Latin music ensemble plans spring trip to Cuba

screen-shot-2016-11-30-at-10-26-28-amPOTSDAM — Next March, the Crane Latin Ensemble from SUNY Potsdam’s Crane School of Music will travel to Cienfuegos, Cuba, to lead a music performance and educational tour, accompanied by dance students from the college’s Department of Theatre and Dance.

SUNY Potsdam would be the first institution in the State University of New York system to develop a long-term partnership in Cuba outside of the country’s capital, Havana.

“It’s a music-rich environment which, until recently, was closed to United States citizens for 50 years,” said Marsha Baxter, associate professor of music education and co-director of the Crane Latin Ensemble. “It will allow our students the rare opportunity to experience this kind of collaboration.”

Although the trip has been planned for a while, Ms. Baxter said the trip will be a positive force of change after this year’s “emotionally charged” presidential election.

“Music alone can’t abolish racism, discrimination or xenophobia,” she said. “However, music crosses boundaries and bridges cultures, and a musical cultural exchange such as this one leads to a deeper understanding of diversity and a respect for the rich complexity of what it means to be human.”

The Crane Latin Ensemble consists of two faculty leaders, Ms. Baxter and Peter McCoy, and 23 students who major in music business, performance and education. Ms. Baxter said the group has a full itinerary planned.

“We will travel to Cuba for a week as part of an educational, musical, cultural exchange with the University of Cienfuegos,” Ms. Baxter said. “That exchange will include classes, clinics, workshops and collaborative efforts with Cuban artists.”

The ensemble already has received a “generous” donation from the National Association of Music Merchants to assist with its trip cost, according to Ms. Baxter; however, it’s still hoping to raise more money.

“We’re hoping to close the gap by raising $7,500 before the trip,” Ms. Baxter said.

To do that, the Crane Latin Ensemble will play a free concert followed by a silent auction Thursday in the Sara M. Snell Music Theater at the Crane School of Music.

During the concert, the group will play Afro-Cuban classics and Latin jazz, including works by composers such as Miguel Quintana and Mario Bauza. The band will be joined on stage by dancer and SUNY Potsdam faculty member Cynthia DuFault.

“We’ll also play a really edgy piece by Chris Washburn entitled ‘Guantanamo,’” Ms. Baxter said.

The silent auction will feature art pieces inspired by or made in Cuba.

Ms. Baxter said a watercolor-charcoal painting by Camilo Villalvilla titled “Dream Building I” is one of the centerpieces of the auction.

“It’s a very provocative piece of a wrought iron bed. Reaching skyward from the frame of the bed is the Chrysler Building and the Cuban flag is draped over the bed,” she said. “We’re making this existential connection between the music and the art.”

ELIZABETH LEWIS, Daily Courier Observer

November 29, 2016

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