Not one to put herself in the spotlight, Marie Grace Imanariyo ‘20 had kept her talents under the radar at Muhlenberg college. A computer science major, Imanariyo had kept her musical abilities on the ‘down-low’ while also participating in DCF Worship Team, computer science club, African Student Organization and International Student Organization while also working as a campus delegate and a 2nd year RA. However, after being featured in The New Times Publication, a Rwandan newspaper, Imanariyo’s article was showcased by Muhlenberg. “I was very surprised to see the school featuring that article. I don’t know how it reached the school, but I was very humbled. Now I see people and they’re like, ‘You’re an artist!’ and I’m like, ‘How do you know?’”
Although she hasn’t broadcasted it in Muhlenberg, Imanariyo has been involved with music since her early years. “When I grew up, I started getting involved into music when I was six; I was still very young,” she said. “I was interested in musical instruments, but I didn’t have any at home. You know the kind of people that drum and have the shouting neighbors? That was me. I would also drum in church but [used] a traditional Rwandan drum. I also was part of the children’s sunday school choir, and I grew up in a Christian family. I grew up just liking to sing and to play that drum. I went to boarding school in middle school, and I sang in the choir there and drummed for them.
“When I reached high school I kept in touch with my choir back home so I would go to church. I started getting involved with keyboard. I didn’t go to any school, but I would see someone playing and I would have them teach me a new thing. I was self taught. I have a friend of mine who I would look at and ask him questions about piano.”
After teaching herself these instruments, Imanariyo joined multiple worship teams and choirs at home that she continued to participate in even after coming to Muhlenberg. Her first big leap into broadcasting herself as a musical artist was releasing two self-written songs this past summer when back home in Rwanda.
“I haven’t reached the level of great, great artists, but seeing that the school is supporting me and sharing the article, it’s a great sign,” she said. “I was very glad, and it’s an opportunity for me to share with people. My first song is completely in Kinyarwanda, but my second song is partly in English and Kinyarwanda so people can listen to it and connect to the words that they can understand.”
When talking about how she chose to come to Muhlenberg, Imanariyo said, “I’m part of an organization called She Can: supporting her education changes a nation. They help women find schools in the US. When I looked at the schools they had on the list, I saw Muhlenberg and thought, ‘This is a good school. I want to go here.’ I wanted a small school, because I thought it would be easier for me to adapt, and they had my major,” a major that Imanariyo hopes to use to become an engineer.
After Muhlenberg, Imanariyo hopes to find ways she can engage in both computer science and her love for music. “I think I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me, and combining my major with the gift that God blessed me with, I think it will be possible. Being an engineer will be my professional career, but at the same time, I don’t have to shut down the talent I have. I’ll be a gospel artist and a technologist.” For now, Imanariyo is just thankful for the support that she has now at Muhlenberg and the Muhlenberg community.
Speaking on her inspiration for her music, Imanariyo said, “I believe that I have something that I can use to bless people with. I was born to worship. I don’t think about myself without worshipping, and I was born to praise and worship God. I think I was born to praise and worship God. That is something that inspires me, knowing that Christ has died for me and that he is there for me, and I can write and sing about him.”
To learn more about Imanariyo’s music, follow her on Instagram (@gracious_gra3ce) or give a listen to her singles “Wa Musozi” and “No Other God” on YouTube and Facebook at Marie Grace Imanariyo.