Kenya: Mark Kogo, the Top KCSE Student Who Wants to Pursue Music, Medicine

What do music and medicine have in common? The answer might surprise you. In 2016, Harvard University held a discussion where the panellists wore two hats: medical doctors and musicians.

All the panellists agreed that music and medicine have a symbiotic relationship that improves their public speaking, listening, and communication skills, whether onstage or in the operating room.

For Mark Kogo Kipkoech, who scored a mean of A (plain) with 87.106 points, he simply can't think of having one and leaving the other. He's determined to study both at the university level. He confesses that his love for music is too great to drop. He was a student at Alliance High School. Mark is also a member of the Safaricom Orchestra. He has been consistent in his academic performances, having scored 427 marks in his KCPE exams.

How does it feel to be among the top students in the country?

I'm happy. I didn't expect it because I was twelfth overall in the last examination at school, but then in the KCSE, I was second in my class. I was hoping for a "nice" A. After every paper, I felt that I had given it my best when I left the examination room. I was with my mum and my brother when the results were read, and I was just in shock when my name was mentioned.

What would you like to study at the university and why?

I haven't yet decided what to study because I think that all the decisions on the choices that I had in mind were basically conditioned by society. Since I was young, I was always told to do medicine, law, engineering; either directly or indirectly. Now, when I try to think about it, I'm trying to see whether it is for me or not for me, so I'm trying to make the decision.

You have the grades; you can fit into almost all the courses on offer. Is it confusing?

It's not confusing because I know what I have and what I want. I'm just doing a little more research to find out where I best I can do with what I have.

What is that?

It's down to two things. Whether it's that direct or indirect influence, I've always thought that medicine would be a very interesting profession to do. I've been thinking about it for a long time. I feel that my enjoyment of biology and offering solutions to people's problems could be a good indicator and the way. But on the other hand, I like creative things like art, music and literature, so I'm trying to figure out what career path can fit those different interests and then weigh my options from there.

Do we have universities offering that kind of combination?

I don't know any locally. It would be ideal for me to pursue both medicine and music. I joined the Safaricom Orchestra in 2019, but then I stopped going when the (Covid-19) pandemic became severe in the country.

Which instrument do you play?

I play three instruments; the piano, the clarinet and the cello. I learnt piano in primary school when I was in Standard Six and Seven from my teacher. I was taught the clarinet by members of the school band when I was in Form One, and then I picked the cello, which was self-taught in the months before I decided to apply for the orchestra. When I got there, I got a tutor.

What was your experience playing in an orchestra?

The best part of it was meeting my friends that I'd usually meet at the Music Festivals and made friendships that have lasted to date.

Did you study music in secondary school?

Yes, I did, and I scored an A. Music is a private or intimate hobby, but I don't think it's something that I'd take pleasure in making my profession because then I fear that I might lose the joy of doing it. Just doing it on the side as I pursue other things that interest me would be ideal.

Would you like to study locally or abroad?

It depends on when and how I make my decision. Most likely, for me to explore my other interests, I might have to go abroad, but then I'm thinking if medicine is good and doing it here in Kenya could be good for me. I'm still in that state of making the decision.

What advice would you like to give your fellow students and parents?

The best thing would be to be true to themselves. It's something I'm also trying to do. For parents, they shouldn't limit what their children could or want to do. They should instead support their children.

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