I had barely touched down in Cuba (and in fact hadn’t even checked into the hotel yet) before being whisked off to a concert that Berklee students were presenting at the Instituto Superior de Arte (ISA).
Enrico de Trizio, Katie Bilinski, Julia Easterlin, and John Hull had sent CDs and scores of the works to be performed before arriving, but had practiced with ISA students for just an afternoon before presenting the multidisciplinary show. It was an almost incongruous mix of instruments that nevertheless worked well together.
Two ISA students, Denise Espinoza and Lena Maria Baró, danced their interpretation of a song composed by Berklee Electronic Production and Design professor Neil Leonard and played by him on saxophone, John on laptop, and Julia on vocals.
Enrico played piano and used a Trigger Finger drum pad to trigger samples, backed by an ISA student band made up of upright bass, flute, drum set, and batá and conga drums.
Julia used a looping pedal to build vocal tracks and create an intricately layered piece, also backed by the ISA band.
And Kate and John worked together on laptop and iPad to perform a song that they composed together.
The Cuban bandmates (Andy Rubal, piano; Josué Borges, flute; Teddy Fuentes, bass; and Hansel Santos Gómez, percussion) also took the opportunity to show their stuff, each taking a solo on pieces composed and performed by Neil. The level of musicianship was so high that, except for the palm trees I could see out the window, I could have been at a recital at Berklee. It really brought home how easily music can bridge differences.
After the show, the Berklee students were mobbed by ISA students curious about the unfamiliar technology. Electronic music may not be common in Cuba, but the interest and the talent is definitely there.
Read more posts from Berklee’s inaugural trip to Cuba: