Onslow Co. students bring music education to Kenyan school

ONSLOW COUNTY, N.C. (WNCT)–Music is a universal language and a connector to people around the world. One high school in Onslow County is doing just that: using music to connect students thousands of miles away.

White Oak High School band students are teaching students in Africa to read and play music. Starting at 6 a.m., they gather around a laptop in a small room in the band department to call the Cheery Children Education Centre in Kenya using Skype.

The high-schoolers then teach the Cheery students, who are about 7,600  miles away, music fundamentals for around 30 minutes.

The idea started in June 2017, when White Oak Band Director Perry Ditch held a Skype concert for the school.

“We realized they had no music program,” Ditch said. “They had no instruments. When the students found out they said, ‘Mr. Ditch, we have to do something about that’. The Cheery Music Project came out of that.”

During Monday’s lesson, the Cheery students read music, identified music notes, and practiced playing the trombone. For many, it’s their only interaction with music.

“We have completely different circumstances than they do,” Jade Sweeney, a White Oak senior who’s part of the project, said. “We’re so blessed with what we have around us. And regardless of what they have, they’re still really happy and you can see a lot of them smiling.”

The lessons are part of an overall goal to increase music education in the Kibera Slum.  In the beginning stages of the project, the school sent over recorders and upgraded the Wifi at the Cheery Centre.

The next goal is to get the students real instruments. Nuvo Instruments has helped the school in obtaining durable starter instruments for the students currently.

“It’s really eye opening to help these students,” Patrick Garvey, a White Oak senior, said. “They’re just so grateful and happy.”

To help raise money for the project, the band is holding a special concert on May 4th at White Oak High School. But you can also help out by donating online. It only costs $25 per month to help a child at the centre.

Click here to find out more.

In total, 10 White Oak High School band students are part of the program. They are:

  • Patrick Garvey, senior
  • Makayla Garvey, junior
  • Jade Sweeney, senior
  • Adam Tanguay, junior
  • Gio Terrin, senior
  • Cameron Butler, junior
  • Hannah McElhinney, junior
  • McKenzie Joyce, junior
  • Bryant Laster, senior
  • Mia Rabassi, junior

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