BY BOBBIE HAYSE Messenger-Inquirer
Joshua Omolo saw his first piano in 1991 when he entered high school in Kenya.
From there it was love at first sight and he immediately began teaching himself to play music, which eventually inspired Omolo, 40, of Mombasa, Kenya, to want to teach music to young school children. In 2004, he founded the Nyali Music School and Centre with just a small keyboard. Last week, he arrived in the U.S. to visit friends of his school and to hopefully seek out more donors and sponsors for some of his underprivileged students.
In early January of this year, he reached out to Kentucky Wesleyan College music professor Diane Earle and invited her to come to Mombasa, where his school is located, as well as Nairobi to play piano recitals and teach some master classes.
“I was very excited about this and planned to go this past May, but the political climate has been in turmoil,” Earle said. She added that she plans to visit within the next year, if she is able.
In the meantime, Omolo named Earle the music ambassador to the school, and she has also been sending the school music and books for their students.
On Oct. 3, Omolo will visit Owensboro and perform during the Settle Memorial United Methodist Church service at 8:30 and 11 a.m. on Oct. 4. The following Monday, he will visit KWC where he will present music and host a workshop for music education students and performers. He will also be meeting with KWC’s president and the academic dean to discuss establishing future partnerships between his school and KWC students.
Earle said she is excited about helping Omolo and his school, as well as providing future opportunities for both KWC students and the Nyali Music School and Centre.
“I’m always happy to help because so many studies have shown, and Josh knows this, that music education helps people grow socially, and have more intelligence,” she said. “They are more likely to graduate high school and get into college if they’ve had music studies. It may help them with math, with self-esteem. There are so many benefits of music study, and that’s why I’m happy to help as an ambassador to his school.”
She said the school’s mission of helping with underprivileged kids in Kenya is “making a huge difference on their lives.”
Without music, Omolo said he would be nowhere.
“I think every child needs music education,” he said. “At least for their early stages, and that’s when the average child in Kenya has no basic music education. (There are) no nursery rhymes, no songs for children. Kids only learn how to write and how to add.”
Music heals, he said.
Omolo said there is no music education in the Kenyan school systems and that many of his students can’t afford to attend the school.
“I have about 100 students in total,” he said. “Out of this, only 20 students are able to pay for lessons and about 80 children who are totally unable to afford.”
He said he still teaches them personally, but some of his part-time teaching staff need to make a living teaching and are unable to do so without funds.
Music lessons at the school run about $15 U.S. per hour, and he would like to give students at least three lessons a week.
“In short, a student only needs $2,160 per year,” he said.
Earle said Omolo’s efforts are making his students better citizens.
“Without a doubt, music studies is life-changing,” she said.
Bobbie Hayse, bhays[email protected], 270-691-7315, Twitter @BobbieHayseMI