Fourth-semester student Eleftherios Mukuka spent time this past summer in his native Zambia with classmates Lu Gari and Lyth Sidiq launching a charity project, More Music More Love, to create more access to music for disadvantaged children. The following is a blog post from Mukuka about his experience.
With our windows closed and our eyes wide open we drove through the most dangerous neighborhood in Lusaka to meet with the young boys and girls of the Lusaka Youth Orchestra (LYO). Temba, the conductor of the orchestra, was with us and insisted that we meet the kids in their home environment, to see where they come from. Our destination was a humbly ornamented church in the poor neighborhood of Kanyama. As Lu, Layth, and I entered the church to introduce ourselves to the orchestra, the kids gazed at us with excitement. They were about 25 in total, the majority of them boys. We introduced ourselves and spoke a little about our musical backgrounds. They played two beautiful church hymns for us and shared some of their stories.
As I stood there listening to them my heart was overwhelmed with happiness. I kept thinking how passionate these kids were: they were good, talented and young; most came from poor homes; none of them owned their own instruments (before every rehearsal the orchestra had to borrow instruments that belonged to various churches); they had little time for practice; and they were constantly hopping from place to place because they had no building of their own to rehearse in. Temba is more than just a conductor for these kids; he is also their mentor. He sees music as the way out for them: out of crime, drugs, loitering; a way to channel their creativity and build their characters through musicianship; hopefully, also to have a career in music. I felt inspired and moved. I truly admired their courage and passion.
Day 2 with the Lusaka Youth Orchestra was wicked fun! The objective of the day was to teach the orchestra “The Entertainer” by Scott Joplin and to present to them a consignment of instruments that we fundraised for in Boston and Mexico earlier this year (two clarinets, one violin, three flutes, three guitars, 10 tuners, 100-plus saxophone and clarinet reeds, five pairs of drumsticks and guitar strings). Working with them on “The Entertainer” was such a rewarding experience for everyone! The kids in the orchestra have been playing baroque and classical music exclusively and had never ventured out into other genres. Working on this ragtime piece was a cool experience for all of them. Some of the beginners however found the syncopation and tempo of the piece a little challenging and so we tailored the arrangement in such a way that both the beginner and advanced musicians in the orchestra played vital roles and had fun while learning new things at the same time.
At the end of the workshop the orchestra gave us a thank you concert. They played church hymns from the baroque era, two arias from Mozart’s magic flute and then a big-bang ending with the classic ragtime piece we taught them! They were absolutely fantastic! The instruments we donated to the Lusaka Youth Orchestra are the first instruments they own. As much as we may have helped them, they have given us courage, inspiration, and humility!