Musicians nurture local talent in Cuban capital

Three-day visit to Havana leaves lasting impact on Lynn Conservatory artists

Lynn Conservatory artists pose with Cuban musicians at Lynn's master class in Havana.

Havana, Cuba is renowned for its strong coffee, hand-rolled cigars and vibrant culture, but many Americans know little about the city’s talented musicians. With improved Cuban-American relations, musicians from Lynn University's Conservatory of Music had a unique opportunity to visit the country to share their talents.

Cuban-born Manuel Capote, coordinator of music education and community outreach at Lynn, dreamt of the possibilities for collaboration.

“I’m instilled with a mission to bring Cuban culture to Lynn and vice versa whenever possible,” said Capote. “Lynn is a wonderful community that allows us to connect individuals through music—a force that binds people together.”

Capote partnered with Lynn Conservatory student Dunia Andreu Benitez to organize a master class in her hometown of Havana for local musicians. Her former music teachers, Marita Rodríguez and Professor Vicente Monterrey, helped plan the trip, recruit participants and secure a venue for a master class. Lynn Distinguished Artist-in-Residence, clarinetist Jon Manasse and pianist Jon Nakamatsu joined Benitez for a whirlwind visit in February.

During their visit, the trio hosted a master class on behalf of the Conservatory and listened to local musicians perform, providing guidance on best practices. The students held this lesson in the highest regard, recognizing the rare opportunity to be taught technique and style by world-class artists. Lynn also provided students with clarinet and bassoon reeds to improve the sound of their instruments.

Manasse, a first-time visitor to Cuba, was astounded by what he learned from the students.

“These kids turbocharged my perspective on how much you can do with limited resources, and it’s way beyond what you could imagine,” said Manasse. “These students exemplified beautiful acceptance and worry-free human flexibility.”

In addition to the master class, the trip included a performance at the Fábrica de Arte Cubano, Havana’s premiere venue for art installations and music.

“The trip was too profound to put into words,” Manasse added. “It was the most reciprocal, nurturing experience and is what an institution like Lynn truly represents.”

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