<< This is an old page – from 2011 – but I thought some people might be interested still in what we did in Kenya. I haven’t updated this page at all, but would be happy to talk to anyone interested in helping out with this Kenyan program in some way! >>
The “Thiiri Centre,” a community center in Meru
The Kenya Urithi Education Fund, and the Meru Instrumental Music Project
At the end of January, 2011, I went to Meru, Kenya for just over two weeks. I was one in a team of six music teachers from Michigan who went to Kenya to jump-start a strings program in this small mountain village outside of Nairobi. We represented a non-profit agency called the Kenyan Urithi Education Fund (KUEF), a 501(c)(3) agency based in Ann Arbor whose mission is “to expand and enhance the educational resources in the Kithoka community near Meru, Kenya.”
In 2007, a band was started in this community with the help of KUEF’s Instrumental Music Project. This band is now thriving! They even performed at a TEDx conference in Nairobi in September, 2010. With the band established, we teachers started a string program at the primary school so that the students will eventually be able to play symphonic orchestra music by the time they get into high school.
Game Plan for our first trip
We string teachers (Larry Dittmar, Marilyn Kesler, Bill Tenant, Geri Arnold, Anne Ogrena, Ann Schoelles and I) as well as two families from Geri’s studio went to Meru to work with primary school students. The aim of this trip was to take the school by storm and teach as much string playing to the kids as possible. Anne O. spent a great deal of time with Boniface, the local band teacher, in an intensive training course for string teaching. Boniface will be the one to give longevity to the work that we visitors did there. Anne stayed in Kenya after the rest of us left in order to follow up on the work that we did. Larry, who was been the rallying voice and leadership for us teachers, is planning on going back at a later date to oversee the continuation of the string and band programs. I plan on spending the entire summer in Kenya to work more with Boniface and with the new violin students. If you’d like to see my blog from this trip, click here.
The hope is that, through this fledgling program, then it will give more opportunities for these kids as it gains more success. It is such a different way of life there that I won’t begin to guess what kinds of benefits it may bring to those kids and that community – but that is part of the beauty of this project.
To read my blog about Kenya, click on “Kenya – all” in the Categories column on the right side of this webpage.
Game Plan for my second trip
I am going alone on my second trip, so it will be a much different trip for me. I will be helping Boniface teach the kids and will also be training him to learn more about the violin. Mostly, though, I hope to raise enough money to be able to travel to nearby programs to connect Boniface to the people who can support him locally.
Below is a video made by Stanford Thompson, a trumpet player graduated from the Curtis Institute of Music. He taught music for nine weeks as a part of the KUEF Meru Instrumental Music project, and this is an informational video entitled, “Meru, Kenya: Music in the Schools.”