Reconciling Priorities

June 5, 2007 at 4:45 pm (Karen, Trip 2007)

    We are back physically but that’s about it. How do we prioritize what to do next? Yesterday, I taught my first class for the summer semester at Berklee – MTH 431 – “Music Therapy and Medicine” – I can not teach that class the same way as in the past – music is healing, music is health and music is empowering – this, I have always believed but now it has even more meaning. In Kenya, I have seen firsthand, how music can elevate the human spirit and is woven into the very fabric of living – no separation between health and music – it is one. No need to write in medical charts, give workshops on the power of music to heal, or do extensive research projects – music as a healing modality is embraced and accepted and part of the culture.
    As the trip began to wind down, we packed more into each hour – spending time with the children at the orphanages was a priority. Listening to their stories, creating songs with and for them, and then recording the music at Eric Wainaina’s studio all seemed like a natural part of the day and night. Eric introduced us to his business partner, Tim Rimbui, a gifted recording engineer, who graciously and patiently worked with us and the children. Both Eric and Tim gave of their time and resources to support this project and for that, we are indebted.
    While the Music Therapy students spent their final days at Shangilia, I was invited to visit the African Cultural Research and Education Foundation (ACREF) centre in Baba Dogo. Eric is working closely with George Otieno to create performance-based programs for youth as well as parenting programs for those with children with disabilities. Wyndy joined me and we met children with cerebral palsy, visual impairments etc. Wyndy started singing to a little boy who was blind and again I was impressed how comfortable our students are to connect with children, no matter what the disability or where the location – from the Kennedy Day School in Brighton to Baba Dogo in Nairobi – children are children.
    On the morning before we left, Isaac Kavehere, Vocal Director at Shangilia came to our hotel to give us a vocal master class. He conducts a 250-member Unity Community Choir and he brought some members with him to teach us, “Atiyo Ni Ruodha” (I’m Working for My Lord”). With everything that presented itself, the students rose to the occasion and put their hearts and souls into the dancing and singing. It was like an aerobic workout, but much, much better. I felt quite fortunate to be able to learn and listen to traditional African melodies that still maintained the authentic elements and were left intact.
    Where do we go from here? I went on a ‘fact-finding’ mission for music therapy and Berklee and returned with much more than I imagined – the music, the children, the potential to develop innovative partnerships… Musicians for World Harmony kicked off this initiative and it continues to blossom and grow. Is there really a way to sustain the relationships and experience for others? Indeed, there is….

    Shangilia Children’s Choir is coming to the United States this fall/winter 2007. Tony Micocci, International tour agent for the children’s choir is pulling the pieces together. Last year, this group went to Greece. This year, they will be spending a majority of the time in New York, but there is talk about Atlanta, Minneapolis, Washington, DC – why not Boston? They want to come to Berklee – making that happen, would be a dream. “How” is the next question….

1 Comment

  1. Miriam said,

    Wow Karen,
    What a well-written account of our experience. I honestly feel so blessed to have gotten to know you on another level during the trip to Kenya. You are a woman full of patience, spirituality and love. I can’t wait to continue this adventure as we begin to unfold the events that occurred to those we are close with here in the United States. I guess we’ll stay tuned to the next few months. See you in class:)


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