Innocent Okechukwu Music Journey and Life
Innocent Ndubuisi Okechukwu is a prolific Nigerian composer and pianist. He has more than a hundred (100) compositions to his credit. Notable amongst them are his Sacred Cantata, Oku Ncheghari (A call for repentance), and three flute concertos (A Clarinet Balleto). He also composed Waterfall, A Dance of the Wizard (flute concerto), and a New York premiere duet, Ije Uwa (The Travails of Life), and many others.
Innocent Ndubuisi Okechukwu was born on the 11th day of November 1988 in Agbor, Delta State, Nigeria. He is the first son and third child among seven siblings of Mr. Innocent Okechukwu and Mrs. Constance Okechukwu.
His parents hail from Ideato North Local Government Area, in Imo State, in the South-Eastern part of Nigeria.
Specifically, his father, Innocent Okechukwu, is from Obodoukwu, while his mother, Constance Okechukwu, is from Urualla. Both Obodoukwu and Urualla are suburbs of Ideato North Local Government Area. However, Innocent, with his siblings, was born and raised in Agbor, Delta State, Nigeria.
Innocent Ndubuisi Okechukwu started his elementary education at Igumbor-Otiko Primary School, Agbor, Delta State, Nigeria.
However, because his grandma was so fond of him, she requested he come live with her in the village for some time, a period which lasted for about six years.
There, in Urualla, Imo state, he was enrolled in another primary school, St. Michael’s primary school, a school affiliated to the St. Michael’s Catholic Church, just opposite each other.
Innocent later returned to Agbor, Delta State to reunite with his family, and therefore had to retake some classes in primary school, a kind of setback to his elementary education.
However, in the year 2000, he graduated from elementary school and went on to Saint Felix Minor Seminary, Ejeme-Aniogor, in Delta State, a high school for nurturing young minds who aspire to become Catholic priests.
Innocent Okechukwu, a prolific composer, would go on to study music at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, after finishing high school.
At the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, a prestigious university, he majored in music theory and composition and had a minor in piano performance.
Throughout his years of studies, Innocent Okechukwu was an outstanding student. He graduated with first-class honours and emerged as the best graduating student in his department in 2016.
Innocent also holds an Advanced Certificate in Piano Performance from the Trinity College of London School of Music Board in Dubai, UAE in 2019.
Innocent is currently a graduate student of music composition at the Longy School of Music of Bard College, Cambridge, USA. And he is studying under Professor John Morrison.
Journey into Music
Innocent Ndubuisi Okechukwu started his true journey into music at Saint Felix Minor Seminary, Ejeme-Aniogor, where he had his secondary school education.
He had an encounter with music in different ways at the seminary, became a member of the seminary choir, and the rest was history.
Innocent Okechukwu joined the Seminary Choir
When he was admitted into Saint Felix Minor Seminary as a new intake, he met with the various groups at the school that were looking for new members.
He was moving around in search of a group to join but felt there was no need for him to be part of any group at all.
However, his initial intention of not joining the school choir changed when he heard them singing during one of their practices.
On that very good day, Innocent just went to see what the choir-singing was all about, and that became the turning point in his life as a would-be musician.
Innocent could not resist the beautiful and harmonious sound coming from them as they were singing one of Dr. Jude Nnam’s “Enwere m anuri” during the practice.
He was so surprised to hear them sing so beautifully and so well, knowing that they were only men. To him, their singing was perfect.
Consequently, he moved closer and started to peep at them through the window. They noticed and signalled for him to come inside.
He did so, and they tested his voice to see if he could be a part of them; he passed, and he was assigned to the alto part.
That is how Innocent became part of the seminary choir and started growing musically from there.
Innocent’s development as a choir member
On a platter of gold, Innocent got his admission into the seminary choir.
The reason for this was that he was not among his mates who initially showed an interest in joining the choir, while some of those that showed an interest were not selected.
However, he did not take the chance he had on that very day for granted. He kept learning and growing as a singer.
Specifically, he learned and mastered how to read and sing with solfège notes, which is very important for singers to practice new songs and pitch development.
