Youth orchestra with a rousing symphonic crescendo

Seventeen-year-old Mary Keni reckons that for her, classical music is not only a tender and soothing affair but that it induces an aura of thoughtfulness and pensive fulfilment that words cannot explain.

So deeply rooted is her passion for its mesmerizing melodies that in April of last year, she auditioned to join one of most dynamic orchestras in the country. The Safaricom Youth Orchestra (SYO) founded by the late Bob Collymore.

At SYO, students are specially trained in performing arts and the use of solo instruments ranging from the Flute, Alto Sax, Tenor Sax, Trumpet and violin.

Whilst here, Mary has honed her violin skills thanks to practical lessons offered by top gurus in this rare genre of music – which is still poorly understood by most people but has proved to be of great sentimental value to men and women of tender sensibilities.

It is true that classical music has a depth and complexity that you can’t find elsewhere, but Mary says that that’s what makes it special.

Safaricom Youth Orchestra
17-year old Mary Keni

Her story began back in Primary school where she could have loved to pursue music, but the motivation was loose.

At Alliance girl’s high school where she currently studies, Mary Keni is pursuing music as a subject and the universe immediately moved to rig things in her favour at almost the same time.

She inherited a violin from a friend who had given up on the hobby but who was glorious enough to offer beginner lessons.  

Now at the Safaricom Youth Orchestra, the young lass has professionally learnt how to coax and harmonize beautiful violin tunes like a snake charmer.

The hallmark of these lessons was a stage performance during last year’s Jamhuri Day celebration where her SYO group was selected to entertain the head of state – President Uhuru Kenyatta.

But the COVID-19 crisis saw their music training sessions moved online underpinned by 4G devices that the telco giant had provided.

Last week, Mary was among the thirty students who graduated during the 6th SYO graduation ceremony that was held virtually. It was the first time the event proceeded without its godfather the late Bob Collymore.

Close associates of the late CEO say that he was a trained saxophonist himself and had actually donated his treasured saxophone to one of the young musicians in Mary’s cohort.  

Mr. Collymore had built a reputation as a man who loved art and music. When he arrived in Kenya in 2010, he sought to blend in with the culture and emerged as a key figure who went on to pioneer noble initiatives that would far outlive him.  

The Orchestra’s annual calendar is divided into three terms, with the first one running from May to July, followed by August to December and finally January to April when the students who have completed high school graduate.

At this time, the Orchestra carries out auditions where the most outstanding participants are selected to join.

On his part, Safaricom CEO Peter Ndegwa says that he understands the fundamental role which music plays in our daily lives and that the telco will continue backing initiatives such as the Safaricom Youth Orchestra.  

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