Cuba’s National School of Music

Tuesday morning introduced us to some stunning high school musical talent – Jorge Fernandez Acosta on the piano; Emmanuel Unquias Linones on guitar and voice; and Sarbelio Matos Fernandez on violin – at the National School of music.

Jorge drew our attention with a piano composition he created at age 14, “Romance of the Autumn,” below which was one of several pieces he created for a documentary on four different women turning 50 and thinking back on their 15-year-old coming of age ceremony, the quincienera. The four came from different strata of Cuban life and he needed to create four separate moods, Jorge reported.

Sarbelio, quiet and shy, dazzled us with his performances, including “Hey, Jude,” where Emmanuel brought the house down by producing John Lennon’s vocals at the conclusion.

We wrangled a group picture with them so that when they become famous, we can say we knew them when.

Daniela Valdez, vice rector (in striped dress above), has been with the school for 50 years. She explained that it draws on the best of the best students from across Cuba, enrolling a total of 500 students over 3 years, with 300 of them living on campus. The school provides instruments to the students and permits them to keep the instruments for two months following graduation, after which they are returned to the school. Most of the students are able to earn enough money from their music during those two months that they can purchase their own instruments.

A total of 30 schools of art exist in Cuba, all free to students and permitting the development of remarkable talent not only in music, but also in important areas such as art, ballet, and drama.

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