Faces of 2014 Graduates: A Passion for Teaching Music

After volunteering for two weeks during summer 2012 at an elementary school founded by Baptist missionaries in the largest slum in Nairobi, Kenya, Music Education major Jenni Gooch promised herself she'd return for a longer stay the next summer with enough recorders and rhythm sticks to start a music program for the school's 550 students.

Since the promise included personally raising the several hundred dollars needed to purchase the recorders and sticks and get them to Africa, she organized fundraising competitions among music programs in Denver-area schools and solicited the help of friends and family.

The five-year member of UNC's Pride of the Rockies marching band kept her promise during an eight-week trip to Africa last summer and was able to pursue her passion for teaching music even before she started her student teaching assignment.

She spent the first five weeks at the school in Nairobi, which required staying in a guarded compound due to safety concerns, and collecting the instruments at the end of each day so that the children wouldn't take them home.

"I knew that if I let them take them, they or their parents would probably sell them because of the level of poverty," Gooch said. "But when I left, I let them keep their recorders and they were so excited that you could hear them playing them from a mile away."

Gooch then spent three weeks at an affiliated school in Arusha, Tanzania, where a safer environment allowed her to immerse herself in the local community.

She's now interviewing teaching jobs in the Denver area that will allow her to continue to pursue her passion for music and teaching it.