Six times Kenya’s best music teacher speaks of her success

For the past decade, Dorothy Zalo has trained students on how to play various musical instruments.

She then sits back to bask in national limelight when the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) examination results are released.

Mrs Zalo, a mother of three has emerged as Kenya's overall winner and best music teacher six times since 1994 when she first scooped her first glorious certificate while teaching music at Kapropita Girls High School.

"I thanked God for the chance to shine. I also thanked my students who did me proud,” she says.

“I hardly 'cook' the music but I advise on the ‘recipe’ and then watch the students prepare and then sit back and enjoy the ‘meal’ during performances and when KCSE results are announced," she adds amid delighted applause from her fellow teachers and elated students.


When we visited her at Moi High School Kabarak last Tuesday, news of her class of 20 having attained the top slot saw the school band do a musical lap of honour for her at the school’s academic square.

Ms Zalo easily mixed with the students and her colleagues who were dancing their hearts out.

The six national honours have not slowed down her passion for placing musical instruments in the hands of students in order to give them a chance to excel in music.

"This is the best reward for me, having taught music for the last three decades in Northern Kenya, Nyanza, Western and now Rift Valley. I believe this success is not for me but it is good for the music industry.

Kenyans are now embracing quality music that communicates not just beats and a rhythm," she says.


Some of her former students have joined together to form music groups such as Nairobi's Mabalozi, Singers of Christian Songs (SOCS), Nakestra (Nakuru) and Organised Voices of Praise among others.

Some have joined the National Youth Orchestra while others are pursuing higher education in music both locally and abroad.

Inside the music room some students were seated holding a flute, a trumpet, a trombone, clarinet and another on the grand piano, all peering at the music notes before them.

As Ms Zalo entered, all got ready to play but she notice the clarinet, her favourite instrument, had not been set properly and the room went silent as she
helped a student to reset it.

Then she sat back like she has always done to listen to a smooth blend of a 'concerto'.

She smiled as students poured their hearts out into the instrumental song.

Unaware that their teacher had emerged tops in the country, the students played the music seriously as Ms Zalo has always insisted.

They were oblivious of who was in the audience listening to their performance.


"I enjoy all types of music but my heart mourns when I listen to some hip-hop top hits. They are flat with no message or a good blend for my keen musical ear. As a polished vocalist I like good music," she said adding that some of her former students are engaged in singing and training choirs in local churches.

Her exemplary performance has also helped convince parents to allow children pursue music as a subject since they have discovered it helps students nurture their behaviour into responsible citizens since their pastime is spent playing music behind closed doors at home and in churches.

"Do not look at the beat in the music but the message as I believe music must help our children learn something good in life.

Music has helped many concentrate in key courses at universities such as medicine, law, economics and architecture as they play music to relax, ready to face the next day," she said during an impromptu interview.
- The Nation, Wednesday March 12, 2014.

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