Along the line, Innocent became the “part leader” of the alto singers in the seminary choir.
On getting to the senior class one (SSS1) at the seminary, Innocent was placed on the tenor part.
He reluctantly agreed to join the tenor and put his interest in continuing to sing the alto part aside. At some point, he lost his voice in the tenor part but later regained it.
Innocent continued singing with the seminary choir until he left the school.
How He Started Playing the Piano at the Seminary
Innocent Ndubuisi Okechukwu also ventured into playing the piano at the Saint Felix Minor Seminary. To achieve his aim of playing the piano, he started learning from his junior in school.
Specifically, he was not allowed to touch the piano, let alone practice on it. The reason for this is that the person who played the piano had chosen a small group of people to whom he believed he could teach the piano. Innocent was not among them.
However, Innocent Okechukwu could not resist his passion, zeal, and calling to play the keyboard instrument.
Consequently, he met with his juniors who were also learning to play the instrument and started learning from them secretly.
Unfortunately for him, he got caught and was punished (asked to buy a new packet of batteries).
Nevertheless, Innocent continued learning the piano, but more secretly after the incident.
Things changed when he got to the final class at the seminary and became the Senior School Prefect of the school; he used his position and asked one of his juniors (in JSS2) to teach him how to play the piano.
He was teaching him, and due to the passion and zeal he had for playing the instrument, he was learning fast. At some point, he started playing for the weekday masses and later Sunday masses at the seminary.
Started composing at the Minor Seminary.
Innocent Ndubuisi Okechukwu started composing at Felix Minor Seminary, Delta State, Nigeria.
He composed his first and second songs when he was in Senior Class Two (SSS2).
Innocent also composed another two songs during his final year (SS3) at the seminary. These songs are part of the songs used for the masses at the seminary.
He was indeed commended for his composition by the Rev. Father Peter Muokwunye, who was the rector of the school during his time.
Indeed, people loved Innocent Okechukwu for his deep interest in music and loved his songs as well.
Innocent, now a prolific composer, has never stopped learning and growing in his musical prowess since then.
Music Life after the Minor Seminary
Innocent Okechukwu is well known for his continuous development as a musician during his days in the Minor Seminary.
After he finished at the seminary, the Rev. Father Emmanuel Ikenga invited him to his church to live and work with him.
Innocent honoured the invitation and was helping the choir and the then music director of the Saint Theresa Catholic Church, Okwe, Issele-Uku Diocese.
This happened in the presence of the Bishop Emeritus of the Issele-Uku (Roman Catholic) Diocese, the Most Rev. Emmanuel Otteh.
Innocent’s appointment at the church was to handle the church choir in training and develop the choir’s singing capabilities.
As the musician in residence, Innocent tried his best to teach and raise the church choir and helped them sing better. At the same time, he played the piano at all the masses held at the parish and kept composing music.
Major Seminary at Ibadan
During his journey at Saint Theresa Catholic Church, Issele-Uku Diocese, Innocent Okechukwu tried all his possible best to get into the Issele-Uku Diocese major seminary.
But he was unable to secure the admission. He sensed favouritism in the play and gave up.
Thereafter, Most Rev. Emmanuel Otteh (Issele-Uku Diocese) recommended him to the bishop of his hometown parish in Orlu Diocese.
As a result, Innocent went back to his hometown and was posted to Saint John’s Catholic Church, Arondizuogu parish, for his apostolic work. Although he was reluctant to work there, he promised to resume, which he never did.
Innocent had applied to the Order of Preachers—The Dominicans, at St. Thomas Priory, Samonda, Ibadan; he was invited for an interview.
Fortunately for him, he was among the 12 selected candidates out of over 1000 that applied.
That is how he found himself in the Religious Order in Ibadan. But due to some circumstances beyond his control, after he lost his father in 2011, things went sour, which resulted in him leaving the seminary.
Back To Abuja
Afterward, he joined his brother in Abuja and started teaching music and helping the parish choir at Holy Rosary Catholic Church, Wuse Zone II, Abuja.
