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William Chapman Nyaho


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Early life: Chapman Nyaho started playing when he was 5. He grew up in a musical family, where he received lots of positive encouragement and was surrounded by all types of music. "In my teens, people started saying I should become a banker or something, so I wouldn't spend my life poor," he said. "But my dad told me to keep doing what I loved to do." That was piano.

Education: Chapman Nyaho left Africa in 1978 to attend Oxford University, where he earned a bachelor of arts degree in music. He continued his studies in Switzerland and later received a master of arts degree from the Eastman School of Music in New York. He received his doctorate in musical arts from the University of Texas, Austin. "After all my studies, I really wanted to get back into playing," he said. "My gift lies in interpreting."

An exceptional mentor: "One of my biggest mentors is Maya Angelou," Chapman Nyaho said. He met the famous poet and author through family and friends when she lived in Ghana and continues to stay in touch with her. "She taught me how to share my gift," he said. "She believed in me before I believed in myself. Being true to my art influenced me to start sharing it freely."

Upcoming: Chapman Nyaho plans to release his first solo CD in spring 2003. He also is working on a written anthology of piano pieces by composers of African descent, to be published sometime in 2004 by Oxford University Press. He hopes to market it to piano teachers and universities, to encourage young black children to become interested in piano. "It will help focus on African and classical styles," he said. "There is great music coming out of Africa, and it is important for people to know about it. It's a more holistic approach to teaching students of different backgrounds." The anthology will include music from Kenya, South Africa and Jamaica. "We need to promote living composers that do things that reflect African music," he said.

Performances: Chapman Nyaho has performed recitals in Europe, Africa, the Caribbean and cities across the United States, including the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. He serves as a regular guest at colleges and universities around the U.S. and as an adjudicator for national and international piano competitions. He is an active member of the College Music Society and the Music Teachers' National Association and gives lecture-recitals and workshops advocating music by composers of the African Diaspora.

All piano: Chapman Nyaho works full time at the piano, performing, teaching private lessons and promoting music. He practices every day and also does school programs. "It's a very intense thing," he says of his devotion to the piano. "You feel like you are called to do it. I can't help it — I have to play."

The Northwest: Chapman Nyaho moved to the Northwest, Seattle, USA in the summer of 2001 and loves the region where he says "nature still dominates." He hopes to begin scheduling more local performances.

Leslie Fulbright