Music is arguably the world’s most popular form of expression. Through the study of music, one can get a better appreciation and understanding of different cultures and traditions, as well as a stronger sense of self and the world they inhabit. While some study music in isolation, others make it a collaborative practice. Florida State Choral Professor Dr. Kevin Fenton is one who enjoys the collaborative practice of music, and has been actively pursuing working with choirs in Kenya, such as the Nairobi Chamber Choir, and choirs in various other South African countries.
Dr. Fenton’s love for Kenya and the Nairobi Chamber Choir began with a trip to Kenya for his twenty-fifth wedding anniversary. Dr. Fenton and his wife stayed with a former student of his who lived in Kenya, and had the opportunity to accompany her to rehearsal with the Nairobi Chamber Choir. During this rehearsal, Dr. Fenton spoke with the conductor, and upon discovering that the choir was comprised of teachers from the conservatory – much like his own choir, the Festival Singers of Florida, whose population is made up of music teachers throughout Florida – he decided to begin making plans to have both choirs work and perform together.
Two years later, Festival Singers of Florida traveled to Kenya, and what began as an opportunity to see Kenya became much more.
“When we went to Kenya, we were thinking that we were a really good choir,” says Dr. Fenton, “But I didn’t really know what to expect.”
When the Nairobi Chamber Choir chose to perform a song that Festival Singers had performed in the past, many were excited because it was already a song they knew well. However, when the Festival Singers rehearsed the song alongside the Nairobi Chamber Choir, many members of Festival Singers were left in tears.
“We had done the piece before,” Dr. Fenton said, “it just never had the meaning that it has now because of the connection we had to that choir, and the understanding we have about music is now so much deeper because of the experience that we had in Kenya.”
Apart from his trip in September, Dr. Fenton hopes that he can continue to collaborate with choirs in Kenya and throughout Africa, and hopes to eventually have sister choirs throughout these areas. His main goal is to create a feeling of connectedness in the world through music, and hopes that he can continue to create lifelong bonds for himself and those that he conducts and works with.
“Through music,” Dr. Fenton said, “we can learn about the heart of people in ways that we can’t really learn in other ways.”