Symphony breaks U.S., Cuban barriers
June 29, 1999
From Correspondent John Zarrella
HAVANA (CNN) -- While their governments rarely exchange even words, students from the United States and Cuba are concerting their differences to create a symphony of cultures.
Teen-agers from the New England Conservatory Youth Philharmonic Orchestra recently joined Cubans from music schools across Havana for two joint performances in Cuba, bringing audiences to their feet.
The young U.S. and Cuban musicians rehearsed together only twice, but the universal language of music overcame any language barrier.
"I don't speak Spanish at all, but you can still communicate with them, because you just know they share the love for music you do," said American Seth Cook.
"We've got to be here. I mean, this is a people that's bursting with energy, with ingenuity, with love, with passion," said conductor Ben Zander. "These people are dancing, and we've got to dance with them. We can't be left out of this conversation."
For many in the audience, this bicultural symphony is a good start.
"A cultural encounter like this one has to continue, and it also means a lot. Because after all, our peoples are joined regardless of politics or any other thing. Culture has joined people, and it must continue," said Cuban musician Ronald Martinez.
Although cultural exchanges between the United States and Cuba have been going on for some time, political red tape on both sides has made it far from routine.
To enhance cultural and athletic contact, the U.S. government recently loosened a few restrictions on travel to Cuba. The hope is that people-to-people contact can accomplish what the governments have been unable to do: build friendships.
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