Music treat today for classical & jazz lovers

WINNIE MURIITHI is a celebrated music teacher, accomplished pianist and a renowned musician. Her love for music saw her teach herself the piano while in high school and now owns a music school. She will perform today at the Safaricom Classical Fusion Concert. She spoke to NJOKI CHEGE.

As a classical music enthusiast, Winnie Muriithi has always found great fulfillment in teaching and singing classical music because of its unique nature.

"Classical music requires you to have a sense of discipline because it is a deep and intense form of entertainment. It opens your creative capacity and, because it takes time to put together, it is valuable and fulfilling to listen to," Winnie says.

WINNIE MURIITHI is a celebrated music teacher, accomplished pianist and a renowned musician. [PHOTO: STANDARD]

According to her, classical music is not only relaxing, but challenges its listeners to improve their listening skills and get into the composer’s mind in an attempt to find out what was going on in their minds as they composed the music.

It is for this reason that Winnie cannot miss out on today’s Safaricom Classical Fusion Concert going down at the Impala Grounds. Classical music giants such as Lady Blacksmith Mambazo, Kenya Conservatoire of Music Orchestra, Sauti Sol, Safaricom choir, Linda Muthama, Elizabeth Njoroge and Winnie will give Kenyans the biggest classical music concert of the year.

"Kenyans are in for a big treat today. Last year, we had the Soweto String Quartet and this year we have raised the bar and Lady Smith Black Mambazo will give Kenyans a performance they will not forget in a long time," Winnie offers.

First of its kind

This year’s Safaricom Classical Fusion theme leans towards choral music, with a special connotation to the Kenyan folk music. This is a bid to ensure Kenyans identify with the music.

The event is the first of its kind in Kenya and is in its second year running.

Says Winnie; "It is the only event in Kenya that brings classical music lovers together in one place to enjoy Africa’s celebrated classical musicians. The idea was coined last year by yet another classical music enthusiast and accomplished musician — Elizabeth Njoroge — because she saw a need that had not yet been met."

Before last year’s concert, many Kenyans were pleasantly surprised to realise jazz concerts could double up as family events. A common misconception surrounding classical music is that it is elitist and only interests the high class of society. However, according to Winnie, tables have since turned and classical music is open to everyone to learn and be enthusiastic about.

"This perception was true when classical music first came into existence in the 15th Century when it was performed before the royal class and the high and mighty. However, after the 17th Century, classical music was introduced to the ‘amateurs’ and today it is open to everyone," she says.

According to Winnie, everybody can access classical music in schools, from the Internet and even in concerts such as the today’s.

The charges, Winnie says, have been dropped to Sh500 per person. This, she says, is a super bargain, as in other countries abroad tickets to such mega concerts are pricey.

"It is a great offer and I am sure enthusiasts will get more than the value of the ticket," says Winnie.

As a child, Winnie was always in the frontline as the soloist in musical performances at school and in church.

In high school at Moi Girls School Nairobi, Winnie taught herself how to play the piano and competed at the national level with some of the most gifted pianists in the country.

Today she is a celebrated music teacher, an accomplished pianist and a renowned musician.

"I have always loved music. Coming from a humble background, I was not exposed to classical music or even musical instruments so in high school, I took the initiative to teach myself the piano and challenged myself to reach high standards of those I was competing against," says Winnie.

After high school, she began teaching music at her local church before she joined Kenyatta University to pursue a Bachelors’ degree in Education and Music. She is also one of the first voice diploma holders from the Association of Royal School of Music.

To date, Winnie has taught and directed music in several high ranking schools such as St Andrew’s Turi, the Nairobi Academy and Rusinga Schools. Currently, she is into part-time teaching at the Peponi and Koinonia schools.

"My career is basically teaching and my passion is in music. When I combined these two, I was able to scale great heights. This has helped me realise my full potential," says she.

Encouraging musicians

Some of her former students are now forces to reckon with in the Kenyan music industry. Tusker Project Fame runner-up Linda Muthama and musician Julia Njoroge are some of them.

Winnie is also a highly sought after music teacher and has made special appearances as "Judge Winnie" in one of the local reality music shows, Exodus to Stardom.

Winnie has not yet produced any music album and she attributes this to the current unfavourable environment that musicians in the country are subjected to.

"Music creation is a labour-intensive process. It takes a lot of effort to put together an album. This effort has to translate to food on the table, but sadly this does not happen," she explains.

The solution, she says, is for the Government and other stakeholders to invest more into the music industry to encourage Kenyan musicians to create world-class music.

Along with her husband Anthony Muriithi, a gospel jazz musician, Winnie began Winton House of Music where she teaches music and musical instruments. The school has two branches — at Yaya Center and Village Market.

The music school, now 14 years old, has been sponsoring musically gifted but needy children from slum areas to study music. This it does in conjunction with St Phillips School of Music in Mathare, Nairobi.