Who was Teferra Mekonnen?
Teferra Mekonnen was a distinguished pianist; melody composer, arranger, music instructor and band leader. Teferra was the first of 4 sons born to Mekonnen Tekle and Atsede Woldeyes in a small locality called Lemmen Selassie in Ethiopia's Selale region. He attended the traditional church school, including singing for the church as a deacon, prior to moving to the capital Addis Ababa in pursuit of further education. He started evening classes at the American Institute, a school founded by African-American philanthropists under the patronage of His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie I. Simultaneously,he was hired by the Imperial Body Guard Musical Department(Kibur Zenegna), known to be home Ethiopia's prominent musicians, arrangers, composers and singers. This was the time young Teferra was further motivated to pursue his passion for music. The presence of foreign music instructors paved the way for young Ethiopians to get formal music education. Teferra was first tranined to play the contrabass (double bass) by Russian instructor Alexander Kontorowicz. This was followed by an intensive classical piano and music theory training by Austrian Professor Franz Zelwecker, which enabled him to became one of Ethiopia's prominent pianists.
Known for his burning passion and professionalism, Teferra Mekonnen has contributed to Ethiopia's modern and classical music industry. He was the founder/leader of two popular bands in the 1950s/60s, namely the Ras Band and Ghion Bands. He mentored several aspiring musicians during the years he taught piano at the Addis Ababa University Yared School of Music, in addition to private piano lessons he gave to many. Teferra's enthusiasm to instill love for music in his students and his children was incredible. The late Teferra Mekonnen was a dedicated father, known for his infectious positivity and always willing to give a helping hand to needy community members.
Parents are the most important influence in a child's life. The legacy that they leave behind enables their children and grandchildren live a story that lasts an eternity. The story of my late maternal grandfather, Teferra Mekonnen reflects this fact.
Even though my grandfather passed away long before I was born, the beautiful stories I grew up listening about his selflessness personality, his exceptional love for music and arts constantly reminds me that his life and legacy matters. His adherence to living a life with purpose inspires me most. These were the main reasons I was spurred to start a foundation in his memory, and continue his legacy by doing what he strived to accomplish- support his community through sharing time, knowledge and resources.