In May 2011, The YellowJackets traveled across the globe with the simple hopes of singing songs and making friends, and a vague notion of getting a new perspective on life. Little did we realize just how deeply Kenya would change the consciousness of our group. Boarding the plane, we knew little about Kenya, or the people we would meet there. All we knew was that a benefactor from our hometown had funded a school choir’s participation in the National School Singing Competition in Nairobi, and that they had won. We were on our way to their little town to meet them, to sing both for them and with them, and to learn some of their music, while teaching them ours. We worked for three weeks with these schoolchildren in the small town of Maseno in western Kenya. What we couldn’t know until we got there is just what their small a cappella choir, and their national victory meant to them. It evoked in them a previously unknown pride, which in turn motivated them not only to keep singing, but to also stay in school. If they didn’t attend class, they were not allowed to sing in choir. Having triumphed musically, they now believed even more might be possible. Previously ashamed to admit their dreams out of fear of sounding foolish, children now felt that no dream seemed too big! The pride was contagious, and it spread across generations and from town to town.
After witnessing music’s incredible power in inspiring youth to affect positive change in their own lives, we saw no reason the same principle could not be applied back home. Under the direction of senior YJ Aaron Sperber, we started an after-school a cappella program in the Rochester City School District, and we saw a similar pattern emerge: through their accomplishments in music, they were energized and motivated in life!
This album was recorded both in honor of and with these inspirational children. The YJs can’t wait for you to hear students from our Rochester program right alongside our Kenyan students throughout much of the album. We hope that, when you listen, you are transported to Kenya with us; that the Kiswahili phrases embedded in the background vocals of certain arrangements like “pamoja tuimbe”/”United We Sing” and “tunapenda musiki”/”We love music,” will help to introduce you to the people we met; and that those sweet, honest, unspoiled children reach your hearts like they reached ours. We hope it becomes clear to you just how central of a part music can play in elevating our spirits and transforming our lives for the good, no matter where we are from.
Thank you for listening. Just by doing so, you have joined the UWS team, as every penny earned from this album will go towards supporting education and music programs for children in need!
So as we say in Kiswahili, “Karibu! Hakuna Matata!” “Welcome! No worries!” Please sit back, relax, and enjoy “Pamoja Tuimbe!”