At Holy Rosary Catholic Church, Innocent played the piano for the masses and other big occasions. He had lots of adventures with music there.
When people saw his ability, passion, and dedication to music, they advised him to go and study music. He gave it a thought and applied to the University of Nigeria to study music.
Consequently, he got admission to study music at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka.
Innocent Okechukwu As A Composer
Innocent Ndubuisi Okechukwu is a composer to be reckoned with in the present generation. He is an incredible and prolific composer who expresses his emotions through his works.
Although Innocent can play the piano (and violin to some extent), he believes that composing music is a way of life to express emotions.
The prolific composer lacks words to express himself, so he cries, worries, laughs, gets angry, jealous, mad, and happy in his music.
Innocent Okechukwu represents a revolutionary new pathway in music that stands at the intersection of tradition and modernity.
He dedicates more of his time to composing than to playing the piano or violin.
He said that since he stutters or stammers when he talks, most of the time, people are usually not patient enough to listen to him.
Because of this, he was unable to pass his message across as clearly as he wanted to.
However, with his music, people listen to his voice and mind, and get occupied while listening to and singing along during the performance of his work.
As a result, music composition became a way for him to be heard.
From the happenings in his environment, Innocent gets inspiration to compose. He is also inspired by the reactions of those who hear his music and express how it has touched their lives.
Innocent Okechukwu Compositions
Innocent’s compositions span across vocal solo works, instrumental pieces, and choral works; concertos; sonatas; with over a hundred (100) compositions to his credit.
Notable among his compositions are listed below:
- Sacred Cantata Oku Ncheghari (A call for repentance),
- Three flute concertos,
- Waterfall, A Clarinet Balleto,
- Ariri (Sorrow),
- A Dance of the Wizard (flute concerto),
- Duet, Ije Uwa (The Travails of Life),
- When the world is sick (SATB, also arranged for solo voice),
- Ave Verum (SATB),
- Majesty (SATB & Piano),
- The Beaming Light (Flute),
- Sinking sand (violin sonata),
- Trust In The Lord,
- Hang-out (Trumpet & Piano),
- Little Lamb,
- Behold the star (SATB for Christmas),
- Snow, snow (solo voice),
- Ekpere (Prayer),
- Fear (soprano),
- The River Within (String Quartet),
- Sneaky One, Brass Quartet,
- Egwu Onwa (Moonlight Tale for T+SATB+Piano)
In 2021, he composed The River Within (String Quartet), which received its world premiere at the Boston Centre for the Arts in the United States.
In early 2022, he published his first book—Musical Echoes. The book, which is available for purchase on Amazon, comprises some collections of his original compositions.
To have a taste of the amazing compositions of this prolific composer, check HERE and shop for a copy.
Innocent Okechukwu As A Pianist
Innocent studied piano under Adeogun Adebowale Oluranti (PhD) when he was an undergraduate at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka.
He also had a Grade 7 certificate on piano from the Trinity College exam in London.
He took the exam while he was teaching and studying in Dubai in 2019. Obviously, he was certified in that area to some extent.
However, Innocent did not see himself as a pianist but an accompanist. He uses different keyboard instruments to accompany choirs, solo singers, or solo performances.
Innocent Okechukwu As a violinist
Innocent Ndubuisi Okechukwu had the opportunity of learning the violin to some extent while during his studies at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka.
He was able to play the violin with the little knowledge he had during the period.
He was also able to teach violin from grade 1 to 4 when he was teaching at the Solid Rock music and dance school of music.
Yet, innocent did not consider himself a violinist because he believed it took more than what he had to be a violinist.
Awards and Honours
Innocent Okechukwu was honoured as the 2016 best graduating student in the department of music at the University of Nigeria, Nsuka, Nigeria.
He is the current recipient of the Bronwyn and Jeffrey Lamont Artistic and Social Change Fellowship for the 2021–2022 session.
He is also a scholarship recipient of the Certified Music Practitioner Scholar and an Access for Equity Scholar, 2022–2023.
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