Blessing Agu: Singing makes me feel alive and free
Growing up, Blessing Agu loved singing and dancing and was active in the church choir; she started singing at age eight. At 13, she became the choirmaster of the St Columba’s Catholic Youth Choir, and at 15, she became the church choirmaster.
Blessing studied Music at the University of Nigeria Nsukka because of her love and passion for music. At the University of Nigeria, she represented the Music Department at events within and outside the institution.
The America-based artiste is currently a graduate student in the Sacred Music Program at the University of Notre Dame. She also holds a Diploma and Bachelor’s Degree in Music from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, and has worked as a Vocal and Dance teacher at Lekki British School, a Lecturer at St. Gregory Diploma School of Pastoral Music, Catholic Archdiocese of Lagos, a dance teacher at Learning Ladder Montessori, and a faculty member at HYMNODIA (a reality show centered around the singing of hymns and worship songs).
Blessing has performed at musical concerts and corporate events and played lead roles in operas and operettas with the Comic Opera House, MUSON (Music Society of Nigeria), AMEMUSO (Abuja Metropolitan Music Society), and the Department of Music, University of Nigeria, and different parts of the world. The beautiful singer who serenaded the audience with her rendition of the National Anthem at a recent event in Canada, shares her inspiring journey with ESTHER IJEWERE in this interview.
My elder brother, who was a Theatre and Film Studies student, first introduced me to the arts. He took me for rehearsals in his department and allowed me to sing and dance with his course mates. I joined the children’s choir at the age of eight and later joined the youth choir. Growing up as a church girl, I had numerous opportunities to display my talent in church and school; from singing in the school choir to serving as an altar girl and a lector in the church.
I auditioned for lead roles in school performances and operettas in the church, and the various roles I played helped me grow musically. There were so many activities in the church that involved singing, dancing, acting, speaking in public, and teaching. As a lover of the arts, I participated actively in these performances and learned a lot.
Thanks to Rev Sr. Perpetual Ike, who gave me my first singing lessons and prepared me for my musical journey, and to Rev Fr. Patrick Isichie, who gave me a scholarship to study music at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka.
What Inspired Me To Go Into Music
As a gifted kid who could sing beautifully, I wanted to be a professional musician and wished to become better at singing. So, I decided to study music to learn from the best.
My Experience As A Vocal And Dance Teacher
Teaching is exciting and fulfilling; the mere fact that I can teach and learn from my students gives me immense joy. Through teaching music and dance, I have reached out to people of various races and colours and learned their culture and way of life through communication with them and sharing beautiful memories through music and dance.
Working in various schools as a teacher taught me how to be patient, understanding, and a role model. Listening to kids sing and watching them dance better gives me extraordinary joy.
The Journey So Far
My musical journey has been fascinating and challenging. It takes patience and perseverance for one to achieve musical goals. Since I decided to follow this path, I have turned every challenge and disappointment into weapons that help me conquer my fears and doubts
Some people think you do not need to study music to be a good singer or an academic musician. Convincing people on the importance of gaining musical knowledge to be professionals has been demanding, especially when people want to downplay your efforts and commitment to your profession just to make you feel less important because they think anyone can sing.
Classical musical appreciation in some parts of Nigeria is significantly tied to a particular sound they are used to hearing, so it is often challenging to gain a new audience.
The business aspect of music needs to be addressed, and most times, one ends up singing for free and not being appreciated. I struggled a lot as a singer who wanted to make a living from singing. I had to do multiple music jobs just to earn enough. With time, I made good connections and had the opportunity to reach out to more people and advance in my career.
As a beginner, it is most complex and demanding, especially when you need an audience. It gets better with consistency and gaining adequate knowledge in the music business. As a performer, one needs to have a sufficient understanding of the business aspect of music to excel.
The Reception Of Society To My Genre Of Music
Yes, I do. For some people, classical music is only for the elites. For others, classical music should be played when they feel sad or lonely. The first time I heard the flower duet from Léo Delibes’ opera Lakmé over the radio, I enjoyed the sound because it was beautiful. I was young and could not comprehend how a human being could make such a glorious sound. Did I try to make the same sound I heard over the radio? Yes, I did for numerous years, because I listened to that similar sound in the church, at school, on the television, in movies, in commercials, and everywhere.
