ghanaian traditional drummer to be the first african musician ever to have a u.s. university building named after him

Middletown, Conn.—Wesleyan University.   For the first time ever, a United States university building will be named after a traditional African drummer.  Abraham K. Adzenyah, recruited from the Ghana Dance Ensemble 46 years ago to teach at Wesleyan University, is retiring after training thousands of US music students, many of whom have gone on to teach traditional Ghanaian drumming and dance at other US colleges and universities.
American students of Professor Adzenyah have gone on to teach and run Ghanaian drum and dance ensembles at the Berklee College of Music, Brandeis University, The Hartt School of Music, Lehman College, Montclair State University, Mount Holyoke College, Oakland University (Michigan), Princeton University, S.U.N.Y. Binghamton, S.U.N.Y. Stonybrook, Toronto University, Tufts University, University of Alabama, University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, Yale University, and York University (Toronto). 
One of the top rated liberal arts universities in the United States, Wesleyan is known for its commitment to world music and faculty artists.  Mr. Adzenyah was on tour with the Ghana National Dance Ensemble in 1968 when he was heard performing at Madison Square Garden in New York City by the late Dr. Robert E. Brown, one of the originators of Wesleyan’s World Music Program.  Dr. Brown then recruited Mr. Adzenyah to teach traditional Ghanaian drumming at Wesleyan, in what became one of the top world music and ethnomusicology programs in the country.
“West African drumming has been one of the most important parts of our Music Department since the beginning of our World Music Program in the 1960s,” said Professor of Music Eric Charry. “And Abraham Adzenyah has been the pillar of the World Music Program, being here for so many decades and training so many of our students. He has been such a valued colleague within our Music Department. He has such breadth and depth of experience, and it’s just a pleasure to have had him around and for him to have offered the kinds of expertise that he does.
On Saturday, May 7, 2016 Mr. Adzenyah will be honored with multiple events on the Wesleyan campus in Middletown.  Starting at 4pma retirement ceremony will be held featuring the naming of the Abraham Adzenyah Rehearsal Hall (formerly Rehearsal Hall), located at 60 Wyllys Avenue. 
Following the building dedication, there will be a free outdoor concert featuring traditional West African drumming, singing, and dancing from 4:30pm to 6pm in the Center for the Arts Courtyard, located at 283 Washington Terrace. The afternoon concert will feature dance-drum ensembles run by Adzenyah’s former students:  Wesleyan University’s West African Drumming and Dance Ensemble, Tufts University’s Kiniwe Ensemble with the Agbekor Drum and Dance Society, University of Massachusetts Dartmouth’s Kekeli African Music and Dance Ensemble, Berklee College of Music’s West African Drum and Dance Ensemble, Montclair State University’s West African Drumming and Dance Ensemble with the Rhythm Monsters, and Ayanda Clarke ’99. The rain location for the outdoor concert is Crowell Concert Hall (located at 50 Wyllys Avenue).
The day of events will conclude with an all-night highlife dance party starting at 7:30pm in Fayerweather Beckham Hall, located at 55 Wyllys Avenue. The evening concert will feature the Abraham Adzenyah Tribute Band including Abraham Adzenyah MA ’79; David Bindman ’85, MA ’87; Wes Brown ’74; royal hartigan MA ’83, Ph.D. ’86; and Rob Lancefield ’82, MA ’93, Ph.D. ’05 performing highlife and beyond; Samba New York! founded and led by Philip Galinsky Ph.D. ’99, performing Brazilian samba; Okwy Osadebe Highlife Band performing Nigerian highlife; Berklee College of Music’s Afro Pop Ensemble performing African pop; Urban Renewal performing funk, R&B, and West African traditional and fusion music; and Ayanda Clarke ’99. Admission for the evening concert is $6 for Wesleyan students and $15 for all others. Tickets are available online at, by phone at (860) 685-3355, or in person at the Wesleyan University Box Office, located in the Usdan University Center, 45 Wyllys Avenue, Middletown. Tickets may also be purchased at the door beginning one hour prior to the performance, subject to availability. The Center for the Arts accepts cash, checks written to “Wesleyan University”, and all major credit cards. Groups of ten or more may receive a discount – please call (860) 685-3355 for details. No refunds, cancellations, or exchanges.
Wesleyan University is also working to raise $300,000 to endow a scholarship in honor of Professor Adzenyah’s legacy at Wesleyan. The Abraham Adzenyah Endowed Wesleyan Scholarship is designated for music students, with financial need, who embody the spirit of Mr. Adzenyah. Gifts in any amount are welcome. For further information about the scholarship, please contact Director of Stewardship and Donor Relations Marcy Herlihy via e-mail at or (860) 685-2523. To make a gift in honor of Mr. Adzenyah to support the Abraham Adzenyah Endowed Wesleyan Scholarship, please visit and select the Adzenyah Scholarship as your Giving Priority under “Additional Information.”
For more information about these events, please visit  
About Abraham Adzenyah
