There’s always a phenomenal amount of talent on display at Dalhousie Fountain School of Performing Arts; flutist Ogooluwa Emmanuel Sobukola stands out for both his fiery passion and his bravery. It might be easy for audiences to get carried away by the overflowing happiness of his performances, but the road to his dream career as a top-notch classical flutist has not been easy.
Born and raised in Lagos, Nigeria, Sobukola is the second child of four in his family. Driven by an innate desire to develop musically, he started taking piano lessons from his music teacher at the local church. He later realized the piano wasn’t his ultimate passion when he stumbled on the flute at the age of seventeen.
“When I visited my music teacher at the time, he was trying to play the flute. It is hard to explain what attracted me, maybe the position or the sound of it. It’s like I was destined to play the flute,” Sobukola said.
His exceptional music talent was soon recognized by his music teacher, who recommended he take part in MUSIQUEST, a nation-wide music competition in Nigeria. Sobukola debuted as a first runner-up.
Sobukola is aware that success takes not only love and passion, but also proper education. Despite the lack of related educational resources in Nigeria, Sobukola overcame these difficulties.
“I taught myself, and I taught myself right,” he said.
He didn’t have access to professional training until he was accepted to the Music Society of Nigeria (MUSON) as a student. Due to his outstanding performance, his studies were fully funded by the MTN Nigeria foundation, the philanthropic arm of Nigerian network provider MTN.
During his two years of striving for excellence at MUSON, Sobukola received a number of awards and opportunities to perform outside of Nigeria. Upon graduation, Sobukola took a leap of faith by applying for Dalhousie University as an undergraduate student in music. He had been waiting for this moment for years.
“The moment I made up my mind to become a world-renowned flutist, I knew I had to leave Nigeria someday for better education,” he said.
While many people argue that education, at all levels, should be a basic human right, it is a luxury for Sobukola.
“I understand the family I belong to. My parents cannot afford that. I don’t have that money, so I work hard for scholarships,” he said.
Dalhousie Fountain School of Performing Arts Scholarship Committee was extremely impressed by his audition videos and therefore granted him a generous scholarship. Apart from that, Sobukola successfully held a fundraising concert in Nigeria before coming to Halifax.
As good as it may seem, the amount of money Sobukola made is minimal compared to his costs.
Just like every other international student at Dalhousie, his tuition is about double that of Canadian students.
At Dalhousie, international students have the chance to fund their education by applying for the undergraduate or graduate bursaries, according to Lina Maged, president of the Dalhousie International Students’ Association. Bursaries are granted on the basis of financial need, and the fall term application deadline is October 15th. But there’s no way for Sobukola to know if he’ll get one, or what percent of costs it would cover. Beyond that – he needs money now.
Unlike some international students whose education is funded by their parents, the young musician landed in Halifax on September 7th without a penny to his name.
“I jumped before knowing what is below,” he said.
His friend from Nigeria, who previously agreed to pick him up at the airport and offer him accommodation, broke the commitment and never showed up.
In despair, he emailed the only contact he had in Halifax, Patricia Creighton, the Principal Flautist with Nova Scotia Symphony and the flutist instructor at Dalhousie. Over the past year, Creighton had maintained contact with Sobukola by email and guided him through the application process. Upon receiving Sobukola ‘s email, Creighton immediately drove to the airport and arranged temporary housing for Sobukola.
Despite Sobukola’s efforts to find a part-time job and gain more scholarships, it’s unlikely he’ll be able to cover all these expenses by himself. Creighton created a crowd-funding campaign dedicated to keeping Sobukola’s dream alive.
“He is extremely talented. If you listen to his videos, you will hear right away what I heard and why I accepted him into the school. But he is also very financially in need,” said Creighton.
Videos of his performances and details about how to make a contribution can be found the crowd-funding page.