Nurturing confidence through music

Jason Rae, a self-taught Trombonist remembers vividly how his sacrifices in learning the instrument are today earning him his livelihood with great satisfaction. Eleven years into the trade, his passion is keeping him alive, engaged and productive member of the community as he helps young people also learn how to play it.

“I started teaching myself in High School hence I needed lots of self-motivation to be professional. I was committed to learning it and excelling and today I look back with contentment”, he avers.

It has not been easy or cheap. Getting good quality Trombone costs between sh60, 000 to sh150, 000 and they are hardly available locally so one has to ship them from abroad.

To be a good trombonist, you need to have a good ear for music since you need to play it in tune, determination and preservation. In addition, blowing the metal instrument with your lips requires good lip muscle and the temerity to blow the air for long hours.

He explains that confidence in who he is and what he can do grew tremendously. Today, he helps other young people, especially teenagers learn the instrument to also build their confidence and be valuable members of the community.

Safaricom Youth Orchestra

As Bob Collymore took over as the Safaricom CEO, he saw the work being done by Art of Music Foundation through Ghetto Classics in Korogocho and conceived the Safaricom Youth Orchestra. He has already seen the work being done and support extended through them during Michael Joseph’s tenure and decided to deepen it.

“Bob played a really important role during the first days. He would come on a Saturday and hang’ out with the teenagers, get to know the individuals and this had a huge impact on them. They could feel whatever was impossible is now possible. If I can meet him and engage directly, what can’t I become”, explained Bill Rowe, a Trumpet tutor.

The festivals that Safaricom hosts deepen the confidence the teenagers have. They get to interact with internationally renowned artists and perform in front of huge jazz fans and this makes them realize that they are as good as any other musician in the world.

“I am able to use skills that am good at and showcase them at the high levels and this is something you cannot take away,” Rae admits.

The Safaricom Youth Orchestra works closely with the Ghetto Classics, a community programme that involves approximately 1,500 children in Korogocho and the National Youth Orchestra of Kenya (KNYO), a music ensemble that brings together talented young musicians from all walks of life in the country. They are all coordinated through the Art of Music Foundation.


Ghetto Classic is primarily for children from Korogocho, while the Safaricom Orchestra has auditions across the country with participants age limited to between 11 to 18 years. Once they get to 18, they graduate and can audition to join the National Youth Orchestra of Kenya. KNYO has young people from 14 to 23 years old from anywhere in the country. They meet about twice in a year.

Ghetto Classics members are also given the opportunity to audition for the Safaricom Orchestra. It is common to find a few people who are members of both assets.

Interested young people send applications for consideration. A panel reviews them then the selected ones as asked to present a musical piece to a panel. Once they pass this hurdle, there is an interview discussion with the panel to understand their leadership potential, interests and community interests. Players must intend to contribute to the community to be considered.

During the pandemic, these were all done virtually.

These young people go-ahead to pursue their different careers in future in whatever interests they wish. Some become tutors, helping nurture more instrumentalists.

Beyond building confidence, Papa Viola adds that society is influenced by our individual experiences. “We find music very therapeutic, so playing it for 30 mins improves state of mind. If you were down, it boosts your mood, and you are better placed to engage productively and effectively. You also become more wholesome in your thinking and actions, in addition to being enjoyable and therapeutic”, he adds.


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