Ghetto Classics (GC)

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Ghetto Classics is the flagship programme of the Art of Music Foundation. It is a community programme that involves over 500 children in Korogocho – one of Kenya’s biggest slums that is home to about 300,000 urban poor and thousands more children in 10 satellite areas around Nairobi, 1 in Kiambu and 4 in Mombasa through the Link Up Programme.

We use music education to provide the youth with opportunities to better themselves and their community. We do this by instilling in them the life skills that come with the discipline of studying art music. Our programme also provides them with income generating opportunities.  

The main objectives of the program are:

  • To support St John’s primary school and the Korogocho community as a whole with music knowledge and skills.
  • To create oneness and harmony between students, school systems/administration and the community by using music as a merging tool for larger social transformation.
  • To engage young people in sustainable projects and promote a fair and just society, where they are equitably engaged in social-economic development programs.
  • To bring people from all races, communities together to form a formidable foundation with the aim of making music a part of culture in the Korogocho community and the other under privileged areas in which we operate.
  • To expand the program through the Orchestra for Schools Initiative teaching the Carnegie Hall Link Up curriculum across Kenya.
  • To replicate the Ghetto Classics model across different underprivileged communities across Kenya

In 2019 Ghetto Classics celebrated 10 years of in existence, and in that time the programme has achieved these objectives:

The Students

  • Some of the students who have actively participated in music program managed to secure places in Safaricom Youth Orchestra, which also supports them with basic needs like food, shelter, school fees and clothes. And furthermore discovered hidden talents, of many students, who have also received recognition in the school for their achievements in music.
  • Majority of the students who are learning music have managed to improve in their academic grade and school mean score have really improved. 14 students completed their KCPE – 6 gained sponsorships for the Secondary education. 100 GC members attended the PURES program at State House, with more expected to attend this years as well. Simon Kariuki one of the founder members and current Ghetto Classics Manager completed his degree in Music from the Technical University of Kenya and was accepted for a Masters in Music and Development at SOAS University.
  • There has been a cultural exchange that has gone beyond the students but also involved the community at large – students who were involved in the project kept on sharing the information with the rest of the community members and the response was positive.
  • Ghetto Classics has managed to perform at major events which have been happening in Kenya for instance: during Pope’s visit to Kenya and Jamhuri Day celebrations at State house creating greater exposure for the students and Ghetto Classics as a whole.
  • The students have had various life changing experiences both locally and internationally. Some of the most notable moments include; Stephen Kamau and Teddy Otieno were invited to the International Music Session in the Hamptons. The 2 week musical and performance training course was an ‘out of this world’ experience for both of them and as a result of their outstanding performances they were invited back again in 2017.
  • One of the GC alumni Brian Kepher had a terrific year, after taking up conducting he applied to participate in the Gustav Mahler 5th International Conducting Competition and was invited to audition at the Conservatoire of Lausanne. He was also selected to participate in the first ever African University Leader Exchange Program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
  • We currently support 35 students, paying their school fees, welfare, medical expenses and in some cases their house rent.
  • 41 girls are part of a mentorship programme with the Seasoned Woman Centre, where they have monthly mentoring sessions.
  • Overall there has been an encouraging change in the behaviour of the students with increased confidence and a positive outlook on life.


The Tutors

  • Tutors, who are ex students and members of Ghetto Classics, have undergone Grade 1-5 theory and practical exams execute the teaching. This is to ensure that pupils are able to read, play music and understand basic elements of a good performance. Exams are usually held at the end of every term and the students who perform best are rewarded and promoted to the school band and Safaricom Youth Orchestra. We currently have 15 ex GC tutors who teach in Korogocho and the Orchestra for Schools Initiative.
  • There has been increased Tutors morale to continue with their music careers as they have seen the opportunity of being able to earn and income from their musical skills. There is an increased sense of belonging and ownership of the community activities since they have been empowered with education and wide experience towards life, through music. It has also created a sense of responsibility and leadership by giving back to their own society hence creating brighter future.
  • By the virtue that tutors have been teaching at St. John’s school during the week and on weekends lessons they were able to gain sponsorship from the Kenya Conservatoire and Art Of Music Foundation to do ABRSM exams.
  • With the help of Ghetto Classic, tutors have managed to access and own their own personal instruments. They have gone on to create their own band and perform at events in the community.
  • The Australian Music School conducted the 3rd training to teach and up skill the tutors, which in turn has elevated the students themselves.

The Community:

  • Music is one of the activities which is promoting peace in the community, because the youth are spending their free time learning and teaching music, but there have been greater benefits to society:
  • St John also began using music to advertise for their school and recruit students and the number of the pupils has risen from 700 to approximate 780. The mean score of the school has increased compared to the previous years (2014 mean score was 274, 2015 mean score was of 298.). St John school band came first during the Kenya music festivals in August 2015 and managed to bring back home Six Trophies. Despite its location the reputation and image of the school and community has improved greatly.
  • The Art of Music Foundation currently employs 10 people from within the Korogocho community who help to keep Ghetto Classics running.
  • Ghetto Classics has opened and attracted more stakeholders to support the program both locally and international e.g. Australia Music Society, Carnegie Hall Link Up, The Concordia Foundation, The Opus 1 Foundation, Safaricom and many more.
  • Through the Orchestra for Schools Initiative programme Ghetto Classics has managed to expand its operation to other schools within our community and further afield. We have begun teaching the recorder to 800 new students, from 9 different primary schools in Nairobi, 1 in Kiambu and 4 in Mombasa, using the Carnegie Hall methodology and technical assistance with the end goal of having a concert featuring all the students with the National Youth Orchestra of Kenya.


Watch: H.E First Lady’s Visit to Ghetto Classics Korogocho.

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