Video: Kola Owolabi on studying lesser-known composers

Author: Todd Boruff

“Music just really speaks to me. I feel like I'm at my happiest when I'm making music or thinking about music,” said Kola Owolabi, professor of organ at the University of Notre Dame.

Owolabi is interested in a broad range of musical repertoire and enjoys finding works by less-well-known composers. Recent recording projects include pieces by 20th-century African-English composer Samuel Coleridge Taylor, as well as a composition by 17th-century French composer Georg Muffat, who was a contemporary of the renowned J. S. Bach, yet “most professional musicians have never played a piece by Muffat,” Owolabi said.

When preparing these works for performance, Owolabi emphasizes the importance of studying the lives of the composers and how the music was used.

“It can give you a much richer sense of what you can add to your performance,” he said. “How can I play this, and excite people about this, and make it feel as if it was composed today?”

In his role as head of the Graduate Organ Studio for Sacred Music at Notre Dame, Owolabi encourages students to have a breadth of perspective and divergent skills. Graduates will need to not only play the organ, but also be able to fill many roles as part of a pastoral staff.

“Notre Dame really sets them up well for that,” he said.

You can also watch this video on YouTube.

Originally published by Todd Boruff at on Feb. 22.