Yesterday I had the pleasure of attending the 6th Safaricom Youth Orchestra graduation ceremony which was started by the late Bob Collymore in April 2014. A youth orchestra that has not only come so far, but also taken a life of its own and played a key role as a transformative agent to the young boys and girls who have had the opportunity to be members. The orchestra brings together children between the ages of 10 and 17 drawn from different schools and backgrounds, as well as the finest Kenyan music tutors to guide them to create beautiful classical music.
This was a virtual event that saw 30 students graduate, 12 of them being from Ghetto Classics. The kids play different instruments like the flute, Alto Sax, Tenor Sax, trumpet, violin, clarinet the bassoon and percussion. It was a pleasant afternoon spent in the presence of happy kids with bright futures, including Margaret Grace Akinyi who had granted us an interview just the previous day.
In attendance also were Safaricom Founding CEO Michael Joseph, Safaricom Chief Special Projects Officer Joe Ogutu, Safaricom Chief Customer Officer Sylvia Mulinge, Founder Art of Music Elizabeth Njoroge, a host of media colleagues, and of course SYO tutors and graduates.
The role that music plays in our lives cannot be brushed away unacknowledged and Safaricom understands this, hence continuous investment in programs like the youth orchestra, the Safaricom International Jazz Festival, and Ghetto Classics. Other than music, the kids have also gotten life lessons like hard work, patience, dedication, team-work and interacting with others from different backgrounds. Above all else graduations bring an immense sense of satisfaction and hope for the future and this was no exception.
“It is sad that for the first time we are not able to celebrate this milestone with our late founder, Bob Collymore but we find solace in knowing that we are realizing his dream.” – Elizabeth Njoroge, Director Art of Music Foundation.
Yesterday’s was a very special graduation in the memory of Bob who loved the orchestra and had great plans to do more with it. It was supposed to be held in April but had to be pushed to June because of the current pandemic that has made us all drastically adjust our lifestyles. In fact COVID-19 almost became a threat to the orchestra because the kids couldn’t meet to rehearse, but Safaricom donated 4G enabled mobile handsets to over 80 students and they were then able to rehearse remotely.
It was also a day to appreciate a whole team of other people who have always worked behind the scenes to see Bob’s dream succeed. Parents who free their kids to go for practice at Michael Joseph Center every Saturday. Drivers who make sure they get there and back home safely and on time. Tutors who guide and mentor the kids through not only playing individual instruments, but also creating perfect harmonies. Caterers who make sure the kids are well fed…
As Joe Ogutu put it while giving his remarks, “we are all hard wired to respond to music and it is capable of affecting our emotional, cultural, social and cognitive processes”.
Congratulations to SYO Class of 2020! Continue working hard in all aspects of life, and continue making beautiful music.