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UGA Music Education Sends Eight to Kenya For Service-Learning Trip

UGA Music Education Sends Eight to Kenya For Service-Learning Trip

A group of eight from the UGA Hugh Hodgson School of Music’s music education and piano pedagogy areas are in Africa from March 10-21, setting up distance learning and orchestra programs for a fledgling music department in western Kenya.

Moi Girls’ School, in Eldoret, Kenya, has had a relationship with UGA for some time: UGA piano pedagogy donated a digital piano on a previous trip, and since that time, School of Music students have provided several Moi students online piano lessons. To continue that support, Dr. Pete Jutras, associate professor of piano, and Dr. Skip Taylor, music education area chair, and six of their students took instruments to donate to the Moi Girls’ School’s music program and they’ll be spending over a week teaching and interacting with the students.

“We’re trying to put these instruments in their hands so that they have the opportunity to slowly build an orchestra at the school,” said Taylor.

After arriving in Nairobi, the group spent three days in the Kenyan capital, meeting other educators. When they left Nairobi, the group made a seven-hour van ride to Eldoret.

“Along with the beautiful mountains, we saw all stripes of Kenyan living,” said Taylor. “There were people pushing their businesses alongside cows, zebra, and sheep. There were Uber-style motorcycle riders picking up customers and taking them to their destinations. All kinds of things.”

The first day in Eldoret was, by all accounts, a resounding success. Whether meeting with administration or taking the students through exercises, the UGA group was effusive in their praise of the school.

“The Kenyan people are so warm, polite, and welcoming,” said Taylor. “And after the first day of teaching, our UGA graduate students were excited at the progress the students made over the period of just one day and could not wait to get back in class the following day,” said Taylor.

Projects like these don’t happen without support, and this one had it in spades: from organizations in other countries to people in the same building—like Dr. Jean Ngoya Kidula, professor of music at the School of Music and a Kenyan native, who met the arriving group in Nairobi and helped guide them, physically and figuratively. The donated instruments include one digital piano donated by the North Dekalb Music Teachers Association, two digital pianos donated by Yamaha, violins from Ronald Sachs Violins of Lilburn, Ga., and numerous instruments from community donors.

The Royal Conservatory of Music in Canada donated a box of sheet music to the project so that the Kenyan students and UGA student teachers will be working from the same materials, Chick Piano of Athens gave the project rosin, strings, valve oil and reeds and Stripling’s General Store in Bogart, Ga., even donated shirts for the students as well as packing materials to ensure safe transport of the instruments.

UGA faculty and students, led by Dr. Skip Taylor (bottom left) and Dr. Pete Jutras (third row, third from left), share a photo with faculty and staff of Potters House Elementary School in Kenya.