They are traveling to New York with jazz as their passport. They are 17 Cubans, students from different music schools, and they will perform in the Big Apple invited by Jazz at Lincoln Center, through the Horns to Havana project.
The island’s musicians will form a junior All-Star band which will give an exhibition concert this May 10 in the Magnum Metz Gallery as part of the annual Essentially Ellington festival of jazz bands. At the event they will share with high school groups from all of North America, gathered to participate in workshops, jam session, rehearsals and performances.
“We are very thrilled,” commented to the press pianist Rodrigo García Ameneiro, one of the participants for Cuba in the festival, “not just for the possibility of demonstrating our way of interpreting this music style that is so special in one of the world’s most important stages, but also because we will be sharing spaces with many of the most outstanding U.S. and Canadian youths in this genre.”
In its presentation in New York, the Cuban junior band will be directed by Enrique Mario Rodríguez, director of Havana’s Amadeo Roldán Conservatory and a trumpet player of the National Symphony Orchestra, and by Camilo Moreira, professor of the Higher Institute of Art (ISA).
Founded in 2010 based on the concerts of the Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Jazz band in Havana, the Horns to Havana project is a non-profit organization that seeks to strengthen cultural collaboration between the United States and Cuba, especially through jazz. Some of the illustrious figures linked to it are notable trumpet player Wynton Marsalis and Cuban pianist and composer Chucho Valdés, as advisor.
Ever since its creation, the project has carried out diverse actions to promote musical exchange and contribute to the quality of artistic education on the island. These actions include the repair of instruments for Havana’s music schools, the training of Cuban repair technicians, the management of donations and the Jazz Amistad residences with the Preservation Hall Foundation.
Maestros like saxophonists Víctor Goines, member of the Jazz at Lincoln Center band and director of Jazz Studies at the Northwestern University, and Yosvany Terry, director of jazz groups and music professor at Harvard University, have participated in the different versions of Jazz Amistad. Both are members of the educational board of Horns to Havana.
Before these young Cuban musicians’ trip to New York, in January the Jazz Band of the Amadeo Roldán Conservatory participated in an educational and cultural exchange in New Orleans. On that occasion it was 14 students from the island’s first music academy who demonstrated their talent under the direction of maestro Enrique Mario Rodríguez.
Rodríguez commented at the time that “this fruitful relationship has made it possible to have a greater understanding of the musical and historic connections between Cuba and North America, and especially with New Orleans. We have learned together and our youths have been able to increasingly strengthen their promising careers.”
It was precisely in New Orleans that the Jazz & Heritage Festival 2017 concluded this weekend and Cuban music played a leading role in it. Artists from the island like Chucho Valdés, singer Daymé Arocena, Osain del Monte, the Septeto Santiaguero and the Conga de Los Hoyos, also from Santiago, were among the entertainers of the event’s artistic program.
Some days before, Havana was the city chosen to celebrate International Jazz Day, with a global concert in the Alicia Alonso Grand Theater that combined international stars and relevant Cuban jazz musicians. Moreover, throughout one week there were workshops, exhibits and concerts in diverse Havana scenarios.