The Safaricom Youth Orchestra was launched in 2014 by the then CEO Bob Collymore, this was after he watched children playing at an event in Sweden and was inspired to start something similar in Kenya.
The orchestra aims to inspire musical talent in children and its goal is to give an opportunity to youngsters from underprivileged families whose skills might otherwise never be discovered. This is evident from the fact that the person who was tasked to form it by the late Bob was none other than Elizabeth Njoroge who is the founder of the Ghetto Classics Program. According to Elizabeth, the idea was to bring together kids from Ghetto Classics who are mainly drawn from underprivileged areas with similarly talented kids from more privileged backgrounds.
To say that the orchestra has changed the lives of many young people who otherwise would not have had a chance in life is an understatement. Take the case of Brian Kepher who is one of the conductors of the Ghetto Classics Orchestra. Growing up, Brain at one time had to sleep on the floor of a local church because there wasn’t enough room in his family’s home in the Korogocho slum. His love for music started back in 2010 when as a scout, he heard the KDF band playing at the Nyayo National Stadium. When he shared his interest with his mum, she encouraged him to go see how kids were learning music at the Ghetto Classics program. When he got there, the first instrument that he picked was a bass drum and he has never looked back. What he didn’t know at the time was that this was to mark the beginning of a new chapter in his life.
Shortly after he joined Ghetto Classics, his father was unable to raise his school fees after he lost his job, however, courtesy of his interest in music, he was able to get a mentor who paid his school fees until he completed high school. According to Brian, his mother could not help but shed tears of joy when she saw that he was able to finish school. Not only was he able to clear high school but he also later joined the university to study a bachelor’s in music.
Brian who is a percussionist with a speciality in timpani is also a member of the Youth Orchestra of Kenya, Nairobi Orchestra and Kenya Conservatoire Symphony Orchestra. His love for music has since seen him travel the world not to mention playing before dignitaries. He participated in the Commonwealth games in India as a percussionist in Scokendia Ensemble, which consisted of eight players each from Scotland, Kenya and India. He was also the first African to be invited to the annual Gustav Mahler Conducting Competition in Germany in 2016. He also got a chance to play before President Uhuru Kenyatta at State House Nakuru not to mention the Pope.
Brian’s story is just one of many whose lives have been impacted positively by the Safaricom Youth Orchestra. As the orchestra celebrates 5 years since inception, all I can say is that keep doing what you do that is changing the lives of underprivileged kids for the better.