A group of Berklee College of Music students and alumni, and Newton North and Needham, MA, High School students are using the summer break as an educational opportunity. The students will participate in a cultural exchange program in Kenya (June 25—July 15) through local organization Global Youth Groove (GYG), whose mission is to transform the lives of youth through music, where they will teach, perform, study Swahili, learn about traditional Kenyan music, instruments and dance, and be immersed in Kenyan culture. The program is spearheaded by Berklee staff member Sam Lutomia, co-founder of GYG and co-founder of Acacia in Kenya, a fundraising effort that provides support for girls education.
The GYG group will spend two weeks in Kakamega, Western Kenya, teaching music and giving workshops at the Matende Secondary School, founded by Lutomia's father Francis. They plan to bring a full ensemble setup—including donated guitars, bass, violin, alto saxophone, clarinets, drums, and keyboards—on which the students will teach and perform. The students will also give presentations in their fields of expertise. Berklee film scoring major Dave Chapman's demonstration of music production software using desktop gear will give people without access to recording studios the tools to self-produce on computers.
Making technology more accessible, the group will bring eight MacBook Pros, donated by the college's IT department, loaded with GarageBand and ProTools. At the end of the trip, the laptops and instruments will be given to a community center in Kakamega, allowing talented local youth to continue developing their skills. Lutomia explains, “Unfortunately, we can't leave the laptops at Matende School because of security. The school is still struggling to buy windows and doors for their classes, which is the case for most public schools in Kenya."
They also plan to visit other schools and orphanages in the area and will perform at the Kenya Schools and Colleges National Music Festival in Kakamega, June 29-July 2.
GYG includes students from Kenya returning home for the trip, and students from the US making their first trip to Africa. “I am really excited because students from Berklee and local high schools get to come to my country and have a little taste of my culture," says Nairobi native Wambura Mitaru, who studies at Berklee on a full Africa Scholarship. “It allows me to share a part of my life that is close to me—my home. I hope to learn from both worlds and see musicians interacting and having a great time speaking the universal language of music."
The group will also spend time in Nairobi meeting with Berklee alumni and other musicians, giving workshops, and performing in concert. After returning, the students will give a public presentation in Boston where they will perform, speak about their experiences, and show a documentary produced from the trip.