Jambo from Kenya! I’m Margot Edwards, Publicist at Berklee. I’ll be writing in from Nairobi about Berklee’s visit this week to the Brookhouse International Schools. The events include three days of auditions and interviews for the Africa Scholars Program, clinics and workshops for students and music educators. The team – including Contemporary Writing and Production professors Dan Moretti and Ron Reid, Michael Shaver from Admissions, Sam Skau from International Programs, and student Joey Guglielmo – will also be conducting music education outreach at local community centers and schools. A 4th of July soiree at the U.S. Ambassador’s residence is also on tap for later in the week.
Our arrival in Nairobi was largely uneventful except for the long line at customs. We were warned coming through Amsterdam that we might not get our bags back. Thankfully, we did, and it was on to downtown Nairobi, an urban hub bustling with people and traffic. They drive on the left, which always takes some getting used to. There are more rotaries than I’ve seen anywhere and the pedestrians have a tendency to walk right through them without waiting for the cars to actually stop. Nairobi is at an elevation of 5,500 feet, which you can really feel – I found myself short of breath the first few days just walking a block. It’s winter here, meaning the weather has been mostly sunny in the low to mid 70’s. Funny to hear some locals complaining about the cold weather and wearing jackets…
The Brookhouse International School doesn’t look like your average school. The imposing gates open to reveal a castle, not one castle, but a campus full of castle-like buildings, you cross over a drawbridge and moat to enter the beautifully manicured courtyard complemented by grazing zebra and giraffe statues. I’m told the school was, in fact designed by the students, which goes a long way towards explaining the Hogwarts look.
Inside though, it feels a bit like Berklee. Although classes have already finished for the semester, the sounds of all styles of music still waft through the hallways as the Brookhouse students prepare for their final concert coming up in a few days, while other musicians are using practice rooms to prepare for their auditions. In one room an aria sung in Italian can be heard. In another, the latest Afro-fusion. The Brookhouse students will be graded on the performance, and their teacher promised “tough love.”
This picturesque setting is the base for Berklee’s events in Nairobi, Kenya this year. Last year, 16 students were awarded scholarships worth over $1 million, and Berklee is again tapping into the rich music culture here to bring talented musicians to Boston that wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford to come.