By Jessica Abbey
In Kenya, less than half the female population obtains anything beyond primary education. One group on campus is working to change this fact through a language that can be heard around the world.
The Baylor Men’s Choir has been to Kenya twice over the last eight years including last summer. The group sponsors girls in Kenya to go to school through donations given at their concerts and from alumni.
The group sang songs in both English and Swahili while it was there, and the local Kenyans understood the message despite the language barrier.
Chicago junior Danny Huizinga, the president of the choir,went to Kenya last summer with the group where he spent 15 days overseas.
“What’s so great about the Kenya trip is we get to see how music is a universal language,” Huizinga said. “In Kenya, when you sing to someone, they sing back to you.”
He said the audience participated in their performance by singing with them and performing for the choir once they were finished.
Phoenix junior Tanner Trapp also went on the choir’s Kenya trip, and he said it was a powerful experience.
“It was neat to see the things we could accomplish together,” Trapp said.
He said his favorite part of the trip was when the group went to work on a girl’s school to repaint the dining hall and install gutters on the dormitories.
“They were willing to interact with us and wanted to be our friends,” Trapp said.
He said the choir showed the children a lot of love, and then the children returned it twice as much.
Huizinga said because the choir is a class sponsored by Baylor, all of the money it raises through donations goes to sponsor girl’s education in Kenya.
The group has performed locally at Baylor and in Texas and internationally in Argentina and Kenya.
The choir typically has five official concerts per year, but they do at least 10 other performances outside of the concerts, including singing the national anthem or fight song at events and even a flash mob during Dr Pepper Hour. Huizinga said at each of their concerts the choir usually sings gospel songs, contemporary songs and a Swahili song.
“It’s cool to keep the renewed commitment to Kenya,” Huizinga said.
He said he believes anyone can enjoy their concerts because of the variety they offer.
Huizinga joined the choir the first semester of his freshman year, and he said it was a great way for him to get to know people right away.
“This is a bigger deal than just a performing group,” Huizinga said.
Trapp said he felt a strong connection to the choir.
“It feels like a brotherhood,” Trapp said.
The choir has social events along with their concerts including Take-a-Dates, a retreat, a dodge ball tournament and a formal banquet each spring where various awards are given out.
Huizinga said the choir has also served as a supportive community for him.
“There was a time freshman year when I had things going on with my family and the men’s choir was there for me,” Huizinga said.
Trapp also said he has opened up to men in the group about his struggles.
“We go through it together,” Trapp said.
Huizinga said the group attracts a wide variety of men at Baylor.
He said less than half are actually music majors, and some of the members have little to no experience.
One member with no experience is Dallas freshman Sumner Rogers.
Rogers joined the men’s choir this semester after hearing the choir perform in chapel.
Rogers said the only musical experience he had before coming to Baylor, aside from singing in the car and shower, was landing the lead role for his high school’s musical after the theater professor heard him singing in the hallway.
Rogers said he doesn’t even know how to read music, but he matches the pitch of the men around him who read off of sheet music during rehearsals.
“If you can carry a tune, then we can teach you a lot,” Huizinga said.
Rogers said he didn’t even realize how much he loved performing until he joined the choir.
Trapp said his time in the choir has been well spent.
“You would be really hard pressed to find another group like the men’s choir,” Trapp said.
Rogers also said his experience with the men’s choir has been unique.
“I can’t see myself at Baylor without being in men’s choir at the same time,” Rogers said. “You are surrounded by a bunch of guys who love to sing and also love to have fun.”
Any male student at Baylor can audition for the men’s choir by contacting Dr. Randall Bradley, the men’s choir director, at Randall_Bradley@baylor.edu.