Africa Bound

By Katie Kilroy, Director of Bands

Kwadziwai (hello), Charlotte Prep!

I am honored to be a recipient of the 2018 Summer Sabbatical Scholarship Program ! Prep recently launched this faculty scholarship program thanks to the generosity of parents of children whose lives have been deeply and positively impacted by their learning experience at our school. The family has generously committed to contributing $10,000 per year to make this program possible into the future. Angela Stefanini and Anupam Mathur are also award recipients, and we would all like to say a heartfelt thank you to the family that made this opportunity possible.

In 2012, I fell in love with an instrument called the mbira that the Shona people of southern Africa have played for more than 1,000 years. My connection with this instrument led me to earn a master’s degree in percussion performance with a focus on West African djembe and Shona, or Zimbabwean, mbira. I spent my two years of grad school traveling the U.S. building a network with teachers, cultural centers, and musicians. Although my research ended when I came to Prep three years ago, I brought my knowledge of the music with me. I have created the West African Drumming Ensembles, which the students love, and I play mbira in class and even teach Shona songs!

Whenever I play mbira for people, I always get the same three questions: Did you make it yourself? Is it made of spoons? And, have you ever been to Africa? My answers are: No, they’re made by professional makers in Zimbabwe. No, although the keys look like spoon handles, they’re hammered steel. And, lastly, not yet!

Thanks to the sabbatical, I will soon be able to answer that last question differently. In June, I will travel to Zimbabwe with Kutandara, a Zimbabwean music center based in Boulder, Colorado. During my time there, I’ll immerse myself in Zimbabwean culture, participate in multiple service projects, and study and perform music.  

So, how will this benefit Prep and our students? I’m glad you asked! My three goals for the sabbatical are to:

  1. Share songs and rhythms with our students in the traditional, aural way of teaching
  2. Arrange one or more songs for Western band instruments that Middle School students will play in music class
  3. Form a partnership with a Zimbabwean school—Watershed College—to connect students from the two schools via Skype and by being penpals

My sabbatical will benefit not just our students but also the Zimbabwean communities I visit. It’s no secret that there are turmoil and poverty where I’m headed. With your help and some small, simple donations, we can have a positive impact on Zimbabwean children, just as our shared experiences with them will have a positive impact on our school’s global diversity. I plan to bring a bag with donations, but I need your help filling it! We are a generous group here at Prep, but I do ask that if you’d like to contribute, please keep to these needed items:

  • Children’s books  
  • Shoes in good condition (children’s sizes)
  • New underwear (children’s sizes in packaging)
  • School supplies (pencils, maps/atlases, rulers)

Keep a lookout for blog postings, pictures, and videos of my summer sabbatical! I am beyond stoked for this opportunity and can’t wait to share my experiences with our One Prep community!

Tatenda zvikuru! (Thank you very much!)

Katie Kilroy

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