This week we’re featuring a story on one of our US University Scholarship students, Peter Mugga, who’s finishing up his last semester at Santa Fe University of Art and Design. In a recent interview with Charlotte Martinez, for the school’s Journalism Collaborations blog, Peter explains his love for music and how he seeks to find the perfect balance between culture and modern technology!
Story: Charlotte Martinez // Photos: Michelle Rutt // Editing: Lauren McBride, Empower African Children
His humble demeanor complements his exterior; short black dreadlocks topped with a beanie, a leather jacket that gives him the “Ghost Rider” edge, a cross hanging from his neck, and casual yet calculated steps. Calm. Alive. Truly a role model to other international students at the Santa Fe University of Art and Design.
“Come to my office,” he says.
“You have an office?”
“Yeah.” He smiles. “I coordinate the sound studio.”
One semester away from a bachelor’s degree in Contemporary Music, the musician admits that his passion for recording, technology and sound was “not something I grew up with, but I found.” Peter grew up with a father who taught him to play the traditional instruments of East Africa. He developed a passion for the sounds of African music and later this passion would grow to include the technologies of modern music.Like the influences of his two worlds, Uganda and the US, Peter’s office seems to co-exist between his love of culture and his love of technology. His bookshelf holds several versions of a harp-like instrument called adungu, the likes of which resemble a human spine. A guitar leans in its holster, traditional and worn. To his right, the beads of his shekere shaker sleep on a chair after a hard day’s rattling. Giant speakers and audio equipment fill the other half of the room. By the door, a giant drum called an ngoma, his favorite instrument, waits for him like an obedient canine.
“I wanted to be in the studio,” Peter elaborates, “to turn the knobs,” an opportunity he simply wouldn’t have if he remained in his village. The pieces began to come together in 2006 when he was offered a full scholarship through Empower African Children to attend Taibah International School, a prominent boarding school outside of Kampala.
Peter remembers feeling pressured to prove his work. “It’s hard to tell parents and people in the community [back home in Uganda] that you’re going to study music. They think you’re spoiled…that you’re not really doing anything.”
Despite the opinions of those back home, Peter pursued his love of drumming and performance by joining Empower’s professional touring group, Spirit of Uganda, which took him to 40 states in the US. Soon after, he was accepted to Santa Fe University of Art & Design on a full scholarship, following two years at Richland Community College in Dallas. He declared a major in Contemporary Music and was flooded with opportunities in audio technology and music performance. Today, he works various part time jobs at the school, including coordinator for SFUAD’s recording studio, co-teacher for the African drums, and DJ for events like last year’s Public Enemy concert.
After graduation, Peter plans on rejoining Spirit of Uganda for their upcoming tour and working as the sound engineer as well as a mentor to the student performers. Empower African Children’s President and Co-Founder, Alexis Hefley says, “I think Peter Mugga is called to teach and share with other students his love for music and composing. It has been his way of breaking the cycle of poverty. He raised the bar on what a young person can accomplish. Peter is a great return on Empower African Children’s investment – he is an example of the power of the human spirit and allows us to see what is possible when a young person is given the opportunity to live into their full potential and the resources to succeed. And to think it all started with a scholarship.”
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