Most of the time, some people do not realise how much they love and appreciate classical music because they listen to it every day. Some people have not committed to intentionally attending concerts or buying tickets to watch an opera. It does not mean they do not appreciate it; we need more avenues and opportunities to increase the awareness of appreciation. Classical music, which most people think is for the elite, is for everyone willing to listen.
Other Projects And Activities
Aside from singing, I love acting and fashion. I am working on collaborating with some Nigerian movie producers to produce and direct musicals in Nigeria. Also, I am working on some solo works by African composers and preparing for my Christmas solo recital at the University of Notre Dame.
In August of 2022, I launched my fashion brand Omaricha Collections, an African-inspired brand that portrays the beauty of African fabrics. Through Omaricha collections, I have reached out to people of various races and colors who love African prints. I wish to empower young ladies in Nigeria who are exceptionally talented and want to showcase their designs to the world by collaborating with them to make beautiful designs that would be added to my collections.
What I Enjoy Most About My Job
Singing makes me feel alive and free. Through singing, I reach out to people and connect with them more profoundly. I am glad I can communicate with people and make them smile through my singing, which is a blessing. And I count myself blessed to be doing what I love, knowing how to do it, and getting paid for it.
Three Women Who Inspire Me And Why
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a woman I love and admire, because of her role in promoting and supporting the girl child, her inspiring and educational works, which have inspired me to pursue my dreams relentlessly and become the woman that I am today.
Rev. Sr Perpetual Ike: I call her my second mother, mentor, and spiritual director. She gave me music lessons and has, since my childhood, encouraged and supported me throughout my career. Her inspiring stories gave me courage in my down times and motivated me to keep growing, discovering, and evolving.
Ezinne KufreEkanem: From our first meeting in 2019, during the Hymnodia competition, mum Ezinne has taught me patience and perseverance. I have watched how she encourages women to reach for the skies and her continuous support and words of encouragement to young entrepreneurs. Every time I speak to her, a sense of freedom and I am inspired to do more.
How I Used My Passion For Music To Create Room For Other Women In My Industry
At 13, I started teaching dance to young ladies my age and those younger than myself by serving as the altar girls’ president at St. Columba’s Catholic Church. With the help of Rev Sr. Perpetual, we formed a group called the Liturgical dancers, and we traveled to various parishes and schools to teach young girl’s Liturgical dance.
I have featured young and aspiring sopranos on my platforms and collaborated with female classical singers on my Vocal Clinic show. Nigeria is blessed with many gifted singers. I hope they reach their singing goals and become the professional musicians they admire. That is why I reach out to as many singers as possible through various vocal workshops within and outside Nigeria to educate them on voice management and stage performance. Now that I live in the United States, I give musical workshops to various choir groups via WhatsApp, Telegram, and Zoom.
During the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, I taught over five hundred students’ voice lessons; 80 per cent of them were women. Some became my students and are now performing in various states and on different social media platforms. I am assisting some women in Nigeria with applications for schools abroad to further their studies as professional singers.
I look forward to collaborating with lovers of music to award scholarships to upcoming singers to gain the adequate knowledge required to excel in their careers.
One The thing I Wish To Change In The Music Industry
Equal appreciation of all genders in musical performances and practice; music is for everyone. Collaborating with musicians of various genres would create deeper appreciation and to a significant extent, foster unity.
What We Should Do Better As A Society To Support Female Artistes
We, as a society, need to encourage women in the music industry to pursue their careers relentlessly without fear of rejection and name tagging. It would be great to invite female musicians to events and pay them as much as the male musicians are paid.
Featuring and sponsoring up-and-coming female musicians would encourage more talented singers to follow their path. Not taking advantage of them before inviting them for gigs or paying, them would make the world a better place.
Being A Woman of Rubies
I am not common, and my type is rare. I am priceless and precious. I am a blessing to all who come in contact with me. I love life, find fulfillment in helping people achieve their dreams, pursue my dreams relentlessly, and wish the best for others.
To A Young Person Who Is Trying To Figure Out Their Musical Talent
Never stop learning and growing. If you have the resources, get a music coach, or apply to a music school. A music teacher or voice coach would benefit you and make you stand out. The journey will be challenging, but in the end, you will be grateful you never relented. I wish you the best and hope you never stop dreaming big.