Long Island Music Students to Visit Cuba

Screen shot 2016-02-05 at 8.16.46 AMSeventy-one members of a Long Island high school’s music program will be using their instruments and voices to bridge the gap between two nations next week.

North Shore High School students will leave Glen Head later this month for Cuba at the invitation of the Caribbean nation’s ministry of cultural affairs.

“The fact that they’re saying, ‘They’re going to Havana’, it just blows your mind,” said band director David Soto.

The North Shore kids will be among the first from the United States to visit Cuba, less than two years after President Obama began restoration of diplomatic ties.

“They will be ambassadors,” said principal Albert Cousins. “They believe they are doing something bigger than themselves.”

The addition of diplomatic responsibilities to their musical ones may seem a lot for a group of teens, but the North Shore kids are embracing the challenge.

“It’ll show people that we can get along,” explained Michael Russo, who plays the viola and sings.

Violinist Nicholetta Royal added, “we’re probably mending foreign tensions the best way that we can. We’re doing it through music and we’re children.”

Ensembles from school’s band, orchestra and choir will perform at three Cuban venues, playing American music that, in all likelihood, audiences there will be hearing live for the first time.

“It’s going to be like going back in a time machine,” said viola player Marianna Hoitt-Lange.

For these students, there is much curiosity and a bit of anxiety leading up to this trip to a once-forbidden land.

Some of the teens’ anxiety centers around the fact that their smartphones probably won’t work.

“Personally, for me, being attached to my phone, I am kind of excited to get away from all that,” said a smiling Nicoletta Royal.

The students will be bringing more than the gift of American music to Cuba.

Each plans to deliver much needed artistic supplies like guitar strings and sketch books to their Cuban high school counterparts.

“We can learn a lot from them even more than they can learn from us,” said clarinet player Lena Kutscher.

Follow the North Shore High School trip to Cuba at NBCNewYork.com the week of Feb. 15.

See video here.

Greg Cergol, www.nbcnewyork.com

February 3, 2016

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