Cuba 2017 University of Michigan school of music, theatre & Dance Students venture south in search of rumba

Spring Break 2017 was special for 12 students from the University of Michigan's School of Music, Theatre & Dance as they ventured to Cuba to learn first-hand the latin rhythms that have played an important part in influencing many genres of music. The week included workshops with Cuban percussionist Yissy - who regularly performs in the United States with musicians such as Dave Matthews, among others - and a live performance from the world's greatest rumba band, the Los Muñequitos de Matanzas. That performance culminated with a masterclass with members of the band. In between, the group - students of UM professor Michael Gould - visited the Universidad De Les Artes, where they were treated to a performance by Cuban university students and then later joined in with a performance.

The eight-day trip, financed by an anonymous donor, started out in Havana and ventured to Trinidad, Matanzas and Varadero before returning back to Ann Arbor.

Don't let the smokestack fool you - El Cocinero is one of the finest restaurants in Havana and right next door is Fábrica de Arte Cubano, one of the best art galleries in the city. Laundry is typically hung outside to dry.
A fisherman and the old fort guarding the entrance to the Havana Harbor.
The streets of Havana are a visual overload.
The group in front of La Catedral de la Virgen María de la Concepción Inmaculada de La Habana.
Old cars, old buildings and a chance for Michael Gardner to sit in with a street band.
Plaza Vieija in Old Havana in front of La Catedral de la Virgen María de la Concepción Inmaculada de La Habana featuring a baroque facade and twin bell towers.
Music and dance are everywhere in Cuba, especially when Michigan students are on the Prado.
A workshop with noted Cuban percussionist Yissy - with special guest Mary Paz - was one of the highlights of the group's trip to Havana.
A visit to the Universidad De Les Artes included a performance by Cuban students followed by UM students performing and then a combination of musicians from both countries.
Pre-1959 American cars are seen on the streets of Havana shuttling tourists around the city. Naturally, we had to sample this mode of transportation. Way cool!
A visit to the Museo de la Revolucion revealed the country's recent political past.
Bullet holes from a student uprising against former Cuban President Fulgencio Batista are still on the walls and pieces of a U.S. U2 spy plane are part of the military displays at the museum.
Listening, watching and participating in a variety of orishas.
U.S. Ambassador to Cuba, Jeffrey DeLaurentis and his wife Jennifer graciously hosted the University of Michigan group at the ambassador's residence.
The ambassador was gracious with this time and the group was treated with an impromptu solo by Molly Radosevich on the piano.
David Alvarez sitting high on the wall of Morro Castle guarding the mouth to Havana Harbor and overlooking the city beyond.
The Tropicana Club in Havana has been staging cabaret shows since 1939.
Trinidad is a colonial town filled with cobblestone streets and historic buildings.

From Havana the group got on a bus and traveled several hours south to old colonial city of Trinidad, which included a stop at the nearby Valley of Sugar Mills.

The vintage cars were similar to Havana, but Trinidad had a very different vibe. Several members of the group joined in with a band one afternoon near Trinidad's city center.
The highlight of the trip was a performance by the world-famous rumba band Los Muñequitos de Matanzas.
Upon hearing the music, you can't help but dance, or in the case of Professor Gould, sit in with the band.
A workshop with members of los Munequitos in the kitchen of one of the members' homes was something no one will forget for a long time.
With instruments needing to be transported, almost as if on cue a horse-drawn wagon rolls by and after a quick negotiation, the drums are one the wagon and on their way to the workshop, passing by some folks fixing one of the vintage cars on the street.

A little beach music as the sun went down on the Cuban adventure. From left, Jonathan Ovalle, Adam Shead, David Alvarez, Brian Juarez, Molly Radosevich, Erez Levin, Aaron Ginns, Michael Gould, Andrew Grossman, Everett Reid, Kayvon Gordon, David Ward, Michael Gardner, Cory Tripathy.

The beach at Varadero as the sun sets.

Photos by Roger Hart

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