Brooks Secondary School senior band students are currently rehearsing their concert repertoire as they work toward a music and cultural exchange the group is taking to Cuba next month. The youth are also appealing to the greater community to donate musical instruments and equipment in good working condition they can perform on during the trip and donate to their Cuban peers at the end of the tour.
“It’s a slick operation that allows us to gift instruments to kids who would otherwise never have an opportunity to possess one,” said band teacher Paul Cummings. “Because we perform on those instruments then leave them, we meet the luggage weight requirements of the airlines.”
Students are limited to taking 20 pounds of their own luggage as the rest will go toward musical equipment they will each transport from home, added Cummings.
“It could be their trombone, a speaker, amplifier or part of the drum set,” he said. “We even have to bring our own music stands. The only thing that’s provided for us is chairs.”
This is the first time any of the students have visited Cuba and their anticipation is building.
“I’m most excited to learn about the Cuban culture, said Ce’Nedra Dube, 16.
15-year-old classmate Ethan Hummel agreed.
“I’m excited to see the 16th century forts in Santiago,” he said.
Band students not travelling are sharing the enthusiasm about the impact the group will make with its donations to those in need.
“I’m not going on the trip but I’m excited to be able to donate my own music and instruments,” said Olivia Blackburn-Hopkins, 16.
This is the fifth time a group from the high school has visited Cuba, however, this trip will focus on learning about a different part of the country.
“We’ve always concentrated our time around the Havana and Varadero area,” said Cummings. “This time we’ve been recommended to go over to the east end of Cuba. We travel through a great company called Canada Cuba Sports and Cultural Festivals and they can get us into places that no other tourists can go.”
From Columbus to Castro, students will learn firsthand about the history and culture of the land. This will include a visit to the country’s first capital, Santiago de Cuba, and participation in joint musical and dance performances with other artists their age, including a renowned folkloric ensemble.
“We’ll be performing for Cubans and they’ll be performing for us,” said Cummings. “Sometimes we might perform jazz music and they perform a dance or orchestral or samba music. And we’ll go to elementary, middle and secondary schools.”
A big aspect of the student’s preparation is making sure their musical performances are up to a high standard as music education is a big part of the Cuban culture, added Cummings.
“Cubans know their music,” he said. “When we perform in Cuba we’re going to be performing for people who really understand music. Hopefully they’ll be able to see that we’ve really put the time in, that we’re polished and the music is important to us.”
Brooks Senior Band leaves for Cuba on March 15. Instruments and musical equipment including guitar and bass strings, reeds, electric tuners, staff paper and wire stands can be dropped off at the school.
For more information, email Cummings at: firstname.lastname@example.org.