St. Ignatius

Trip to Kenya

Musical Cultural Exchange
From San Francisco Classical Voice

In 2011 and 2013, students from San Francisco's Saint Ignatius College Preparatory, together with music director Dr. Gillian Clements, went on a very special cultural exchange. The group traveled to Nyeri, Kenya, at the school where Clements founded a string program five years ago. "The Mount Kenya Academy is run by Kenyans, for Kenyans, and promotes traditional Kenyan values as well as those of the West," she says.

Mount Kenya Academy teaches the rich African heritage of dance and music, (which is one word in their native language) yet stringed instruments were unknown, and there was no access to them. Clements worked with generous donors to ship their first collection of about 40 violin, viola, and cellos abroad; instruments that the 100 students have to share. She says it's challenging to find string teachers who can relocate to rural Kenya until a Kenyan instructor can be found. With the absence of such services, teachers also must add repair to their list of duties, often gluing, tying, and otherwise rigging instruments, as they never imagined they could.

Clements is looking forward to hearing the progress of her first graduating class, and combining them with her students from Saint Ignatius in a joint final concert. She has organized the entire tour and hopes to one day bring Kenyan students to San Francisco. "This is our pilot program, and one that will provide valuable cultural exchange through the lens of music."

Journal Entries from Gillian Clements:

July 20: Seven SI orchestra and jazz band students , one parent chaperone, and I arrived in Nairobi yesterday. Our students rehearsed with Kenya Conservatoire musicians today and will perform at the Conservatoire's end of term concert tomorrow night in Nairobi. SI students and Kenya Conservatoire musicians will sit side by side performing works by Beethoven, Vivaldi and Bruch. SI jazz Band members will also perform a combo arrangement of Take the "A" Train and Sidewinder.

July 21: Tonight we performed with the Kenya conservatoire orchestra at their end of term concert at 7pm in the Kenya National Museum auditorium for a packed audience. They performed the Beethoven Piano Concerto in C Minor, the Bruch Romanze (with Clements as soloist), and Vivaldi's Winter from the Four Seasons. members of the SI jazz band also performed two combo arrangements of Take the 'A' Train and Sidewinder. Below SI junior Briana Megid plays principal cello with the orchestra.

July 22: Today we visited a baby elephant orphanage in Nairobi. Students from the SI Instrumental Music Program pooled together and adopted a baby elephant for SI for the next year! We also visited BOMAS of Kenya where we watched many different traditional dances from some of the 42 tribes in Kenya.