knew somebody who would like to perform, Coleman instantly thought of Nyaho.

“We’ve been pushing people we know to come here because they have so much to offer, and they’re such role models for young people who want to be performers,” Coleman said.

John Watson, Lane’s marketing manager, granted guests free admission into the concert.

Before his performance, Nyaho sat down in the multicultural room to discuss his background and answer questions.

Nyaho is a Ghanaian native, raised in Switzerland where his father held a job with the United Nations. His family later returned to Ghana where he developed a passion for both traditional African music and classical European.

“I come from a family where music was important, traditional music and classical music. I grew up with all of that swirling in my head,” Nyaho said. “I struggled with being able to meld my passion for traditional music with classical for a long time.”

In college he received a Bachelor of Arts degree from the Oxford Honour School of Music before pursuing a master’s degree from the Conservatoire de Musique de Geneve in Switzerland, and later a Doctor of Musical Arts from the University of Texas at Austin.

“It was an amazing revelation, learning and struggling through all this music,” Nyaho said. “It’s very exciting to be able to share it with you.”