A Pan African Youth Orchestra for New York’s Capital Region

by Jun 28, 2023Uncategorized0 comments

A new musical venture for the Capital District has begun, with support from the New York State Council on the Arts and the Schenectady County Initiative Program (CIP).  This innovative musical project is the creation of a Pan-African Orchestra, modeled after a 28-piece orchestra that was founded by Ghanaian musician and composer, Nana Danso Abiam.  The founding mission of the original Pan African Orchestra was to perform Afrocentric music comprised of African traditional melodies and rhythms. Founded in 1988 in the spirit of Ghanaian nationalism, the Pan African orchestra in Ghana recruited traditional musicians from the Accra region of Ghana to participate.  The orchestra’s repertoire includes compositions by the renowned composer, music educator, and orchestra’s founder, Nana Danso Abiam.

Zorkie Nelson, a resident of Schenectady and a master drummer from Ghana, was an original member of this orchestra of traditional musical instruments.  He performed with the group from 1988-1997.  Now, through an Artists’ grant from the New York State Council on the Arts, sponsored by New York Folklore, Zorkie is recruiting area youth to create a Pan African Youth Orchestra for the Capital District.   Currently in the “recruitment phase,” Zorkie Nelson is seeking teens, ages 12-16 who are interested in joining this new and innovative orchestra.

Instruments in the Pan African Orchestra include bamboo flutes, traditional hand drums, a traditional xylophone, the kora (a stringed instrument) and other percussion instruments.  The instruments will be taught by Zorkie and other members of the local ensemble, Gballoi, who were also original members of the Pan African Orchestra in Ghana.

Are you interested in learning more?  Summer sessions for area youth will take place in Schenectady’s Central Park, at the Pavilion, from 11:00 a.m.– 12:30 p.m. on July 8, 15, 22, and 29. Instruments will be provided.  For information or to RSVP to attend, please contact New York Folklore at 518-346-7008 or email info@nyfolklore.org.