Children of Uganda will 'Light up Wilton'

The Children of Uganda music and dance troupe, which last visited Wilton in 2012, will return to Middlebrook middle school on Saturday, Jan. 25, at 2. The children are traveling across the country with their Tour of Light, a showcase of East African culture and a fund-raiser to support the country’s orphans.

Before they take to the stage, the performers will sing, play and dance with students and adults from the community.

Kate Sheahan, a music teacher at Cider Mill School, will bring about a dozen students to drum with the Ugandans before they take to the stage. African drumming is a highlight of the fifth graders’ musical experience, a program Ms. Sheahan has offered for the last seven or eight years.

The students will play djembes, a traditional West African drum the school was able to purchase with PTA support. Ms. Sheahan received training on West African drumming a few years ago at Yale and Fairfield universities.

“The students will not have started [drumming lessons] yet, which I think is exciting,” Ms. Sheahan said Monday. “I’m not going to say no to an opportunity like this.

“A drumming circle is a real community happening that brings people together,” she continued. “You have one hand, two hands, you can participate in a drumming circle. The playing field is level. Drumming is drumming and everyone’s welcome.

“When I do drumming circles with students it teaches them discipline and patience, it’s not about one person.”

The fifth graders won’t be the only ones joining the Ugandan students. Members of Acoustic Wilton will also bring their instruments and voices. Acoustic Wilton students Carter Vail, Will Comer, Peter McDowell, Wes Wallace and Forrest Rappaport are on board, and Cam Berg, a Middlebrook student who plays drums in a band called The Next Generation, will bring his djembe and other percussion instruments.

Scott Weber, adult leader of the group, will bring some guitars and a few other adult members of the group.

“Acoustic Wilton is honored to have been invited to participate with the cultural music exchange with the Children of Uganda,” Mr. Weber said. “While our students use their musical talents to help us ‘play it forward’ in our community, many of them see their place in the global community and believe they can make a difference with their music beyond Wilton.”

Members of the Children of Uganda musical troupe are all student performers from the Sabina orphanage in Rakai Province. They are all orphans and vulnerable children. Over the past two decades, Uganda’s population has been hit hard by AIDS, civil war and extreme poverty, which have left more than 2.4 million children orphans, more than in any other country.

The organization reaches out to hundreds of children in the Rakai, Mukono and Kampala districts of Uganda, providing food, clothing and access to medical care. The children also receive school fees, for in Uganda there is no public education. Students must receive sponsorships to enroll at the primary and elementary levels.

Though the young people in the musical troupe have had “many hardships in their lives, their message is one of hope and their dances joyful,” the organization said. “They will share with your students the inspiring message that even in the face of adversity, you can overcome and shine as empowered students.”

The tour began earlier this month and will make stops across the country through March. The organization has toured since 1996. The show features rapid rhythms and movements, commanding drums, haunting flutes, funny folktales, and sweet songs of joy and hope. It is all presented by 22 talented young people from 7 to 23 years old.

Tickets are available at the door for a suggested contribution of $10 for adults, $5 for children. The children will also be selling CDs of their music and handmade items that represent their culture. A digital album of their music is available online at childrenofuganda.org.