Mar 072016

Macclesfield Methodist Church Community Choir


A scintillating evening of popular show time music


Saturday 21st May in Macclesfield Methodist Church at 7pm.

It should appeal to families young and old alike –hence the early starting time

Featured will be music from The Lion King, Wicked, Charlie and the Chocolate factory, along with old classics like Annie Get your Gun, South Pacific, Les Miserables and lots more!

Children are invited to come dressed as their favourite characters from their favourite shows!

Proceeds in aid of the Martyn Donaldson Music Trust.

Tickets are £10 adults and £5 children from 01625 433187 / 615298

Mar 072016


on Saturday 19th March at 7.30pm

Macclesfield Methodist Church, Westminster Road

The Academy has a very successful music tradition going back over 40 years. It enjoys an enviable reputation as one of the UK’s leading educational establishments in its provision of musical opportunities for all it students.

The Showband has appeared twice in the New York Wind Band Festival in the Carnegie Hall receiving the Gold Award in 2007 and performing at the Showcase evening concert in 2010. In 2012 the Showband represented England in the Commonwealth Carnival of Music in Westminster Hall, London for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.

In July 2013 the Showband competed at the World Music Contest for youth wind bands at Kerkrade in Holland and was awarded the Gold Medal.

On numerous occasions the Band has received gold awards in the National Concert Band Festival of Great Britain. In 2015 the Band received the prestigious ‘Performance Practice’ award at the National Festival of Music for Youth in Symphony Hall, Birmingham, the category sponsored by MDMT.

Do not miss this opportunity to hear a really outstanding youth band.

Tickets £10 from 01625 433187 / 615298

Jan 252016

At the end of 2015, volunteers Ellen McPherson and Lucy Meredith completed two years working at Starehe Boys’ & Girls’ Schools in Nairobi, Kenya as volunteer music teachers.  In this report, Lucy sums up the highlights of her time in Kenya…


Summary of being a Starehe Volunteer 2014-15


It’s almost impossible to summarise two incredible years but I’ll try and highlight the important parts…

  • At the end of my first year, December 2014, five Starehe Boys joined the National Youth Orchestra of Kenya (KNYO) on flute, clarinet, saxophone and trumpet. Three of the same boys have been in the Safaricom Youth Orchestra (SYO), which rehearses every Saturday, since April 2015. They have learnt an incredible amount musically but also, by interacting with other young musicians and tutors, Kenyan and otherwise, they’re learning more about the world too. The trumpeter, Samuel Ndungu, a fully sponsored boy with one parent, performed a jazz solo at the last SYO concert and received a standing ovation from the audience and a request to play it again. I shed a few tears that day and I have sent a trumpet back so he gets his own trumpet, as he has truly earned it.  Samuel still has one year left at Starehe where he is the band leader and a natural born conductor.
  • Many boys have taken ABRSM practical and theory exams in both the 2014 and 2015 period, but three in particular shone out this year receiving distinctions at Grade 3 and Grade 5 piano. As a result, they were asked to perform at the ABRSM High Scorers Concert and performed very well. Also the majority of theory candidates passed with merit or distinction at Grade 5.
  • There are many instruments considered rare in Kenya; viola, cello, double bass, oboe, bassoon and French horn all fall into that category with very few young Kenyans receiving the opportunity to play them. There have been two professional musicians from the US visiting the Kenya Conservatoire of Music, Lydia Van Dreel – French horn and Elizabeth Tomorsky Knott – Oboe. I was lucky enough to organise for them both to visit Starehe on several occasions and teach selected music students. We have two boys doing very well on the oboe and two trumpeters who had a few lessons on the French horn, so we’re hoping that they’re good enough to join the Youth Orchestra soon.
  • After two years at the National Kenya Music Festival (KMF) I’ve seen the boys go from strength to strength in all of the categories, with countless trophies and 1st I will remember two of the boys in advanced piano in 2015 coming 1st in solo and duet and rushing with the same boys over to another venue, to perform in our woodwind ensemble and our windband (they are both flautists too!), which I conducted and for which we came 2nd and 3rd respectively, then running to a different venue again for Moses Otieno, who came with us to UK, to conduct and accompany choir pieces which he trained. Doing their best from beginning to end of each day definitely made us proud.
  • During the two years at Starehe I have managed to increase the instruments, both by donations from UK or Kenya and ones I managed to purchase and fix myself. These include; upright acoustic piano, electric Yamaha Clavinova, 3 acoustic guitars, 3 violins, 4 flutes, 1 oboe, 1 clarinet, 4 trumpets (MDMT donated), euphonium, music stands and countless music books and enough spare reeds etc. to keep them going for a while. These instruments are used for hours on a daily basis, whether in their music lessons during the day or after school, in the band or other ensembles or just learning from each other in their spare time in the evenings and at weekends.
  • My personal highlights would be; performing in a wind trio in the School Christmas Concert 2015 with two of my “superstars” in the youth orchestras, taking the 6 boys to Macclesfield in September 2014, working hard with the wind ensembles at KMF performing Bohemian Rhapsody and A Whole New World and conducting the performances at the festival witnessing all the hard work paying off, watching the President of Kenya dance with our boys who were the main performance for Uhuru Kenyatta at a prize giving at State House in 2014 and finally throwing the surprise thank you party for the musicians at school where I bought cake and soda for over 50 boys and where many kind words were exchanged and a song or too also.
  • The majority of the best parts happen in the evenings, weekends and holidays. The day to day work of teaching about 35 students individual instrumental lessons, mainly piano with some flute and violin, can seem rather mundane.  However some of those are preparing for the Young Musicians competition in February 2016, with pieces I wouldn’t attempt myself, so those lessons are never actually boring and I feel I’ve learnt a lot from them also.


