It’s not just music, it’s magic. That’s the most profound thing that Crystal Gichane has come to learn at Safaricom Youth Orchestra. As a piano, guitar, and violin player, she sure has a lot to write home about. She prays that more and more people get to experience this fascinating feeling of being part of an orchestra.
Crystal joined the Safaricom Youth Orchestra at the peak of the pandemic where all learning was done online. Sounds hard, right? Yet, as she says, she learnt a lot more than she had done in previous online music lessons.
Two years after joining the orchestra, Crystal is set to graduate from the Orchestra on Sunday 3rd April 2022. This will be the first physical graduation after the covid pandemic started. She’s excited to see where the journey will take her as she relocates to Australia for university this coming July.
Who is Crystal?
I’m Crystal, 18 years old. I’m a high school graduate and I am currently on a gap year. I’ve been feeling very well rested for the most part this year because of my gap year.
I am a musician. I play the piano, guitar, and violin. I’m hoping to pursue a degree in journalism at the university and see where that takes me.
How did you join Safaricom Youth Orchestra?
Funny story, I have a cousin here. He was a student and is now a teacher. He told me to check it out and I did. I watched a couple of videos and got super intrigued to be part of an orchestra as solid as Safaricom Youth Orchestra. I applied and I got in.
By the time I was joining, COVID-19 had just hit so it was online for a while.
How was it learning and playing online during COVID-19?
I was actually quite impressed. I wasn’t sure how it would pan out, but I found the online sessions engaging compared to other online session. Our teacher Mr Sempele would give us competitive quizzes five minutes to the end of the class. They’d test our knowledge of music and it was so competitive. I loved that they would go the extra mile to make it engaging even if it was online.
It was also easy to learn online because of the supportive culture around Safaricom Youth Orchestra. I still made friends, even if it was online, Everyone was so warm and welcoming. The class felt very engaging compared to other online classes.
You joined Safaricom Youth Orchestra 2 years ago, what was your musical journey before that?
I had played the piano all my life. In 2017 I picked up the violin. I wish I joined Safaricom Youth Orchestra before then because in the last 2 years I’ve learnt so much more than I could’ve imagined.
Why the piano and the violin?
It was a school requirement initially. I learnt the piano because everyone else knew a song, and it sparked my curiosity. 2017 was when I started taking it seriously after a couple of classes here and there.
The violin started off as something I wasn’t too sure about, but I practised anyway and eventually fell in love with it. I picked it up because I thought it was a small cello. I started appreciating how expressive it can be. Violins get melodies, and I’ve seen so many videos and admired them. To play the violin and actually evoke emotions is a beautiful thing. I hope I can get to that level.
It’s not just about playing, it’s about making people feel things.
What’s your best achievement at Safaricom Youth Orchestra?
I’ve really grown in how I play the violin, and specifically in an orchestra. I had no experience of being in an orchestra before. I’ve learnt ‘orchestra etiquette.’
Initially, I didn’t know how to follow the conductor and also look at my music, but it’s something I’ve become pretty good at.
I’ve also learnt more about playing in sync with other people and sight-reading. It’s been exposure to great music and great people.
What else do you do for fun?
I’m a dog person. I spend a lot of time with my dogs. I have a Great Dane and a Golden Retriever. I walk them almost every day and spend a lot of time with them.
I also knit and I recently learnt how to crotchet. Lastly, I read and review fiction books on my Instagram page.
What has your school journey been like?
In high school, I went to Potter House. In those few years I had a lot of support in arts and everything creative. I’d ascribe my musical journey to the school.
After that, I went to Aga Khan and I loved the community there. That’s when I started thinking of doing journalism. I did IB, and for my higher-level subjects, I did literature, psychology, and business. I loved the learning process.
I’m currently on a gap year as I wait to join the university in Australia this July to study journalism.
I chose journalism because I love that you get to interact with so many people and learn so many different things. In my gap year, I’ve watched a lot of commentary videos on different things, and that’s something I definitely see myself doing in future. I also love writing and reading. Journalism encompasses all of my interests.
What makes you so passionate about music?
I’d like to believe I come from a musical family. My brothers play the piano and drums. My dad also played the clarinet for a while. My cousin is an Obor tutor here, and his family is also quite musical.
I also grew up listening to so much music. I picked it up and it came really easily to me.
How supportive have your parents been in your musical journey?
Very. My mum buys me quality instruments. It’s almost like ‘no questions asked’ when it comes to music. She pays for classes, and she was really excited to get me into Safaricom Youth Orchestra.
What’s your best moment at Safaricom Youth Orchestra?
Since I joined and it was online for a while, I didn’t exactly know what it’s like to play for an orchestra. I came here in late 2020 and we were rehearsing for a concert. I remember hearing all the instruments and the tuning. I was so excited to hear us play together for the first time. I feel like more people need to experience playing for an orchestra. It’s magical.
Other than music, what else has Safaricom Youth Orchestra taught you?
I’ve met amazing people here who are so interested in learning more. Music is how I know them, but I’ve learnt a lot more from them than music. I come for rehearsals and find people already practising, and it motivates me to do better. Safaricom Youth Orchestra makes it easy to try things that you’re not so good at. It’s a nurturing environment.
What has Safaricom Youth Orchestra taught you about yourself?
That I have potential. A lot of the people here came here when they were shy, including me. Seeing how much they’ve grown and become confident in themselves is really motivating to me as a person. It’s taught me that talent is overrated. When you’re more intentional about the things you do, you go far.
My name is Laura Ayienga, a 25-year-old writer & marketer, experiencing the highs (not claiming the lows) of life. I discovered my passion for writing on this very blog back in 2019 and since then, I’ve been using it to express myself as candidly and authentically as possible.