By: Duncan Jurayj
Every two years, the Cuban Jazz ensemble travels to Cuba for a musical exchange with the Escuela Nacional de Arte in Havana. The students spend the year learning about Cuban culture through music in preparation for the trip. The trip involved a musical exchange and general tourism in the city of Havana.
This year, in addition to the jazz ensemble traveling to Cuba, the Select Singers group studied Cuban music throughout the year in preparation for the trip. For the first time, both a jazz band and a singing group were able to travel to Cuba.
The trip was built around the musical exchange with ENA. ENA is the national school of art Cuba. The students there are some of the most talented in the country. Selected as six-year-olds into regional schools and then boarding at ENA later in their academic careers. The students at ENA practice their instruments six hours a day and all learn multiple instruments. Jacob Calka, a Beaver student says he was “impressed with their dedication and talent as musicians gave that they were the same age as us”. The musicians at ENA sounded near professional.
Beaver students were able to spend the first three hours of their day Monday through Thursday rehearsing with ENA students. On Friday, both select singers and the Cuban jazz ensemble performed for all the students at ENA. While there were often language barriers, French student Jacob Calka says that he was “able to connect with many of the students simply through the music itself.”
In the afternoon, the Beaver students were able to walk around Havana and tour the city. They went shopping at the market, took dance classes, and cooking classes. Students were able to visit recording studios, monuments, and gardens as the week went on.
Both lunch and dinner were had at restaurants every day. Most restaurants had live musical entertainment that would include students in their rhythm and dance sections.
Cuba is known for its music and the trip was centered around that aspect of Cuban culture. The 2019 Cuba provided an incredibly valuable musical experience for all those involved in the exchange.