Greendale Students' Efforts to Send a Piano to an Orchestra in the Congo

Two seniors are hoping to get an upright piano to the Kinshasa Symphonic Orchestra in the Congo after they were inspired by a CBS's 60 Minutes segment.

music director Tom Reifenberg thought a 60 Minutes segment about an orchestra in the Congo would help his students better appreciate their instruments and music room.  Little did he know how well his strategy would work.

Seniors Gabrielle O’Keefe and Zak Giemza took the lesson to heart. The students are organizing an effort to send an upright piano to the Kinshasa Symphonic Orchestra in the Congo. The orchestra right now only has an electric keyboard piano.

The students hope to do this before they go off to college. The two are planning to buy a decent used piano, however, shipping costs will be pricey. The students are estimating it will cost about $3,800 to ship.

“This is the last time this group of musicians is going to playing together because there are a lot seniors are graduating,” O’Keefe said. “This kind of our last music schbang to bring the whole music department together as well as the community.”

Kinshasa Orchestra is 15 years old with 200 members, a similar size to the . The orchestra has a limited amount of instruments, which have been donated or refurbished. The Congo is considered one of the poorest countries, according to the segment. A mother in the orchestra told 60 Minutes that when she plays in the orchestra she feels she has left the impoverished world for awhile.

The website created by the students says, “In this country, these people must protect what little they have been blessed with, because if one of the instruments is broken or lost, who knows when they might get a replacement; if ever.”

The director of the symphony in the Congo emailed O’Keefe, “It’s a great joy for us to know the interest you hold in our orchestra and above all this donation of a piano goes right to our hearts.”

Giemza says people have been more than willing to help.

“Things are falling in line,” said Giemza. “I can’t tell you how well it’s coming together.”

Even though the students are extremely busy with prom and graduation they plan to work hard on getting the piano to this "talented deserving orchestra."

“We didn't have the resources, but now we do,” O’Keefe said.

The students were inspired by Kinshasa Orchestra’s talent and realized they could something for them.

“We have so much here, versus the Congo where they have nothing,” Giemza said. “In the video they talk about how some had to walk an 1-1/2 to get there and back to play.  Here we drive to school and it takes us five minutes to get here.”

People can donate at the high school, some Village Center businesses and online.

Click here to donate to the cause and to watch the 60 Minutes segment.


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