If you saw the YellowJackets on the Sing-Off, you know that we went to Kenya in May 2011 and had an experience there that changed the consciousness of our group. It also profoundly changed the outlook on life of each one of our members. We worked for three weeks with schoolchildren in a small town (Maseno) in western Kenya. We knew, in advance, that a benefactor from Rochester had funded their choir to attend the National School Singing Competition in Nairobi, and that they had won. What we couldn’t know until we got to know these children, is what their a cappella choir, and their national victory, meant to them. In short, it evoked in them a previously unknown pride, which in turn motivated them not only to keep singing, but also to stay in school both to sing and to study, and thereby improve their lives. Having triumphed musically, they now believed even more might be possible. That pride was contagious, spreading to the entire town of Maseno.
We also learned, sadly, that their benefactor, Mr. James Nowak, had been tragically killed in a car crash in Kenya, just three months before our arrival, and that there would be no money for a return to the national competition in July. We YellowJackets scraped together everything we could to pay their way, and they won again! But what will happen next year? The YJs are now raising money to fund this experience for the foreseeable future, as well as to help promising students in Maseno attend high school and secure better futures. We are also creating a feature-length documentary film, entitled “United We Sing,” with which we hope to communicate both our experience, and the deeper message, to a much larger audience.
We hope that, as you enjoy our music, it will inspire you to make an additional donation in honor of the children of Maseno, for whom music is as important as food for their ability to survive, and hopefully to thrive.