When members of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra visited Havana earlier this year, they drew big, enthusiastic crowds. But it was the kids they encountered in the schools who most affected each of these virtuoso musicians— talented, bright, eager to learn and to play. Weeks after they had returned home, the band members were still talking about the love and respect that Cubans have for their musicians, dancers and performing artists. But they also saw gifted students without instruments, violins and guitars with broken strings, saxophones without pads and trumpets without valves. In Havana, in even the best schools, there are not nearly enough working instruments for the young people who want to learn to play.
Now, led by Carlos Henriquez, the distinguished bassist for the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, a remarkable group of musicians is rallying to take a plane-load of instruments to four designated music schools in Havana, (Manuel Saumell Conservatory, Amadeo Roldan Conservatory, Guillermo Tomas Bouffaratigue Music Conservatory and Escuela Nacional de Arte) where they will also put on workshops, clinics and mentoring sessions with the students. Carlos has found two luthiers as well, who will travel with the musicians to repair faulty or broken instruments.
To facilitate this cultural exchange, a group of supporters is gathering around the efforts of the musicians. Working under the umbrella of The Center for Cuban Studies in New York -- a 501(c)3 organization -- our committee plans to raise enough money to fly a full planeload of instruments out of Miami and to send the musicians and luthiers to Cuba. We will purchase some instruments but are also seeking donations of brass, stringed, percussive and reed instruments in working condition.
American Jazz and the music of Cuba have been interwoven ever since the dawn of the twentieth century. Both have roots that lead back to Europe and Africa; each has always influenced the other. By helping to fulfill the dreams of aspiring young Cuban musicians, we hope to strengthen those ties. Jazz digs into our common past, removes politics from the discussion and brings us together in a joyful, human dialogue.
We hope that you will join us in making those dreams and that dialogue a reality.