By Mathias Mazinga
Thirteen years ago, Uganda never had a specialised music school where talented musicians could get professional education. Only the privileged who had the opportunity to go to seminaries or schools like King’s College, Budo and Gayaza High School had the chance to learn the basic music skills.
Today, Uganda has a fully-fledged music educational institution — the Kampala Music School.
In its 13 years of existence, it has produced top-notch musicians, whose influence has spread to the rest of the world.
Many of these musicians now teach music in various schools around Kampala, while others are making a fortune in Europe and the US.
Some of the protégés include Fred Kiggundu Musoke (the current Director of Kampala Music School), Paul Luggya (a former organist at England’s Lichfield Cathedral), Ivan Kiwuuwa, a youthful globe-trotting pianist based in the UK and Fr. Gonzaga Mayanja (an organist based in Germany).
Kampala Music School has also reached out to street kids and equipped them with musical skills, which have enabled them to abandon street life and start making a decent living. The former street kids are now an organised ensemble, the M-Lisada Brass Band.
Musicians at a joint charity classical concert by the Kampala Music School and Uganda Women's
Effort to Save Orphans at Sheraton Hotel in 2007
How Fiona Carr mothered Kampala Music School
The establishment and eventual development of the Kampala Music School is generally attributed to Fiona Carr, 72, a retired British music teacher.
Fiona had come here in 1995 to join her husband Graham Carr, who was working as a chartered accountant. One Sunday, as she attended a service at Namirembe Cathedral, she was moved by the singing of the choir, but there was a catch.
“I realised they had the talent. Unfortunately they had no access to music education. I offered to teach them from my residence, at Makindye, for free,” Carr recalls.
Subsequently, Carr started the Pianos for Uganda scheme, through which she solicited pianos from the UK. Carr, who had now teamed up with Simon Yiga, distributed the pianos to various city churches, including Namirembe Cathedral and Christ the King.
Later, in 2001, Carr and Yiga developed and implemented the idea to start a music school. The school started off in rented premises at YMCA, Wandegeya.
Carr continued to solicit musical instruments like pianos, the organ, guitars, flutes, cello, clarinets and double-bass, among others. She also solicited bursaries for needy students. Today, the school has a spacious permanent home in Kitante and hosts the Kampala Symphony Orchestra.
“It gives me great joy to see my former students presenting brilliant musical recitals. My joy increases when I see more Ugandans getting access to music education,” Carr says.
What people say about Carr
Carr is full of wisdom, insight and discernment. She is also generous; she has poured out her life into this school. I feel happy for her when I see the Kampala Symphony Orchestra and the many artistes and students affiliated to the school.
I was privileged to work with Carr, right from the inception of the school. She is highly developmental.
Prof. Paul Edward Mugambi
She has done a lot to promote classical music. She encouraged us, especially when things seemed impossible.
I accord her the respect only reserved for mothers. She is a down-to-earth lady with a rare virtue of generosity. She will always have something to give to the less privileged, no matter how small.
She is approachable and will always have advice for you. She is also intelligent, diligent and full of ideas.
Dr. Lydia Sebuyira
Both Fiona and her husband are wonderful people. Through the concerts they hosted in their home, they made me love music even more. This is why I enrolled my two sons in the music school.
Without her tender care, I would not be a professional musician. She always encouraged me.