I must thank MDMT wholeheartedly, as without this incredible opportunity to teach many talented boys, I wouldn’t have learnt so many things about myself in the last two years, including how to live alone in a new country and how important friends and family are, whether new or old. I also continued learning and pushing myself by achieving ABRSM Grade 8 Viola, starting the viola sections in both of the youth orchestras in Nairobi during 2015, leading the Nairobi Orchestra viola section and performing solos, conducting ensembles, accompanying ABRSM students, teaching saxophone to a Grade 5 student who passed and also taking cello lessons!


I’m currently going back to teaching upper strings in schools across my county, as a temporary job until I (hopefully) train to be a Secondary Maths teacher later in the year and probably stay for a few years teaching. My long term goal is to train teachers to be teachers in poor areas across the world, as I’ve seen my fair share of bad teachers. I strongly believe that a good quality education is the key to success and pray for a world without extreme poverty.


Asante sana (Thank you very much)


Aug 022015

Vivian Onano came to Macclesfield in 2010 as one of the music students from Starehe Girls’ Centre to take part in the Martyn’s Music 6 concert. On 29th May she delivered a key note speech at the United Nations General Assembly to commemorate the 20th Anniversary of the World Programme of Action for Youth. This is a policy document that guides countries on how to invest and address youth issues.

Jul 232014

Congratulations and thanks to our former music volunteer at Starehe Girls’ Centre, Ryan Searle.

Together with fellow musicians Nicholas Stansfield and Clive Davenport, he cycled from Manchester to Blackpool, raising funds for Starehe Schools in Nairobi. Well done boys!


Jun 292014

On the 23rd of June 2014 Destiny Garden School took part in the annual Likoni sub-county music festival which is a precursor to the National music festival. The school has been preparing for a long time for this event thanks to a grant from Martin Donaldson Music Trust (MDMT) which allowed us to employ a specialist part-time music teacher. We took part in 13 disciplines of which 7 were judged good enough to proceed to the next heats.   These items were; African traditional dance, Public Speaking (Kevin Omondi and Kevin Otieno – both class 8), Lower primary choral verse (2 groups) and Poems (Faith Wekesa and Charity Nyangai).

IMG_0357Resized1000 IMG_0361Resized1000

IMG_0326Resized1000 IMG_0323Resized1000 IMG_0319Resized1000 IMG_0315Resized1000 IMG_0310Resized1000 IMG_0292Resized1000

Jun 132014


MDMT’s series of annual concerts featuring young musicians in Macclesfield continues on Saturday 5th July at 7.30pm in MacclesfieldMethodistChurch. Topping the bill are two local groups – St Alban’s Junior School Choir led by Diane McIntyre and the Chamber String ensemble of Macclesfield Music Centre directed by Nicola Bright.

An inspiring and lovely evening of music making by our young people is guaranteed! Come along and support these young musicians and MDMT at the same time. Tickets are £7 for adults and £2 for accompanied children available on 0162543318 7/ 615298 or on the door at the time of the performance.


Sep 252012

As MDMT is now 10 years old, a timeline has been created which shows all the activities that have taken place in each of the last 10 years. This involves fundraising concerts and support of events.

The key below helps to explain some abbreviations.












Aug 282012

Since MDMT became a registered charity in 2003, it has been superbly served by outstanding music volunteers who have worked at Starehe Boys’ Centre and Starehe Girls’ Centre in Nairobi, Kenya. Typically MDMT volunteers are in their mid twenties having graduated with music degrees from UK universities or conservatoires. Here Rob Stewardson tells about life in the Centre, in Nairobi and in Kenya.


There are only so many academic articles one can read in a day, and only so many times one can break the ennui by checking one’s emails in the hope that somebody will have responded to one’s query about an obscure score. On one such check on a Friday afternoon in July 2008 while writing my Masters degree at Manchester University there was a rather more interesting email; ‘The Martyn Donaldson Music Trust are looking to hire a music volunteer to work at Starehe Girls’ Centre in Kenya,’ it read! Needless to say, the thesis took a back seat for the afternoon and four days later I had been interviewed for and accepted a job 4000 miles away.

