WOW! I can't believe it's over already. After a long 24+ hours of traveling, I have made it home safe and sound. When I was leaving I had this weird feeling that I felt like it wasn't time to go yet-- I finally felt comfortable there-- like I was making progress with the students, I understood what needed to be done, and I understood how the operation ran. It's weird because when I made the arrangements, two weeks seemed like it would be long enough, but now looking back I wish I would have stayed longer! (Despite that whole missing my husband thing-- that was a factor too!)
So the last two days were a busy, wonderful blur. On Thursday I traveled to Koch in the morning for several hours and had the opportunity to work with many of the band students. I tried to give them as many warm up and rehearsal techniques as I could, so they had some new tools they could use to mix up their rehearsals. Some highlights:
1. I taught them the circle of fourths and we hacked through all 12 major scales.
2. We did an exercise I learned at Lynn, from Professor Reese, where we passed around a major scale. One person plays it going up, the next going down-- focusing on matching note lengths and articulations.
3. We did a similar exercise in which we passed a scale, but this time we did one note at a time.
4. We took the normal, harmonized scale they usually play and mixed it up, playing in half notes, quater notes, and then eighth notes.
My goal was to give them something to use once I was gone. I know how easy it is to get stuck in the same routine, and without some outside inspiration practicing can be rather dull. They were, as with everything else, so thankful for the new ideas.
I also got to travel back to Dandora on Thursday to see the Link Up kids one more time. This time we arrived on time, so I could see how they set up everything as well. They are even responsible for the key to the music room! The teacher and I were outside waiting for them to set up, and suddenly we hear eruptions of The Kookaburra Song that I had taught them on Tuesday!! So fun! Once again, I was able to work with them for a bit on their recorders and some singing. The highlight was splitting into two groups and singing The Kookaburra Song as a round. Love it!
There were 45 excited students in that class, but only 35 recorders. What was really striking to me was that the students who did not have recorders never complained about it. They never tried to steal one from their neighbor, or fight over who got to play. They just clapped along, read their note names, or helped their stand partner, without the teacher having to say anything! I was so impressed by them.
On Thursday, I had a lovely dinner with one of the conductors of the Safaricom Youth Orchestra and the National Youth Orchestra of Kenya, Levi Wataka. Turns out we have a connection in Georgia (small music world, right!?) and are going to pursue a couple of projects together. I cannot wait! Levi really has a wonderful perspective of music education for the whole of Kenya. He's focused on making everything better and building it up as much as we can. It was so inspiring.
Friday was sadly, my last day with Ghetto Classics. I was once again kindly shuttled around by Chris to Koch, the storage container to get me a t-shirt, and then back to my AirBNB one last time. I reveiwed the concepts we had practiced on Thursday to make sure they stuck, and we did a few other fun rehearsal items. (Such as marching in place when they were playing to focus on keeping time. I asked them if they had ever seen a marching band and they said no, so it was fun to watch them experience marching for the first time!)
Like I said before, I felt sad to be leaving for a number of different reasons. I really wanted to give them everything I could, and I feel like I was able to do that during my short time with them, but there is so much more work to be done. These students were so hard working, thankful, and appreciative of everything, and despite the conditions, it was such a positive place to be.
Next, I was saddened by the fact that many of them will not have the chance to leave Kenya. Of course, I offered to them if they have the opportunity to travel to the US they are always welcome with me, but I even hesitated to say that because I know that will likely not happen. (Although one student, Simon, is traveling to the US for a conference in September and we are trying to arrange a side trip down to Georgia-- so exciting!!) I took some of their e-mail addresses and will send as much music and as many YouTube videos as I can, but part of me felt guilty to come and go like I did. It's like, I was there for two weeks, but then I get to go back to my beautiful home with my car and television and hot shower and amazing food, and they don't get to do that. But then at the same time, they are so used to their way of life, that I'm pretty sure most of them don't even think twice about it.
I have a few more thoughts and insights I would like to share from this trip, but for the sake of length I am going to save them for another post.
Finally, as I waited at the airport I was thinking of the group of students who had the chance to travel to Poland and what that must have been like for them. Many people told me that the attitude in Kenya is, "If you have been on an airplane, you have made it." I was overwhelmed thinking about how exciting and unreal it must have been for those students to actually board a plane and fly to a completely different country, all because of music. What an amazing thing music has done for them.
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.