Florida Orchestra heads to Havana for historical music and education exchange

09/29/11 Josh Holton
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This morning marked another milestone in Tampa Bay’s reconnection with Cuba. The Florida Orchestra sent five musicians from its wind ensemble to Havana to perform and teach master classes. This is the first time in 12 years that a professional American orchestra has sent musicians to Cuba, and only the second time since the 1959 revolution.

Flowing fanfares from fellow musicians in the brass quintet were a fine farewell for the members of the Florida Orchestra Principal Wind Ensemble. Since direct flights resumed to the embargoed country, the Tampa Bay Area has been looking for ways to bridge the two cultures. Jose Valiente heads a task force created by the orchestra to initiate the cultural exchange.

Music Director Stefan Sanderling had the idea to reconnect Tampa and Cuba musically. He has been invited to conduct for the National Symphony Orchestra of Cuba next year, and the principal wind ensemble will play with them this weekend. Florida Orchestra marketing committee chair Will Keller said the exchange will be a two way street.

So the music director of the Cuban orchestra, Enrique Pérez Mesa, has also been invited to conduct in the Florida Orchestra next May. French horn player Robert Rearden is the principal horn player for the Florida Orchestra, and said that music can transcend any language barriers.

Jose Valiente said that even though Tampa and Cuba already have many deep cultural ties, more cultural exchange could improve overall US-Cuba relations. He’s open to an end to the embargo.

Rearden said that he is excited to meet the Cuban musicians, but the cultural exchange has no underlying political motive.

The musicians will be teaching master classes at the Amadeo Roldán Conservatory in Havana, and delivering donated instruments to them. The musicians will return from Cuba on Sunday. On Tuesday they will perform some of the music they plan to play in Cuba.

Previous WMNF News stories about Cuba

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