I have just learned that the Project Amitiés Québec-Cuba won't be active any more this year. This is a good, although sad occasion to think about the projects that took me there as a violin Maker.
I went two times as a volunteer to an Arts school in Matanzas. I was part of this organization that worked on a Luthiers-Without-Borders kind of model. A project cosponsored by Wilder & Davis Luthiers, Montreal.
It was a great experience to repair bows and instruments for local musicians and students during a few weeks in 2007 and 2012. Bringing Emilia, my 6 years old daughter, with me, made it quite a significant experience for both of us. She attended regular school classes with locals as well as the Arts school in the afternoon. During which I worked tirelessly along with other luthiers and friends from Quebec, repairing, setting up, adjusting and reconstructing literally hundreds of instruments. The second time I volunteered in Cuba, I was also very happy to deliver a donation of nearly one hundred bows (a very generous gift from Sinoman Music), as well as violins and accessories from different colleagues and shops from Canada.
Another very significant experience was in 2011, when I was working for The Sound Post. I was hired as a Luthier in Residence by the Harvard-Radcliffe Symphony Orchestra during what was the first tournée of an American Orchestra in Cuba since the economic embargo in 1960. For the very first time since then, one American orchestra performed together with Cuban orchestras on Cuban soil. They played works from the international repertoire such as Beethoven's Ninth Symphony as well as symphonic master works by Cuban composers. It was an incredible exchange over a universal language, music, capable to brig together young performers from the two countries.
During the tournée, I was in charge of the well-being of the instruments, a difficult and endless task considering the local climate conditions and the little time the American instruments had to adapt to it.
I was looking forward to volunteer again this year in the Cuban project, and of course to see again friends and colleagues I met there during the past experiences. I really hope we can revive, and extend to other countries, this important project.
Here are a few pictures from the above mentioned experiences.