Through fate, cellist and educator Avery Waite ended up at Ghetto Classics during my time as well. It has been nice to have someone with me on this journey and to hear about his experiences in Afghanistan, India, El Salvador, and more. He's an amazing cellist and is involved in many social justice for music programs. You can read about his non-profit, MusAid here.
Day four offered many adventures for both Avery and myself! We began our journey at the Ghetto Classics storage container where we did some services to several of the string instruments. It is amazing that all of the materials they receive are through donations. There were some really beautiful instruments there, and they have all been generously donated by other musicians. We were able to fix many broken strings and help organize a few items before our next stop on our journey.
We made a quick stop at The Art of Music Foundation office before heading back to the Ghetto Classics program at Korogocho ("Koch") School was in session today, but we were still able to find some time to work with the students. The rehearsal was wonderful-- we played several of their pieces, including arrangements of "Perfect" and "Radioactive," as well as practicing some breathing exercises, which the students seemed to really like. During our break, one of the trombone and trumpet players pulled out their Arban's book and practiced some exercises together. It was so interesting to see that even all the way in East Africa!
These students love to play. We rehearsed for almost 3 hours and they desperately wanted to keep going, but I unfortunately had to leave. They are hungry for knowledge and spend many hours on their instruments playing and playing. What I noticed though, is that many of them are lacking structure. They play, play, play, but do not spend much time rehearsing. Throughout my short time with them I noticed that each and every one of them can play their parts individually. However, they often have a hard time getting those individual parts to come together as an ensemble. We were able to make some wonderful progress, and I am hoping to work with some of the lead tutors on rehearsal techniques and ways to improve as an ensemble.
Because travel to Korogocho is challenging, the transportation of tutors and instruments is often running late. Besides that, traffic in Nairobi is like nothing I have ever seen before. People generally stay to the left (everything is to the left here!), but there are hardly any traffic lights and speed limits posted (and when there are traffic lights, people ignore them.) There are pedestrians everywhere, especially in the slums. There are two types of busses that are all independtly owned-- smaller vans and larger busses. They basically rule the roads and can do whatever they want without any repercussions. On top of that, they are super crowded, and during rush hour you will literally see people hanging out of them because they are so full.
The reason I bring this up, is because despite all of these conditions and obstacles, the students in Koch are still so enthusiastic and never miss an opportunity to play their instruments. They really do their best with what they are given, and I now realize it is my task to give them as much as I can in order to set them up for even more success. In the meantime, they will continue to give me this beautiful experience that is a gift in every single way.
I am honored to have been selected as a 2018 Fund for Teachers Fellowship Recipient. Through this grant I will travel to Nairobi, Kenya to work the the El Sistema based music program, Ghetto Classics. This blog will share information and stories about my first journey to Africa.