Okorefe “Fred” Onovwerosuoke (C’91)

Modern musical griot

Okorefe “Fred” Onovwerosuoke arrived at Principia College as an engineer, but he left a composer. “Marie Jureit-Beamish (Hon ’14) asked me to arrange a piece for the orchestra—that was a catalyst. In America, I could explore composition,” he recalls. He then adds (with no pun intended), “that was instrumental.” Onovwerosuoke’s compositions, inspired by his travels through Africa, got noticed. He composed for Robert DeNiro’s The Good Shepherd and published a series of songbooks with Oxford University Press: Twenty-Four Studies in African Rhythms and the Songs of Africa trilogy are standards in music schools around the world.

Onovwerosuoke has won multiple ASCAP Awards, composed two operas, continues to compose for film, and performs live. The engineer-turned-composer advises, “Don’t lock yourself in a room. It’s amazing what you find when you get out there and share who you are.”

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