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by Dempsey Williams

March 2017

As he approached me for our interview, Joseph Munowenyu was absentmindedly beatboxing. His tempo was perfect; at the same time, he was totally unconscious of his action. It may seem insignificant, but this simple anecdote offers a glimpse into just how pervasive music is in Joseph’s life.

Joseph, like his parents, was born in Zimbabwe. By the time he was a year old, however, he and his family had already moved out of their home country, later settling in Valley City. As he started attending public school, his latent interest in music started to blossom.

“Music has been with me for my whole life,” says Joseph, recalling that as a young boy, he had already developed a love of music and was adept at singing, a talent he supplemented by beginning piano lessons in second grade. As he grew older, he became a multi-instrumentalist, learning to play baritone saxophone as well as guitar.

In addition to his ravenous interest in advancing his musical skills, Joseph also has a few natural gifts that aid him in his pursuits. His first is the incredibly rare capability of perfect pitch, allowing him to hear a note and immediately name it without any sort of reference. It also gives him the ability to tear apart a musical chord and identify the individual notes that comprise it.

His second ability is slightly less rare, but no less impressive. Known as chromesthesia (sound-to-color synesthesia), Munowenyu essentially sees colors when he hears music, a phenomenon that occurs when an individual’s senses overlap.

Joseph’s growth as a musician continued as more opportunities opened up for him in high school, landing him main roles in several musicals and becoming the standout vocalist in the school’s show choir. A former high school classmate noted, “Joseph is one of the nicest, most easygoing guys I have ever met. But once he starts singing, all eyes naturally go to him; it’s great to watch.”

His college search might have been shortened, as his father (who also bears the name “Joseph Munowenyu”), is a web programmer in VCSU’s tech services department. Naturally, once he decided to enroll at VCSU, Joseph decided to become a music major. “I had an aha moment where I realized I could turn what I loved into a career,” he says. His primary interest is in music production, where he looks forward to working in VCSU’s exceptional recording studio and tailoring a personal learning experience with his instructors.

As for life after college, Joseph is keeping his options open for now, although he says he would enjoy life as a record producer or as a music teacher. Regardless of his career path, his natural talent, drive, and love of music will surely propel Joseph to new heights.