Kenya’s very own Juilliard, the Safaricom Youth Orchestra, has seen twenty of its members graduate from the music program, which had commenced way back in April 2014. The talented bunch finally said goodbye, to pave the way for other musically gifted Kenyan youth to join the program. Kenya has witnessed the work of incredibly talented youth, including the Third Hand Music Band, with their debut track ‘Helena’. This Safaricom based program seeks to assist and grow those with talent in music, giving them equal opportunities despite their background.
There are presently 80 members aged between 10-18 years, and 60 new members to fill the slots left open by the graduates, with the process of shortlisting those who will join the Orchestra currently underway. The students-from the slums of Korogocho to top tier international schools-are given an opportunity to engage, learn and perform classical music part time, while still able to concentrate on their academic education. Pupils are also provided with an opportunity to lay the foundation for careers in music, offering way of out of poverty while still enjoying what they are passionate about.
It’s estimated that the average salary of an orchestral musician can range from $28,000-$115,000 (Kshs 2,842,472-11,674,439) a year. A member in the Alabama Symphony can earn a starting salary of about $33,328 (Kshs. 3,383,354) a year, while starting off in the Boston Symphony can leave you with a hefty $112,840 (Kshs. 11,455,163) annually! That’s a hell lot more than what several doctors in Kenya earn, even after three years of experience. With the right networks, there’s a ton of money in music.
Besides supporting the students’ talent, the program is also considered a positive influence to the members of the school, as they use their free time to gain knowledge and skill beneficial to them. “We’ve seen a transformation in the Orchestra over the last two years, with the members exhibiting a passion and sense of discipline that is not common to many pre-teens and teens,” said Mr. Collymore. An attitude among younger groups that seems to be slowly fading, with instances such as the Project X house party, which showcase the dwindling morals exhibited in youth today.
Under the guidance of talented volunteer tutors, the Orchestra members receive individual and sectional lessons, while also participating in full orchestra ensemble work every weekend for approximately 40 weeks a year. The Safaricom Youth Orchestra has performed at various events including Safaricom Groove Awards, Safaricom Annual General Meetings, Safaricom International Jazz Festivals, Safaricom at 15 celebration concert and with the Safaricom Choir, drawing enthusiastic applause each time.