In the summer of 2011, the YellowJackets traveled to the Kenyan village of Maseno, where the local school had been struggling with student attendance until they altered their curriculum to emphasize music. Throughout our visit, we made bonds with the children in the school choir and recorded our 2012 album United We Sing together. We were honored to be able to help raise funds to send the kids to a national choral competition in Kenya, where they won first place!
Inspired by the leadership of our Maseno collaborators, the YellowJackets have worked with the Rochester community to encourage music education ever since our trip. In addition to regularly performing for schools around the area, every week the group holds a workshop with Rochester's World of Inquiry School No. 58, a school with limited music funding.
Following our last trip to Kenya, we’ve been fortunate enough to keep in touch with Mbaka Oromo Primary School. The school’s principal has shared with us the long-term takeaways Maseno experienced within the community, and we are thrilled to be returning to Kenya once again at the invitation of our generous hosts!
This time, instead of spending all of our time in Maseno, the YellowJackets are will be conversing with various cities across the country in order to build on the relationships established seven years ago. In order to do so, we reached out to Joining Hearts and Hands—the non-profit organization that had originally connected us with the Mbaka Oromo Primary School—who introduced us to multiple orphanages and schools across the country.
The group learned so much about the importance of music education from the people of Maseno, and we hope to gain more perspective from communities all over Kenya. Over the course of two and a half weeks, we will return to Maseno, but also travel to Nairobi, Butere, and Kisumu. In each of these places, we will sing with orphanages and grade schools in the area. Our travel will also include trips to conservations like Nairobi National Park and Impala Sanctuary, the Karen Blixen museum, visiting local markets and restaurants on Lake Victoria, and other activities to further learn about Kenya’s rich culture.
When we return from the trip, we want to be equipped with as much knowledge and experience as we can to raise awareness of the impact of cultural exchange and music education on creating relationships with people across the world. The YellowJackets and the Mbaka Oromo Primary School were able to discover so much about the universality of music, and we hope to affirm this message with the communities of Kenya, our friends, family, and fans.
But we can’t do this alone. While we will be able to pay some of our expenses with money earned from performances in the last year, we cannot cover all of the costs. Whether you help our mission through a monetary donation, liking and sharing our social media posts, or spreading our cause through word-of-mouth, we greatly appreciate any and all support we can get.
We can’t do this without you.
Founded in 1956, the YellowJackets are the University of Rochester’s oldest a cappella group. Besides their bright yellow blazers, what makes this group of young men so unique is their dedication to music, service, and education on a global level.
The YJs strive to become an integral part of the local community wherever they are, beginning an after school a cappella program for inner-city children in Rochester, traveling to Africa for a musical exchange with a children’s choir in Maseno, Kenya in 2011, and visiting places as diverse as Valencia, London, and Los Angeles to share culture and music through a series of workshops and performances. The YellowJackets feel strongly about their philanthropic pursuits and are proud to have helped to raise over $100,000 for the Hannah Metzler Memorial Fund, a Rochester-based cancer support foundation.
In 2011, the YellowJackets competed on NBC’s “The Sing-Off” alongside Grammy-winning group Pentatonix, and have performed with The Sing-Off’s Live Tour for the past several years. In April 2016, the YellowJackets released a music video for Justin Bieber’s “Sorry,” which has amassed 3 million views on YouTube. Last year, the group was honored to win the Contemporary A Cappella Recording Award for Best Male Collegiate Album for their 18th studio album, “Y2J.”