Veronica Bain-Derby is on a mission.
The Rochester native is working to spread the joy of classical music in her adopted country of Ghana.
Veronica is a professional, classically-trained singer at home in the worlds of opera, gospel, and jazz.
Growing up in Western New York in the early 1990’s, she was introduced to classical music by a high school choral teacher, Maryellen Giese, who helped instill both a passion for singing and the confidence to do it well. After graduating from Brockport High School in 1995, her educational journey took her to London, where she met her a Ghanaian in graduate school.
Reader, she married him.
When she moved to Africa, she planned to stay for one year. Seven later, she’s still living in Accra and loving it.
“It's so beautiful,” Veronica says, “and it's one of those unexpected treasures and so I've become an advocate now. I'm telling people, if you want something new, you want to see rich culture, awesome food, great people, and it's very international. You have people from all over the world who've come to Ghana.”
Veronica discovered young Ghanaians eager to learn about the art form she loves.
“As a classical musician,” she says, “it was interesting because most of my gigs were for ex-pats, for dignitaries. You know, they would have their private parties and they would call me and ask, ‘Oh, can you sing this?’ and I said ‘Fine.’ But then I realized that there was a demographic of Ghanaians who were absolutely amazing! They weren't getting that same sort of love. So I said I'd like to bridge that gap and allow people to know these young people are there and they love to sing just like I do.”
While raising a family and running a consulting business, Veronica is also hoping to connect Rochester’s rich music culture to her adopted home country, where classical music concerts are still a rarity. Earlier this fall she helped organize “An Evening with a Touch of Class,” a fundraiser for The Music Therapy Association of Ghana and Nneka Youth Foundation’s Vocational Entrepreneurial Pathway, an organization which teaches life skills to young mothers in rural communities. Eastman School of Music graduate Becca Brink also performed with Veronica and members of Music 4 Youth Ghana, an advocacy group.
“The event was awesome!” Veronica says. “Should anyone be interested in giving, they can donate directly. There was a campaign that went public as a result. People were really taken aback by the work we did and have started other fundraisers to assist the charities.”