Master’s-degree student: ‘I try to see the creativity that is all around us’

By Amanda M. Perez

Master’s-degree student: ‘I try to see the creativity that is all around us’

By Amanda M. Perez
Coming from a small, southern African country, Thandolwethu Mamba hopes to one day mesh his love for a variety of passions—including music, youth education, public health, and biochemical research—into a career path that will help others.

The U Creates continues a series focused on highlighting members of the University of Miami’s creative community.  

Tell us about yourself: your background, major, graduation year, and interests.

Thandolwethu MambaMy name is Thandolwethu Mamba, but a lot of people know me as Thando for short. I’m from a small, southern African country called Eswatini (formerly known as Swaziland). I’m a first-year, master’s-degree student majoring in vocal performance and expected to graduate in May 2022. My diverse passions include music, youth education, public health, and biochemical research—as well as my nappy hair and love for joy and languages.

What inspired you to pursue music, particularly opera?

I’ve always loved music; listening to it, singing—you name it. However, my initial exposure to organized music didn’t come until I joined the choir in my high school back home. That’s when my love for classical music and, later, opera developed. When I saw my first opera (Verdi’s “Il Trovatore”) in 2015 while I was studying in Armenia, I was drawn into the spectacle of it all. My decision to pursue a career in the arts took all four years of my undergraduate education as I was slowly allowing myself to embrace my passion for music at a level that I previously never thought feasible. My dream of becoming a doctor never got extinguished, it just got outshined by a stronger desire to live my life as an artist. Singing gives me a joy that is not only strongly visceral but also stemming from the level of intellectual stimulation that comes with being a creative artist. Even more importantly, I still get to be the conduit of joy and healing that attracted me to being a doctor.

What drives your creative spirit? 

Collaboration. I love working with and learning from others. I am inspired by my teachers, friends, directors, and other performers. I always try to surround myself with people with a strong creative spirit, whether it is founding a start-up company, arts curation, singing, engineering, etc. I try to see the creativity that is all around us, including the creativity that usually goes unnoticed.

How have you stayed inspired during the pandemic? What is something you are working on this year that you would like to share? 

Having moved to Miami for grad school during the pandemic, I’ve been lucky enough to move into a house with three other very talented musicians and Frost students. Their artistry and the care with which they approach their craft inspires me a lot, and I’ve been learning a lot just from observing them and learning from their many years of training that I didn’t get to have. This is also the first year in my life where everything in my schedule has been about music. So, that alone has been exciting, challenging, and inspiring. This year I’ve just been working with my teacher to develop and keep improving my technique and build a strong repertoire.

What are your proudest achievements?

Hmm … I’m a very grateful person so that’s a tough one. If I have to pick, I’d say graduating from Duke University with highest distinction, winning the Louis Sudler Prize in May 2020, winning the Raleigh Symphony Orchestra Rising Stars Competition and the Benton Schmidt Competition, and my debut opera role as Gianni Schicchi in Italy (2020). I also have to mention being the second-best student in my country as I finished high school, simply because it made my grandmother so proud and sort of kick-started the series of events that has seen me traveling across the world to end up where I am today.

What are your future goals and how do you hope Frost can help you achieve them?

My future goals are to be active in the arts world as a professional opera and recital singer and sing in as many parts of the world as I can. I love seeing new places. So, if I can do that while doing what I love and spreading joy and healing, then I’ll consider myself extremely lucky. I also would love to contribute to arts education in my home country as well as help shape the growth of the arts and theater industry. Frost can help me achieve these dreams by continuing to provide me with a world-class education, opportunities to network with some of the world’s best musicians and arts enthusiasts, and opportunities to gain quality performance experience on and off campus.