Feb. 11, 2020Print | PDF
The acceptance letter from Laurier that Nauroz Tanya (B.Mus. ’18) has hanging on his wall at home holds equal significance to the degree he earned as a result, perhaps because the journey to that particular point in his life was fraught with challenges that most would find insurmountable.
The son of a Shakespearian actor, Tanya grew up in Kurdistan playing piano and listening to Bach on his father’s music cassettes. During the war between Iran and Iraq, the border town where he lived was subject to constant bombings and attacks.
“I spent most of my teenage life without electricity,” he says.
When Iraqi forces finally left Kurdistan, civil war broke out and starvation hit. Tanya and his family would flee their city for the mountains during attacks. On one such occasion, sheer starvation forced Tanya and his family to return to their city. During the journey back, Tanya’s grandmother died of starvation in his arms.
“This is like a scar that will never go away,” says Tanya.
Not long after, Tanya and his family were hauled from their truck, blindfolded and put before a firing squad, told they would be executed if any guns were found in their truck. He could see the bodies of other families lying on the ground nearby. No guns were found, so Tanya and his family were let go.
“These are experiences in my life I can never forget,” says Tanya.
Sponsored by a man from Guelph and brought to Canada with his wife, Tanya worked a night shift so he could attend English language school during the day. He had studied at college in Kurdistan to become a music teacher and decided to apply to continue studying music at university in Canada. He eventually reached out to a friend in Holland and asked if he knew of any good Canadian universities. The friend said he’d heard Wilfrid Laurier University was very good, but he didn’t know where it was located. As Canada was so big, it could be a long flight away. Tanya was pleasantly surprised when he looked up the university.
“It’s exactly 23 minutes and 45 seconds from where I live,” he says.
Tanya looked into studying music at Laurier. He was told he’d need an English proficiency certificate to get in, so he continued to study English while performing odd jobs in order to pay for lessons to keep up his piano and theory skills.
“The day I passed the exam and they gave me the certificate was the last day to apply for university at Laurier,” says Tanya.
He brought the certificate to Laurier, played his audition and was granted acceptance into the music program.
“It was very hard, it wasn’t easy,” Tanya says. “I wanted this so, so, so, so much. I really wanted this.”
He went on to graduate in 2018, crediting the staff and instructors at Laurier for helping him to succeed.
“They helped me as a friend and not just as staff here,” he says. “I think I couldn’t manage to do all this without their support.”
Today, Tanya is a composer. He has had one of his works, Kurdish Dance, performed by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra at the prestigious Roy Thomson Hall in Toronto and later this month will be performed by the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra. He is also considered a hero, having saved the life of a drowning young boy in 2016 while visiting a friend in Greece.
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