Fast-forward to January 2009 and I arrived in Nairobi late in the evening and was whizzed (quite literally) through the city and then into what seemed like the middle of nowhere; Starehe Girls’ Centre is 20k north of Nairobi and 4k through coffee and flower plantations from the main road. The school is in beautiful countryside with its own dam and no shortage of wildlife; monkeys, dik-dik, giant forest hog and over 70 species of bird were seen within the grounds and the place is utterly tranquil. At 11pm after an 8 hour flight it is quite bewildering, however!

‘I would like a band’, the Director, Mrs. Wanjohi, told me. Two trumpets with stuck mouthpieces stuck, two with stuck valves, two French Horns, two trombones and various woodwind instruments in varying states of dilapidation were available. ‘The German Embassy has promised more, we are just waiting for them,’ was often repeated. Two years later the donation came through and my last job at the school was organising the purchase and delivery of £4000 worth of instruments from the UK which are now widely used. We endeavored gamefully at the time and achieved a good National Anthem which is played every Monday morning at parade.

The first job at Starehe is to pick the music students. 80 confused Form 1s are lined up around the music room and given rhythm and pitch tests; the best 15 become music students and your piano students. Trying to find time to teach piano to 35 girls when one is only allowed to take them out of certain lessons and with other teachers distinctly obstinate is…tricky. In January 2009 we only had 1 electric piano which only worked when we had electricity. Life at SGC can be frustrating but is always fun!

Term 2 is Choir term. The provincials and nationals of the Kenya Music Festival are held in July and August and are taken very seriously. Rehearsals from 4-6, Monday to Thursday, for the 75-strong choir and then extra lessons, sometimes late into the evening, for all of the soloists and small ensembles. In 2009 we were exceptional winning three categories including the prodigious Class 301A, Girls’ Unaccompanied Set Piece ‘The Handsome Fool’. The look on the girls’ faces when the result was announced will remain with me forever. KMF is an experience and could test the patience of even the most serene. Lack of a piano (because it had slipped the committee’s mind, apparently), for instance, held up day 1 of the 2009 provincials; lack of water, either for drinking or sanitation, did not!

In the same week as the provincials we staged Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat to general acclaim as the first event in the 50th anniversary celebrations of Starehe Boys’ Centre. A lack of spoons for the girls to eat their dinner with held up Saturday night’s performance by at least half an hour and there was general panic when the golden chalice was discovered in the sound box 30 seconds before it was needed (the students improvised and Benjamin was arrested for stealing a plastic tea-cup!). But, as with everything at Starehe, it was fantastic and such amazing good fun! I doubt that ever again I will work with such dedicated, hard-working, enthusiastic, motivated, intelligent and talented young people. When you consider their backgrounds, that these young people achieve so much musically in such a short period of time is extraordinary.

As well as working at SGC, I became heavily involved with the Nairobi Orchestra playing various brass instruments (I have had to make a promise that I will never play French Horn in public again), conducting for two concerts and playing the Tuba Concerto by Ralph Vaughan Williams in March 2010; a Kenyan, if not an African premiere. Dinner and a couple of cold Tuskers afterwards was always pleasant and the friendships made will last a lifetime. Teaching piano and brass at the Conservatoire on a Saturday was a welcome extra source of income especially when running, or more often fixing, a car.

Being a tutor with the inaugural National Youth Orchestra of Kenya was a unique experience. Our first gig was at the signing of Kenya’s new constitution. We marched on, me at the front of the line, television cameras in front of us, Kenya and African dignitaries to our right and up to 1 million people on the bank to our left, turned, played La Rejouissance, picked up the music stands and marched off again. Totally surreal but amazing to be playing in front of so many people. At our next gig, a lunch at Statehouse, to appease the whims of the President’s wife, the tutors got together and from a piano score, two trumpets, two clarinets, a flute, a tuba, a drumkit and a singer performed I got Rhythm. Perhaps the greatest lesson Kenya taught me is to be totally prepared for the unexpected and to improvise, improvise, improvise. On leaving Kenya I moved to South Africa and am setting up a music department at girls’ school in Johannesburg. The lessons and experiences discovered in Kenya have been and will remain invaluable.

There is plenty of time to get away and I had trips to Tsavo East, Meru, the Masaai Mara, Shimba Hills, Kakamega Forest, Lake Victoria, Lake Nakuru, Lake Baringo, Lake Bogoria, Mombasa, Lamu and Watamu. Each has its own special memories but breaking down in the Masaai Mara (engine overheated, warped cylinder-head, oil leak, water everywhere etc. (Tip: If you buy a car, get a good mechanic!)) will remain with me the longest. In December 2010, just a week before I left Kenya, I climbed the 4,995 metres of Lenana Peak on Mt. Kenya. Standing, looking down, at the country I had come to love was definitely the best way to finish two magnificent years at Starehe Girls’ Centre. My thanks once again to the Martyn Donaldson Music Trust for making it possible. May God bless and protect them and all future students and volunteers of Starehe.