Early in his career, Abraham Kobena Adzenyah studied, performed, and taught drumming in his native Ghana; including five years of formal study in music, dance, and drama at the Institute of African Studies at the University of Ghana. He was one of the first artists to be named Master Drummer in the Ghana National Dance Ensemble. On arriving at Wesleyan in 1969, he began to offer courses in West African music, dance, and culture. He received a B.A. in Liberal Arts from Goddard College in 1976, and an M.A. in Music from Wesleyan University in 1979. Equally adept at teaching novices and advanced postgraduates, Mr. Adzenyah always had a magnetic attraction for students, derived from his pairing of commanding knowledge and skills with constant attention to the emotions and spirit inside the music.
Throughout his years at Wesleyan, Mr. Adzenyah was a visiting artist and teacher at dozens of workshops, colleges, and conservatories, and has performed all over the world, alone and with eminent musicians like the late Wesleyan Artist in Residence Ed Blackwell, Wesleyan’s John Spencer Camp Professor of Music Emeritus Anthony Braxton, Hugh Masekela, Steve Gadd, Dizzy Gillespie, Tito Puente, Mongo Santamaria, Ornette Coleman, Max Roach, Nexus, World Drums, Dave Holland, and Rufus Reid. He has also influenced and inspired students and professional musicians through his recordings and as co-author, with royal hartigan MA ’83, Ph.D. ’86 and the late Wesleyan African dance teacher Freeman Kwadzo Donkor, of “West African Rhythms for Drumset,” a groundbreaking notation and adaptation to trap drums of traditional and contemporary African rhythms. Mr. Adzenyah has been awarded the Afro-Caribbean World Music Symposium Achievement Award and the Percussive Arts Society Award.
About the Music Department 
The Wesleyan University Music Department provides a unique and pioneering environment for advanced exploration committed to the study, performance, and composition of music from a perspective that recognizes and engages the breadth and diversity of the world’s musics and technologies. As an integral part of one of the nation’s leading liberal arts institutions, the department has enjoyed an international reputation for innovation and excellence, attracting students from around the globe since the inception of its visionary program in World Music four decades ago.
Recent annual music festivals in partnership with the Center for the Arts  have brought to campus a diverse array of artists, including Max Roach, Pete Seeger, Zakir Hussain (India), Thomas Mapfumo (Zimbabwe), Boukman Eksperyans (Haiti), Boogsie Sharpe (Trinidad), and Hugh Masekela (South Africa).
A recording studio, a computer and experimental music studio, the Center for the Arts media lab and digital video facility, the World Instrument Collection (which includes the David Tudor Collection of electronic musical instruments and instrumentation), and the Scores and Recordings Collection of Olin Library (which includes the World Music Archives) offer many learning opportunities outside of the classroom.
For more information about the Music Department, please visit
About the Center for the Arts
Wesleyan University’s Center for the Arts exists to catalyze people’s creativity by engaging them in the dynamic work of diverse artists.
Three inter-related activities enable the CFA to realize its purpose:
  • supporting the research, public productions, and in-studio teaching needs of the departments of Art and Art History, Dance, Music, and Theater;
  • leading inter-disciplinary collaborations and other initiatives that integrate artists into creative curricular and co-curricular initiatives; and
  • organizing powerful encounters between visiting artists and diverse elements of the Wesleyan community, the greater Middletown community, statewide, and regional audiences.
The Center for the Arts opened in the fall of 1973, and includes the 400-seat Theater, the 260-seat Ring Family Performing Arts Hall (former CFA Hall), the World Music Hall (a non-Western performance space), the 400-seat Crowell Concert Hall, the Ezra and Cecile Zilkha Gallery, and classrooms and studios.
The Center for the Arts gratefully acknowledges the support of its many generous funders and collaborators, including the Association of Performing Arts Presenters, the Connecticut Office of the Arts, the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the New England Foundation for the Arts, as well as media sponsors the Hartford Courant, WESU 88.1FM, WNPR, WSHU, Art New England, and artscope.
For more information about Center for the Arts, please call (860) 685-3355, or visit

Author: Kwame 'Write' Aidoo

Kwame Aidoo, also known as Write is a fond reader, writer and lover of music and the arts, with a degree in Biochemistry from Kwame Nkrumah University of Science & Tech., Kumasi and a certificate in Cultural Organizations in Transition from University of Lüneburg. He founded the creative activism movement: Inkfluent which curates Slam Ghana, The Write Experience, Vocal Portraits poetry albums, Slam Lab and the biggest literary festival in Ghana; Nkabom Literary Festival. Aside Ghana, where he is based, he has shown work in Brazil, Togo, Austria, France, Benin, Germany and Burkina Faso and most recently Norway with Aurora Ekvatorialis; a light sculpture and texts collaboration with Norwegian artist Toril Johannessen, exhibiting at the National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design, Oslo, 16.9.2016 – 15.1.2017.

4 thoughts on “ghanaian traditional drummer to be the first african musician ever to have a u.s. university building named after him”

  1. This is memorable history and makes me proud not only because I am a Ghanaian but also being a musician artist and I know how much his influence and legacy will keep impacting the world for generations to come.

  2. Thank you for this great news!

    If you could use black rather than light gray text, it would be much easier on everyone’s eyes.

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