Ghetto Classics is the flagship programme of the Art of Music Foundation. It is a community programme that involves over 300 children in Korogocho – one of Kenya’s biggest slums that is home to about 300,000 urban poor – and over 600 others in satellites areas around Nairobi and Mombasa. We use music education to provide the youth with opportunities to better themselves and their community. We do this by instilling in them the life skills that come with the discipline of studying art music.
Our programme also provides them with income generating opportunities.
The main objectives of the program are:
- To support St John primary school and Korogocho community as a whole with music knowledge and skills.
- To create oneness and harmony between students, school systems/administration and the community by using music as a merging tool for larger social transformation.
- To engage young people in sustainable projects and promote a fair and just society, where they are equitably engaged in social-economic development programs.
- To bring people from all races, communities together to form a formidable foundation with the aim of making music a part of culture in the Korogocho community.
Based in a local primary school and church, we run both a brass band and string ensemble that train weekly, meeting for 3 hours every Sunday afternoon. We also work within the primary school structure, giving 10 – 12 year olds, in an adjacent primary school, weekly music tuition. For all these children, it is the first time in their lives that they are coming across any music education. The project deals in equipping students with music knowledge ranging from theoretical part of it to the actual music performance, they all converge to play in a tuti on weekends.
2016 was a big year for Ghetto Classics. We now have Ghetto Classics 2 orchestras a senior and a junior one who perform during the Sunday community sessions and are reaching over 1000 students through the Ghetto Classics Link Up program in both Nairobi and Mombasa.
While this has been a good year there are still various challenges we face, the most pressing of which is the illegal dumpsite located just behind the GC building in Korogocho. Several fires have been raging with the fire on 24th October threatening to bring down the entire building. Despite these challenges the community support, the positivity from the students and overall the power of music has had the transformational effect of changing the lives of these young people. Despite the hardship these children and young people face they always find the time to come and practice.
In the 8 years that Ghetto Classics has been in existence it has achieved these objectives:
- Some of the students who have actively participated in music program managed to secure places in Safaricom Youth Orchestra, which also supports them with basic needs like food, shelter, school fees and clothes.
- Discovered hidden talents, of many students, who have also received recognition in the school for their achievements in music.
- Majority of the students who are learning music have managed to improve in their academic grade and school mean score have really improved. 16 completed their KCPE this year with above average grades. 100 attended the PURES program at State House.
- Overall there has been an encouraging change in the behavior of the students with increased confidence and a positive outlook on life.
- There has been a cultural exchange that has gone beyond the students but also involved the community at large – students who were involved in the project kept on sharing the information with the rest of the community members and the response was positive.
- Ghetto Classics has managed to perform at major events which have been happening in Kenya for instance: during Pope’s visit to Kenya and Jamhuri Day at State house creating greater exposure for the students and Ghetto Classics as a whole.
This year the students have had various life changing experiences both locally and internationally. Some of the most notable moments include:
- Stephen Kamau and Teddy Otieno were invited to the International Music Session in the Hamptons. The 2 week musical and performance training course was an ‘out of this world’ experience for both of them and as a result of their outstanding performances they have been invited back again in 2017.
- One of the GC alumni Brian Kepher had a terrific year, after taking up conducting he applied to participate in the Gustav Mahler 5th International Conducting Competition and was invited to audition at the Conservatoire of Lausanne. He was also selected to participate in the first ever African University Leader Exchange Program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
- In the 2016 National exams:
- 8 of our students completed their KCPE and have all joined secondary school with Derrick Omondi getting a scholarship through the Kenyatta Trust.
- 4 students completed their KCSE
- And 12 other students are currently in secondary school.
Tutors, who are ex students and members of Ghetto Classics, have undergone Grade 1-5 theory and practical exams execute the teaching. This is to ensure that pupils are able to read, play music and understand basic elements of a good performance. Exams are usually held at the end of every term and the students who perform best are rewarded and promoted to the school band and Safaricom Youth Orchestra.
- There has been increased Tutors morale to continue with their music careers as they have seen the opportunity of being able to earn and income from their musical skills.
