White Oak High School band connects students a world away to music


JACKSONVILLE, Onslow County - The band at White Oak High School in Jacksonville is putting technology to use to help another class of music lovers half a world away.

Music teacher Perry Ditch set up a connection between White Oak students and those at Cheery Education Center, which services some of the poorest students in Nairobi, Kenya, from that city's Kibera slums.

The students undertook a multi-phased project, which started with upgrading the wi-fi at CEC so that their Kenyan counterparts could have joint lessons with them via Skype. The next step was to begin teaching scales and how to read music.

The realization of the need first began, Ditch said, after his students performed a concert live over Skype for the CEC students.

"They had no music program - they had no instruments," he said, noting this program kicked off in May. "

The students helped secure 100 recorders for the CEC students, which will allow them to begin putting into practice what they are hearing and seeing. From there, White Oak students are raising funds to secure instruments for CEC that will include trumpets and trombones.

Ditch said the experience is opening the eyes of his students.

"I think they're learning first of all how fortunate they are," Ditch said. "But, people are people. They have goals and wants and drives ... in a third-world poverty-stricken area."

Students arrived at the high school extra early on Friday so as to conduct a 6 a.m. Skype class with the CEC students while the students in Nairobi would still be in school because of the significant time difference.

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