The Safaricom Youth Orchestra is an exciting musical project launched by the late Bob Collymore in April 2014. It brings together 70 Children aged between 10 and 18 years from different backgrounds, united by music! All of them are gifted, passionate and committed to their musical journey. We spoke to one of the young players, Rohan Neel Shah and this is what he had to say.
Your name please and what you do?
My name is Rohan Neel Shah and I am a student at Peponi House Preparatory School. I’m in year seven going to year eight and am twelve years old.
When did you start playing the Tuba and why?
I started playing the Tuba just over two years ago. The Tuba has always fascinated me and with the help of my school teachers, I decided to give it a go and now I play it as my second instrument.
Oh, so you play another musical instrument other than the Tuba.
Yes I also play the piano which I’ve been playing for over six years now and I’ll sit my Grade Six exam for that. I also like to sing and I am part of the school choir.
Other than the Safaricom Youth Orchestra, do you play with any other groups?
Yes I do play for my school Orchestra, our brass ensemble and our brass quartet through which we took part in the young musicians competition and came third overall. The competition is at Kenton and it is between different schools.
What do you like about the Safaricom Youth Orchestra?
Safaricom Youth Orchestra has enabled me to work with different children from different backgrounds and cultures. I love the fact that we all play music together and have fun. It has helped me grow in my musicality and I have really enjoyed working with some of the finest teachers there. I always look forward to my Saturday training sessions. It has also taught me to be disciplined with time and to dedicate some time to practicing daily.
What opportunities have your involvement in music exposed you to so far?
Apart from playing music at Peponi House, through the Safaricom Youth Orchestra I’ve had the privilege of playing with Jimek – a Polish composer who has also worked with Beyonce. He has helped some of the members of SYO train internationally as well.
I also played at the State House on 12th December for the Independence Day celebrations. Even my parents haven’t been there!
What are the highlights of your musical journey so far?
Music is a big part of me. It helps me relax and gives me great satisfaction. Of course playing for the Safaricom Youth Orchestra is a big highlight and through this, I feel that music brings everyone together with smiles.
I also played some music a couple of weeks ago to raise money for a charity called Jamii Bora Trust which helps educate children.
Is music something you would like to pursue as a career?
Well, for now I would like to continue with music to a higher level and hope that one day it will take me to even greater heights. And who knows? I may pursue a career in music.
What are your dreams as far as playing the Tuba in particular and music in general are concerned?
My aim is to play for the Kenya National Youth Orchestra and then hopefully be a part of an international orchestra group.
It will be a privilege to teach the less fortunate children a bit of music and show them that through music we are all one.
Any siblings or younger relatives who look up to you? Are any of them taking up dreams of musical instruments as hobbies and as possible careers?
I have a younger brother Raheel who is a keen drummer and hopes to play for Sauti Sol. He has also recently joined the Safaricom Youth Orchestra and together we hope to form the R2 Brothers Band one day.
How does it feel to be an inspiration to kids younger than you? Or even older?
I am an all rounded person who likes sports, music, drama and arts and I feel that if I could inspire just one person to achieve their dreams then I have succeeded. Always aim for the stars and you will reach the sky is my motto. Keep working hard and never give up.
Has any other older member of your family picked up music?
Nobody else apart from my brother plays music but my parents love listening to our music. With the support of my parents, my music teachers at school, home and at Safaricom Youth Orchestra, my musical journey is really taking off.