Security in parts like Dandora aren’t guaranteed, even in the day time. I’ve heard stories of people who wander into the wrong paths or corners and come out with no clothes, no shoes, no money, nothing. Yet, this is where Brian Mutwiri, a 13 year old alto saxophone player calls home.
When I talk to him, his eyes glisten. He’s just from practice on a sunny Sunday afternoon at the St John’s Primary School and Church in Korogocho where the Ghetto Classics kids play. Albeit nervous, he tells me how music has not only literally saved his life, it’s also given him hope to want to achieve more.
“Sometimes you hear how your friends got into bad company and you then it hits you, if it wasn’t for music, that would have been me…”
Brian is also part of the Safaricom Youth Orchestra, an opportunity he never thought he would get.
The Safaricom Youth Orchestra is an exciting musical project launched by CEO Bob Collymore in April 2014. It brings together 70 Children aged between 10 and 18 years from different backgrounds, united by music. What’s amazing is some of the students who have managed to secure places in the Safaricom Youth Orchestra, are also supported with basic needs like food, shelter, school fees and clothes. And furthermore discovered hidden talents, of many students, who have also received recognition in the school for their achievements in music.
Brian auditioned when he was 11 years, in class 6 and he got in.
“I’m just a normal 13 year old boy from Dandora, who thought I’d be playing in the same stage with international artists and in front of Presidents? In 1 and a half years, I’ve grown to be a person I can look up to, all thanks to Safaricom Jazz.
The Ghetto Classics kids are the embodiment of love, the love they have for life despite their challenges and the undying love they have for Jazz music 🎶🎷
All this has been made possible through the work by the Art of Music Foundation & #SafaricomJazz
— Kenyan Collective 🇰🇪 (@KenCollective) February 14, 2019
At his age, at least in my time, boys like him were either playing football or riding their bikes. I’m sure most boys still do, but that’s not what makes Brian’s heart sing. Music is what tickles his fancy, its what satisfies his young soul. Playing the alto saxophone is what completes him; that and the dream of being a surgeon who plays the saxophone. That’s what drives him to become the player he is.
So how does he manage it all? He says he practices on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays with both the Ghetto Classics and the Safaricom Youth Orchestra, all the while maintaining very impressive grades in school and learning the music with the pace of the rest of the players.
“It’s also instilled a sense of discipline I didn’t know I had. For you to join the Orchestra, you must demonstrate commitment to individual practice and ensemble music, otherwise you won’t be considered. My routine might seem tedious to others, but I wouldn’t want my life any other way. I still aspire to be a surgeon who plays the saxophone.”