Music isn’t something that Ethan Murenga just stumbled into. Even with his love for music blossoming at the age of 14, I suspect his very creative and talented father, David Muriithi aka DJ D-Lite had significant impact in his decision to fall hopelessly in love with music, including how Ethan ended up having the rare privilege of being mentored by the late African music legend Hugh Masekela thanks to the networking opportunities provided by SYO.
18 year old Ethan Murenga Kiama, now at Nairobi International School in Year 13 undergoing A- levels is now part of one of Kenya’s budding musical ensembles – The Safaricom Youth Orchestra and this is his story:
“Despite playing Trumpet and Guitar from quite a young age, my passion for music was properly realised when when I joined NIS at 14 years old . This is probably thanks to the piano lessons I decided to take upon entering the school. Two years later, I taught myself violin with a friend, and the year following I’d done the same with the cello. To this day, I still play all 5 of these instruments, although I personally consider the piano to be my primary one.
What prompted you to join/want to join the Safaricom Youth Orchestra (SYO)?
My primary school, Cavina, did very well to nurture any musical talent through individual practice as well as group performances. Upon joining NIS, there wasn’t as ample an opportunity to perform as dedicated group as its music department hadn’t quite developed yet. In joining the orchestra, my parents and I surmised that it would replace the ensemble part of my musical growth, to which I later realise was crucial in getting me to where I am now with music.
I’m curious as to how you balance your school life, practising, playing and your personal life
I have made sure to follow a few general guidelines when organising my study and practice schedules. Because I take music as one of my ‘A’ Level subjects in school on top of all the extra curricular musical endeavours I’m involved with, when I dedicate time towards music, I have sub-schedule, so to speak, for it as well. It typically involves practicing my ABRSM repertoire, then School repertoire, then SYO repertoire in a single practice session, switching between their respective instruments. Once I managed to embed that as a standard, everything else flowed naturally and surprisingly didn’t hinder any other aspects of my life like anything personal or school related. I have a separate schedule for my other subjects and have time dedicated to rest as well such that a sort of balance is achieved across the board.
What has the orchestra so far taught you? (Apart from the music of course)
Apart from the music, being a member of SYO has taught me the importance of connecting with others, especially those from different backgrounds to me, as well as coming to realise the powerful effect music plays in facilitating that connection. There is much to be learned about the country from news or the paper, yet there is, too, alot to gain from interacting with those from different walks of life who come together under one purpose. Through the Ghetto Classics program I have also taught music at Lavington Primary as a volunteer.
Do you plan on continuing with the musical education you’ve gained at the Orchestra?
I wish to pursue a degree in musical composition at a reputable International University. It would be rather impossible not take all the techniques, insights, teachings and experiences that I’ve gained from my all my years at SYO with me into higher education. I am forever thankful for all the orchestra has done for me and look forward to giving back to society in the near future.