Jennifer Kyker

Musicologist/Activist Jennifer Kyker ’02 Wins Mary Lyon Award

The Alumnae Association is pleased to honor Jennifer Kyker ’02 with the Mary Lyon Award, which goes to a young alumna (out of college fifteen years or fewer) whose work embodies the humane values that Mary Lyon exemplified in her life.

Kyker is a musician, scholar, and activist. As a child, she was fascinated by the music of Zimbabwe, and by the time she found her way to Mount Holyoke she had already learned both the language and music of the Shona people, specifically percussion instruments such as the marimba (wooden xylophone), and the mbira (thumb piano). Following her graduation she was awarded a Fulbright scholarship for a year of independent study in affiliation with Zimbabwe College of Music, and while working toward her PhD at the University of Pennsylvania in history, theory, and ethnomusicology, she was awarded a Fulbright–Hays doctoral fellowship to conduct further research in Zimbabwe.

Kyker’s time spent in the country exposed her to the alarming lack of resources there for teenaged girls, who rarely obtain an education and are at the highest risk for contracting HIV. One year after college, she cofounded a nonprofit organization, Tariro, with Memory Bandera ’04 to help address these issues. Since its inception, Tariro has gone from assisting approximately a dozen students to now close to one hundred. The organization pays the students’ school fees and helps them purchase uniforms and supplies, provides academic support, and offers extracurricular activities.

Today, Jennifer is assistant professor of musicology at the University of Rochester, continues to perform and produce music, and serves as the executive director of Tariro.

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