- There is an increased sense of belonging and ownership of the community activities since they have been empowered with education and wide experience towards life, through music.
- It has also created a sense of responsibility and leadership by giving back to their own society hence creating brighter future.
- By the virtue that tutors have been teaching at St. John’s school during the week and on weekends lessons they were able to gain sponsorship from the Kenya Conservatoire and Art Of Music Foundation to do ABRSM exams.
- With the help of Ghetto Classic, tutors have managed to access and own their own personal instruments. They have gone on to create their own band and perform at events in the community.
- In partnership with the Australian Music School the founders conducted the 3rd training to teach and upskill the tutors which in turn has elevated the students themselves.
Music is one of the activities which is promoting peace in the community, because the youth are spending their free time learning and teaching music, but there have been greater benefits to society:
- St John also began using music to advertise for their school and recruit students and the number of the pupils has risen from 700 to approximate 780. The mean score of the school has increased compared to the previous years (2014 mean score was 274, 2015 mean score was of 298.). St John school band came first during the Kenya music festivals in August 2015 and managed to bring back home Six Trophies. Despite its location the reputation and image of the school and community has improved greatly.
- The Art of Music Foundation currently employs 10 people from within the Korogocho community who help to keep Ghetto Classics running.
- In July 2016 the Ghetto Classics recorded a CD “I Have a Dream” – The recording of this album will go a long way in supporting the programme financially as the proceeds have been directed towards our young musicians and their peers achieving even greater heights with their music. The CD is also aimed at showing their community what these musicians are capable of and that they do it well. The CD was recorded at the Go Down Studios and was produced by Midi Minds. The recording of the CD was supported by Junior Achivement, John Ngumi, Kilu and Meera Shah Vicky Karugu and the Art of Music Trustees: Rachel Mbai, Juju Macharia, Julius Kipng’etich, Chris Mensah, Debra Mallowah, Irene Mukiri and Duncan Wambugu
- In 2016 through the Link Up programme Ghetto Classics has managed to expand its operation to other schools within our community and further afield. We have begun teaching the recorder to 300 new students from 6 different primary schools in Nairobi: Farasi Lane Primary School, Muthangari Primary School, Clare Community Centre (Dandora), St. Clare’s Primary School (Korogocho) Reuben Primary School (Mukuru kwa Reuben) and St. Johns Primary School (Korogocho) using the Carnegie Hall methodology and technical assistance with the end goal of having a concert featuring all the students with the National Youth Orchestra. In October 2016 327 students from the 5 different schools performed with the Ensemble Medici (a visiting group of doctors who are also musicians from Germany) and the Kenya National Youth Orchestra. It was a thrilling year and a scintillating final performance enjoyed by the students, teachers and friends of the Art of Music.
LINK UP 2016 Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-px7zQ2QGZM&t=19s
LINK UP Orchestra Moves Concert 2016: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9QznOsj5L0M
In 2017 the programme is expanding further with 3 new schools in Nairobi and 4 in Mombasa namely:
- Khadija primary school;
- Ronald Ngala primary school;
- Mikindani primary school and
- Mikoni primary school.
Paul Asiyo one of the tutors from Nairobi has moved to Mombasa to lead the programme there in parternship with the Ministry of Education Mombasa and Educate Africa. At the end of the year the students will come together to perform Orchestra Moves in Nairobi and in Mombasa with the National Youth Orchestra of Kenya.
- Ghetto Classics has attracted more stakeholders to support the program both locally and international e.g. Australia Music Society, Carnegie Hall Link Up, The Concordia Foundation. In 2016 we thank Safaricom Jazz for the partnership for another 2 years. One of the added benefits of the Safaricom Jazz is that the visiting artists visits Korogocho for musical session with the Ghetto Classics students. In 2016 this included:
- Branford Marsalis, Siya Makuzeni, Sons of Kemet, Maya Belsitzman, Matan Ephrat and Kunle Ayo
- Jeff Neve a Safaricom Jazz performer from Geel in Belgium has adopted Ghetto Classics and donated a variety of instruments