With a tenor-sung aria playing from his laptop in the background, Sibo Msibi sits calmly, mindfully selecting where to begin his story of his unique journey to Westmont. This first month of Sibo’s first year on campus is the outcome of a challenging season of applications, prayers, video auditions, and Skype calls. For Sibo, attending Westmont to study vocal performance is the answer to his prayers.
Sibo reflects, “I believe God has a great purpose in my life and I want that purpose to be served. I want to touch people’s souls in my music, by sharing my story as well. So I prayed about it. I cried a lot of times just praying, ‘God please make this happen, make this happen.’”
Singing has always been a part of Sibo’s life. After earning a degree in graphic design from Algonquin University in Swaziland, Sibo worked for a few companies after graduating in 2017. While Sibo has a deep love for visual art, he has continued to pursue his dreams of becoming an operatic tenor.
Sibo began singing in primary school choir and sang in choirs through his time at university in Swaziland. Aside from choir, his main resource has been YouTube and other performers with himself as his instructor, “I’ve been singing, training myself using videos on youtube of the greatest singers out there. Just watching and imitating. Just listening and doing them. Sometimes not getting the right lyrics, but getting the sound of how a real professional singer should sound.” Growing up in varsity and national choir in Swaziland, Sibo was awarded national champions six consecutive years until he graduated grade 12. Sibo states, “I’m known for singing back home. They call me Pava, Pavarotti. Pavarotti was the world’s greatest tenor opera singer … I’ve always tried to imitate him. Training myself because I’ve never gotten any professional training in music. I only trained myself.”
Sibo began applying to Christian liberal arts colleges in the United States firstly for graphic design and was accepted to a handful of schools, but without enough financial aid to qualify as a possibility. Sibo decided to give music a try: “This last year I just told myself: ‘let me try with music as well because I can sing…let me just give it my all.’ Then if it doesn’t work, then God’s purpose isn’t for me to go into the States.”
The common application process was arduous. Unfortunately, while Sibo was applying to schools, his job contract was not renewed. Sibo recalls “I had not finished my application to Westmont because I was going through that devastation period. I was really low. I was giving up. So it was like halfway, my application was halfway, and I got an email from Westmont that I should finish my application and they would review it.” Shortly after, Sibo interviewed via Skype and asked if he could also submit a video music audition. Three weeks later, Sibo received a Skype call from Westmont admissions and Dr. Shasberger admitting him to Westmont for vocal performance.
After a long journey, Sibo doesn’t fear what the future holds for his next few years at Westmont and career. “I know God is preparing. He’s got it covered. I’m not worried about that. What I need to worry about is my studies right now,” Sibo gestures to his music theory textbook. “You never know who you’re gonna talk to at one point and change their lives. I’m just going to sing and hopefully inspire other singers as well to just go for it. Believe in what you’re doing. It’s not going to be easy. It takes time to follow your passion. Keep your vision.”