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Cuba Connections

Cuba Connections

Our sister-city orchestra in Cienfuegos, Cuba

The City of Tacoma has eleven sister cities, all of which are either port cities or have other aspects similar or complementary to Tacoma's economic character. In 2000, Cienfuegos, Cuba was added to the official roster of sister city connections. Cienfuegos is a beautiful port city in south central Cuba nestled between lush mountains and rich agricultural lands, with a population of approximately 130,000. Known as La Perla del Sur (“The Pearl of the South”) because of both its natural and architectural beauty, it is home to the resident chamber orchestra Orquesta de Cámara Concierto Sur.

In January 2012 NWS embarked on its first international tour with musicians, staff, and patrons traveling together Cuba. Despite the difficulties of international communications, government regulations and paperwork, and the massive January 2012 snowstorm shutting down Sea-Tac Airport the day of our scheduled departure, we were able to execute a successful tour of the cities of Havana and Cienfuegos. The historic ten-day trip concluded with a performance of U.S. and Cuban musicians playing side-by-side for the first time since the 1959 Revolution in the beautiful and historic Teatro Tomás Terry.

Building on our first tour to Cienfuegos, we invited the musicians of Orquesta de Cámara Concierto Sur to join us for a side-by-side performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony our opening concert in October 2012. The concert was stunningly successful both musically and emotionally – for all of the Cuban musicians, it was their first opportunity to perform Beethoven’s magnificent testament to humanity and brotherhood. The opening night of the concert series, Washington Lt. Governor Brad Owen took the stage to welcome the audience and read Gov. Gregoire’s Proclamation declaring October 5, 2012 as “Northwest Sinfonietta Day.” In the proclamation, she cites that NWS has: “enriched the cultural landscape of our region by reinventing the concert experience with accessible, affordable and intimate performances;” and recognizes NWS as “Washington’s international cultural ambassador.”

Northwest Sinfonietta also traveled to Cuba in January 2013 with an ambitious schedule of three completely different performances along with educational activities.

The week following the historic performance, we worked closely with the Tacoma Sister City Commission, University of Puget Sound, and University of Washington-Tacoma to conduct a week-long festival of multi-cultural events featuring the music, art, and culture of our sister city.

In January 2013, Northwest Sinfonietta musicians, patrons, and staff returned for a second successful tour to Havana and Cienfuegos. We plan to continue strengthening the special bond between our two orchestras, cities, and countries, and to uphold the age-old maxim that “music knows no bounds”!

Orquesta de Cámara Concierto Sur

Founded in October 2006, Orquesta de Cámara Concierto Sur (Concert Orchestra of the South) is comprised of talented musicians who are graduates of the National Art School, The Instituto Superior de Arte (Havana), and professors at the Benny Moré School of the Arts (Cienfuegos). The ensemble performs complex repertoire covering a range of styles – from Baroque to Renaissance to contemporary music and arrangements – with a special emphasis on preserving authentic Cuban music.

Today, it stands as the finest orchestra in the region, and has partnered with Northwest Sinfonietta of Washington. As a continuation of the reciprocal exchange with Northwest Sinfonietta, OCCS is pleased to embark on its first international tour to Seattle, WA, and Tempe, AZ.



John & Lynda Filson

John and I had a wonderful trip, despite the problems getting to Cuba! The very best part of the trip was meeting the people of Cuba. We were so impressed with their warmth, their interest in getting to know Americans and their willingness to share their beliefs and knowledge of their country. Thank you for a wonderful life experience and one that we will always remember.  We can now say, “We have friends in Cuba”!

Burk Ketcham

In our visit to the Beny More School of the Arts,I was inspired by the individual performers and the school's orchestra. The individual performers, a young female violinist and a young female pianist, evidenced great poise and musical accomplishment. The Northwest Sinfonietta is a very talented and friendly group of musicians and I look forward to becoming a regular attendee of its performances.

Natalie Mayer

I would first like to say, I LOVED CUBA!!! All the people were amazing. Going to the blind school was a wonderful thing that touched my soul. I loved playing music with the band also. Really everything was super cool and fun!

John McMillan

I found Cubans to be warm-hearted people in general and deserving of much more cultural interaction with US citizens that is currently taking place. The musicians of Cuba are succeeding despite the hardships they face every day. They are an inspiration to all of us.

Margaret Williams

We visited the Beny More School for the Arts. We were very impressed with the proficiency of the children and wished that in the US that much attention was paid to the arts which, in recent years have been sorely neglected in our country. Another example of the true ease between our people was exemplified by how well the orchestras played together. It is never easy to combine musicians who had never performed as an ensemble – chamber music and orchestra- but these people made it sound easy.

Nan Bentley

The trip was a wonderful experience and I treasure each moment.  I was impressed by the medical system and the immediacy of its care and how practicality of its focus. They might not have the fanciest equipment but they know how to take care of most of the ailments that affect us. The people were uniformly gracious and welcoming and it was a privilege to spend time with them. And the location in Cienfuegos is divine - it is truly a tropical paradise.

Mary Manning

As a violinist of the Northwest Sinfonietta it was my great privilege to rehearse and play concerts with the members of the Cienfuegos Chamber Orchestra. I found the musicians were very warm hearted and open to learning with little pretension. They are superb musicians with experience in classical music but on a somewhat limited scale, because they have so little access to sheet music.  Because of this they play more contemporary Cuban and other world music. This diverse experience brings something extra to their playing of classical music which I found inspiring.  Overall it was a transformative trip for me musically and I look forward to a return trip!

Evelyn Gottlieb

I am a violinist with the NW Sinfonietta. I had the fantastic opportunity to travel with the orchestra to Cienfuegos, Cuba. I can say this was one of the highlights of my career so far. Meeting musicians from other parts of the world, collaborating with them, learning about their studies and musical life, and learning about their general way of life built a bond and understanding between us that I could not have anticipated. I think the whole group is grateful for our new respect and love for our Cuban colleagues and Cuban people in general.

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