Starting Vessels Music School in Kibera was something Bernard has been dreaming of for years. Born and raised in Kibera, Bernard really struggled, loosing his parents as a child and having to be moved around between many homes which was not always easy. He started engaging in illegal activities such as pickpocketing to secure his living. During his last year in school he discovered his passion for singing and found that he was gifted with an amazing voice. As he practiced singing around his community more and more people encouraged him to keep going, assuring him that he had a skill worth pursuing. Soon Bernard started to learn playing the piano as well. He found a teacher who was willing to teach him twice a week for little money. As he improved his singing and piano skills, he started earning money from playing at weddings or in schools. Over time, Bernard started to ask himself how he could reach out to the community and help other people reach their musical potential. So rather than teaching individuals, he decided to open up a music school in Kibera, where people could learn music without qualitative drawbacks at an affordable price compared to other music schools.
Bernard joined Somo in Cohort 4 to learn how to run his music school. During classes he gained a deeper understanding for his business by learning how to better evaluate his potential market and tell his idea and story through his business model canvas. One of his main takeaways from the training was to prioritize on specific aspects of the business at a time, such as scheduling and identifying his start-up costs before focusing on other aspects. With the investment of Somo, Bernard started his registration process and now is in the process of setting up his sound studio. Other than that he mainly engages in marketing activities (social media and mouth-to-mouth advertisement) at the moment to increase awareness about his music school and attract students. He also is in search for different music teachers who can offer different music lessons to expand the offer. For advising and general support, he got the chance to connect with Sauti Academy which is a famous music academy in Nairobi. One challenge Bernard may see in the future is attracting students from outside Kibera which will be important in order for him to subsidize lower costs for the youth he trains within the community.
Bernard chose the name Vessels because he regards each person as a “vessel for change” who can contribute to change in Kibera and touch others with his passion. Bernard is convinced that “change has to start with yourself and not with the person next to you” and that people should stop relying on others or the government but become proactive. This thinking is what keeps him going even in difficult times. Bernard’s vision for Vessels Music School is to change the life of people through the “universal language of music”. In the long run, Bernard hopes that his music school will also be a production studio for local artists and that he can expand the school to different places.
In case you are close by, make sure you drop by Vessels Music School and listen to the amazing voice of Bernard, it is definitely worth a visit!