Link Up in Kenya
Carnegie Hall’s Link Up continues to reach more and more classrooms around the world. This elementary school music program, which pairs students with local orchestras, has now taken root in Nairobi, Kenya. English-speaking students are participating in The Orchestra Moves this year and preparing for a concert facilitated by the Art of Music Foundation. Paul Asiyo, a Link Up teacher in Kenya, answers some questions about the program below.
Could you tell us more about the students and schools you will be working with on the Link Up program?
The schools that were chosen are government-run, and most of the students come from families with low to working class incomes. The schools have embraced the project and have provided as much assistance as possible, including rooms for the lessons and a teacher on duty to help manage the students. They have also allowed the students to be taken on small outings, including a trip to watch rehearsals by the Safaricom Youth Orchestra. The students themselves are very excited about learning music. When we gave them recorders, it was a struggle to get them to stop playing. They are resilient as well, as some have to travel a long distance to get home and are willing to stay because of the lessons.
What does music education currently look like in these schools and communities?
Most of the schools do not have existing music departments. All of the equipment (recorders, stands, and pianos) has been supplied by The Art of Music Foundation, and the schools house them for us. We have three main teachers who handle two schools each, and each teacher has an assistant for each school. The lessons are treated as an extracurricular activity and occur weekly.
How do you think the students will benefit from the program?
Since The Art of Music Foundation does not solely focus of the musical aspect of a student but rather on the student as a whole, the lessons cover more than the Link Up curriculum. They also seek to empower the students, showing them what to adhere to and what they can and should aim to attain in life, and showing them that they can be more than what society expects them to be.
What have been some of the initial responses to the Link Up program from the students and teachers?
The teachers are loving it! The students are amazing and grasp concepts quickly. The singing is going really well, and the students are learning the recorder at a good pace. The students are happy. You see them during the lesson as they try to grasp the concepts that are being taught, and the positivity that they have—how they push each other and correct each other—is just amazing.
Take a look into the classroom through these photos from Link Up’s inaugural year in Nairobi:
“This is one of the schools we will be teaching in. It’s a tiny school in an area called Dandora Phase 5, right next to Nairobi’s dumpsite. 300 students attend classes in this tiny space. They have a lovely music room and I know the music will really make a difference.”