Why Walker|West: Wacheke, Mukuhi, and Wangari
“Walker|West Without Walls – At Home,” our social media series, gives us access to the many layers of our community. Families, in particular, are foundational to our work. From Grant West and Tom West to Debbie Duncan and Mr. Duncan (her brother), to the Hashel sisters, and more –we’re used to seeing siblings instructing, learning, and growing with music.
Violinists Wacheke (14), Mukuhi (12) both began studying string instruments when they were young. Wacheke and Mukuhi are both members of the Minnesota Youth Symphonies, and Wacheke, who will enter Roseville Area High School in the fall, was just one of five 9th graders accepted in the more advanced upper grade orchestra. Wangari (4), the youngest of the three sisters, is just beginning her music education journey.
We recently spoke with their family about learning during these challenging times.
The two eldest siblings note the positive impact of Walker|West. They enjoy the perks of being Walker|West students, especially right now. “During COVID, music education gives us a way to express ourselves while most things are unavailable. Walker|West Music Academy has allowed us to experience different opportunities that were not previously available, like meeting Roderick Cox, and going to the Minnesota Orchestra.”
The quality of Walker|West programming and instruction is of the highest importance to students and families. Frustrated in the beginning, the Njoroge sisters took time to adjust to the format of virtual lessons and recitals. They particularly like the fact there is no commute to virtual classes, and they don’t have to take too much time to prepare. They really appreciated the time allotted to rehearsing before the virtual recitals. “It was great that we could be broken up into small groups to rehearse.” Wachecke and Muhuki have a great level of confidence in their violin instructor, Earl Ross. “Working with Earl is great because he is patient with us. He really takes his time with teaching us and understands when we are struggling with something. He makes sure we get it at our pace.”
In the photo above, the girls pose with their instruments wearing bright colors and dresses made of cloth from their parent’s community in Kenya. Ndugi, their mother, says:
“Growing up in Africa, we were raised by very strong Gikuyu men and women in a community setting with lots of love and in a very socially nourishing environment. We had a very stable foundation rooted in [our] African culture. As the country opened up to western media and other western influences we saw our community change right before our very own eyes“
Over time, she explains, the impact of colonialism had a very deleterious effect on how Kenyans perceived themselves as well as how they perceived black America. When it came time to raise their children (all born in the US), it was important that they find a community that embraced and celebrated the histories and cultures of the peoples of African descent. Walker|West is one of several organizations the Njoroge Family found in Saint Paul that does just that.
Ndugi talks of her family’s “love for self, African heritage, and African Community” grown from involvement with community organizations in African diaspora communities of the Twin Cities. Walker|West is rooted in the historic Rondo neighborhood, which held one of the largest and richest collections of African Americans in Minnesota. A neighborhood which was famously dismantled with the construction of 94W. Though historic Rondo was forever changed, the spirit of that community, and it’s musical traditions is at the core of the Walker|West method.
“The Walker|West family continues to nurture our dear daughters beyond our expectations. The community here has given them a place they can confidently feel safe to be who they are, are welcomed, included and supported.”
We’re always pleased to tell the stories of our students and their families. Follow our social media series “Walker|West Without Walls – At Home” on facebook and instagram.
To become a part of the story, enroll in our programming today with instructors like Earl Ross, and others who make music education fun for students of all ages.
And to help Walker|West sustain our work, reaching more students like the Njoroge sisters please join our donor community by making one time or recurring gift of any size