LIFE AND LEGACY
Agnes Nebo von Ballmoos was born in the Municipality of Grandcess, Grand Kru County, Liberia on
February 21, 1931. Her parents were the late Honorable Amos S. Nebo and Mrs. Grace Taneh Nebo.
She obtained her early education in the Municipality of Grandcess in Kru Coast Territory, now Grand Kru
County. She later attended the Bible Industrial Academy (B.I.A.) in Grand Bassa County. Agnes later
enrolled at Suehn Industrial Mission School in Bomi Territory (Bomi County), Liberia. There she exhibited
exceptional academic excellence, which earned her a scholarship to complete her senior high school
education in the United States of America. She graduated with her high school diploma from Nannie Helen
Burroughs School in Washington, DC.
She matriculated to Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, obtaining an undergraduate degree
from the Philadelphia Conservatory of Music at Temple in 1959. She studied music and graduated with a
piano performance major.
Mrs. von Ballmoos began her professional career at the University of Liberia in 1961, teaching Music
Education, Social Science and conducting the University of Liberia Chorus. During this period, she also
taught at several local high schools, which included the St. Teresa’s Convent, St. Patrick’s, and the William
V.S. Tubman High Schools.
In 1972, Mrs. Patricia Nixon, former first lady of the United States, awarded Mrs. von Ballmoos a Fulbright
Fellowship for graduate studies at Indiana University. She obtained a Master of Arts degree in
Ethnomusicology at the end of 1973.
The University of Liberia Chorus had been extended an invitation to participate in the Fourth International
Choral Festival held in May 1974 at the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in New York. Mrs. von
Ballmoos quickly returned to Liberia to prepare the Chorus for the festival. Liberia, the only African country
to have received an invitation to the festival, was ably represented by the University of Liberia Chorus
under the conductorship of Mrs. von Ballmoos. Their performance received much acclamation from various
quarters. Thereafter, the University of Liberia Chorus received many invitations, both national and
international, including those from a number of African heads of State.
Mrs. von Ballmoos’ contribution to the Liberian society and the preservation of Liberian folk music is
pivotal! In 1961 when she returned to Liberia, Liberians did not put much stock in their indigenous music;
dare one say their indigenous culture. It was against this backdrop that a young, talented, creative,
ambitious and extremely confident young Agnes emerged upon the music, literary, and cultural scene of
Liberia. Needless to say, she was faced with many obstacles from many sources. However, with steely
determination and unwavering focus, her hallmark characteristics, she preserved. She collected and
recorded many Liberian folksongs from the different cultural backgrounds that make up the Liberian
society. She found beauty in all of them.
She published her arrangements of three Liberian folksongs: “Kah Benneh Kah,” “Wah Gee Tee Bee,” and
“Hwraynyeehday” with Lawson-Gould Music Publishers in 1970 and 1974. The first two are available at the
Library of Congress and the last at the Boston University Music Library. Shortly before her death in 2000,
she notated her arrangements of fourteen Liberian folksongs (using only a pitch pipe). These
arrangements are at the Library of Congress.
Another passion of Mrs. von Ballmoos was her quest for social justice. She enrolled at the Louis Arthur
School of Law at the University of Liberia; graduating with a Juris Doctor Degree in 1989.
Agnes Nebo was married to Mr. Rudolf von Ballmoos shortly after obtaining her undergraduate degree
from Temple University. They had two sons, Rudolf precious and Dewitt Ben Bella.
With the civil war impending, Mrs. von Ballmoos traveled to London in 1990. She lived in London until her
death on March 29, 2000 at the St. Heller’s Hospital, London, United Kingdom.
The transcription and notation of Liberian folk music also “died” with her death in 2000.