Rob Stewardson


26 August 2012

Jun 282012

Since MDMT became a registered charity in 2003, it has been superbly served by outstanding music volunteers who have worked at Starehe Boys’ Centre and Starehe Girls’ Centre in Nairobi, Kenya. Typically MDMT volunteers are in their mid twenties having graduated with music degrees from UK universities or conservatoires. Here Georgina Hardiman tells about life in the Centre, in Nairobi and in Kenya.

It’s hard to summarise two fantastic years when there are so many stories to tell. From arriving in Nairobi in December 2009 to saying farewell to my students in November 2011, my time in Kenya has been one unforgettable experience.

Back in June 2009 I was 1 month away from graduation and still unsure what to do next. I was interested in teaching but I didn’t feel ready to pursue a teaching degree straight away. It was then that I read the advert for the music volunteer position at Starehe Boys’ Centre which seemed too good to be true. It offered the chance for me to use the musical skills covered in my degree, gain teaching experience and to travel and live in another part of the world. This opportunity couldn’t be missed!

I had a few months to prepare myself, speak to ex-volunteers and to collect teaching resources. However, nothing can really prepare you to stand in front of 900 teenage boys and 100 staff members on your first day! Looking back, being thrown in at the deep end like this was the best thing for me and prepared me for what lay ahead. Living in a different country and dealing with the hectic city of Nairobi was a huge culture shock to me, but the welcoming staff and students quickly helped me settle into my new life. Before I knew it I felt comfortable in the school and city and developed a good routine.

As a music volunteer I was in charge of piano and violin lessons (teaching 40 individual lessons a week), classes on western music theory/history, training the choir for the annual Kenya Music Festival as well as organising and running musical events in the school. I also managed to host ‘Music Club’ weekly, school recitals and enter 22 students for international music exams (ABRSM). To witness students gaining their Grade 5 piano certificate after only one year of tuition proved to me just how enthusiastic and determined these young Kenyans are. My own skills were put to the test when I was asked to write a sacred composition for the Starehe Boys’ choir to sing in the Kenya Music Festival provincials 2011. I was thrilled when the judges announced that my composition had achieved first place. This provided me with valuable experience for writing choral music. My conducting ability was also tested when I had to publicly conduct the musical band (July 2011) and then a group of Starehe students in front of Prince Edward (September 2011). This is an area of music I have never attempted before and now I feel I have the confidence to use it in the future.

Georgina and the students with newly donated instruments

One of the main highlights of my time as a volunteer was directing The Lion King musical with Jamie Munn. It was a tough job auditioning and casting 60 students, organising scripts, scores, costumes, rehearsals and an 8-piece band on top of daily duties, especially in a time of the music festival and mock exams. Weekends were taken and weekdays ended at 11pm (if you were lucky!). Through the hard work and extra practice put in by the students we managed to achieve 4 sold-out performances. One audience member even deemed our rendition as “Better than the London West End!”. I felt so proud of each and every student and at this point I realised this was the career I knew I was meant to pursue.

Outside of school life I was an active member of the Nairobi Music Society Choir, performing 3 times a year. I was also able to work at the Kenya Conservatoire one day a week teaching pupils ranging from 15 – 50 years old to provide me with some additional funding. The music scene in Nairobi is at its peak with regular concerts, operas and theatre productions taking place. There are plenty of opportunities to get involved and to perform. One memorable moment for me was when South African choral group Ladysmith Black Mambazo headlined the ‘Classical Fusion Concert’ in Sept 2011 and I joined Nairobi Choir to sing alongside them to an audience of 12,000 people. What a moment to treasure!

Two years in Kenya flew by and before I knew it I was leaving a fantastic place and people who  will always remain close to my heart. As I left in December 2011 I felt ready to apply for a teaching degree and take on the responsiblity that the role of an educator carries. I was then interviewed and accepted by the University of Bristol to start a Secondary Music PGCE starting September 2012. As I wait for my course to begin I have been travelling throughout the world including America, South America, New Zealand and Australia, gaining a few more incredible memories.

Working at Starehe Boys’ Centre with talented and enthusiastic young adults was an honour and I feel that I have learnt as much from the students as they (hopefully) have from me! My experience has enabled me to gain the necessary skills needed to be a successful teacher and gave me a greater sense of confidence. I would encourage anyone thinking about volunteering with MDMT to go out there, get involved and rise to the challenge. It will be the best decision you ever make!