National Youth Orchestra of Kenya


The National Youth Orchestra of Kenya (or KNYO) is a pioneering education and training project which was set up by the Art of Music Foundation in 2010.

Inspired by the success of Venezuela’s El Sistema organisation in bringing communities together and developing national pride through music participation, the National Youth Orchestra of Kenya meets three times a year in Nairobi for intensive training. Funding is currently being sought to roll the programme out countrywide and establish a network of youth orchestras in each province.

The rationale behind the project is based on three principles which are unique to participatory group music-making:
- A musical ensemble can always include people of different gender, age, social and cultural background, and a spectrum of ability levels.
- A musical ensemble provides plenty of opportunity for participants to learn from peers and from older, more experienced role-models, as well as from teachers
- A musical ensemble trains people in life skills that can be transferred to other areas of their lives or to other professions. These include discipline, communication skills, awareness of others, leadership and teamwork, creative skills and time management skills.

By designing its training programme around these principles, KNYO aims to produce leaders of the future and raise the standards of music participation across the country by investing in young Kenyans who will become the teachers and role-models of others. Already this is taking effect; several members of KNYO regularly volunteer as music teachers in the Nairobi slums, through another Art of Music Foundation project named Ghetto Classics.
Another important aim of KNYO is to contribute added value to Vision 2030 by creating a cultural group representing the youth of Kenya at world-class standard, on a par with Kenya’s athletes, wildlife parks and horticulture.

KNYO began with the help of a grant from The GoDown Arts Centre and with the sponsorship of companies and donors from Kenya and beyond. The initial round of funding enabled the creation of a development plan and curriculum by a team of top musicians from Kenya and the UK, followed by a round of open auditions and interviews to select the first members. 35 young musicians were selected and they took part in a pilot scheme in August 2010; a five-day intensive residential training course which included the orchestra’s debut performance to a nationwide TV audience of millions at the promulgation of Kenya’s new constitution – when the group was only 3 days old!

Two years later, KNYO has held five training courses led by team of international expert tutors, grown from 35 members to 55, learned music from Kenya, India, Europe and America, and firmly established its core team of players. KNYO has also started to develop international links with other national youth orchestras in India, Britain and Iraq.

The National Youth Orchestra of Kenya invites new applications from young musicians aged 14 to 23 who can demonstrate commitment to music and leadership potential.


KENairobi, Kenya
In operation since: 


The Reception
Profile added by Stanley Gazemba on 15 Aug 2014
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