A DREAM IS BORN
Musical Instruments for Cuba
The First Baptist Church in Matanzas, Cuba was given a gift of money by a Dutch interest to purchase a baby grand piano. They decided to shop in Toronto because of a long-standing relationship with the current minister at Toronto’s College Street United Church. In discussion with the Director of the KAIROS Centre in Matanzas it was decided that rather than shipping just the piano, a 20 foot container filled with musical instruments be sent to provide promising musicians and students in Cuba with their own instrument with which to perfect their skills. The dream was born.
A committee of volunteers, “CUBAbility Friends of Cuba”, was formed. Instruments were collected and shipped; the first container arrived in Havana in August 2013. Following on the success of the first shipment a second container of instruments was sent in December 2015. These instruments have been so well appreciated by the Cubans that a third container has been filled and shipped and has arrived in Matanzas in November 2018
Instruments and their distribution in Cuba
The contents of the combined shipments to date included 28 pianos, eleven large boxes of assorted unidentified percussion instruments. Stringed instruments included a cello, violins, violas, guitars, 63 in all and 60 sets of replacement strings. There were 84 wind and brass instruments consisting of clarinets, oboes, a saxophone, flutes, recorders, cornets, trombones, French horns, harmonicas and a piccolo. In addition there were 46 boxes of spare parts such as reeds, valve oil, mouthpieces, music stands, instrument cases, sheet music, metronomes and piano tuning tools.
Household goods included pillows; sheets towels and blankets (all of which were used to wrap the instruments), boxes of school supplies and toys, several boxes of carpentry tools and 4 sewing machines were also shipped.
The Director of the KAIROS Centre in Matanzas organizes the distribution of the instruments and each student who receives an instrument signs a contract stipulating they will care for the instrument and practice regularly. If they fail to meet the contract terms, the instrument is reassigned. News of this initiative has travelled solely by word-of-mouth in Cuba and the demand for instruments has far exceeded supply. “CUBAbility - Friends of Cuba Committee” received requests for more instruments and by the time the second and third container arrived in Matanzas the KAIROS Centre had received requests for instruments from 56 organizations, including the Union of Artists, Choral groups and the newly refurbished José White concert hall in Matanzas and the newly refurbished Teatro Sauto. As well, over 90 individual students have requested instruments. There are requests for 39 pianos, 37 guitars, 35 music keyboards, 22 violins, 10 base drums, saxophones, string basses and the list goes on. One specific request has now been fulfilled with the inclusion in the third container of an Estonia concert grand piano. This piano worth in excess of $100,000 will be housed in the Teatro Sauto and used for high quality musical performances in the beautiful building where Enrico Caruso once sang many years ago.
Initially, before the musical instrument project was considered, funding for small projects in Cuba consisted of cash donations from a base of about fifty donors. This money supported a rural ministry in Cuatro Esquinas (Four Corners), the Martin Luther King Centre in Havana and provided seed money for a youth exchange.
Fundraising for the instrument project started in the fall of 2012. Over the next 10 months many used instruments were collected and over $16,000 was raised to ship the container in August 2013. In 2014 and the spring of 2015 almost $24,000 was collected to finance the second container. To promote fund raising in 2015 the “Committee” brought “Agua Viva”, a Cuban musical group from Matanzas to perform in Toronto they also helped catalog and pack instruments and other materials for shipment. Bringing Agua Viva to Toronto, generated untold goodwill and interest in the project both in Cuba and Canada. The cost associated with the second shipment of instruments and travel arrangements for Agua Viva was about $21,000 leaving about a $3000 surplus. The funding raised for the third container, over $15,000 has allowed Cubability to Crown the project with the magnificent Estonia concert grand.
Other CUBAbility Committee Activities
In addition to the musical instrument initiative other projects sponsored by “CUBAbility - Friends of Cuba Committee” include:
The KAIROS Centre the Seminario Evangelico de Teologia Matanzas and the CUBAbility Committee will establish and prioritize future projects. Among the proposed projects are:
The modest work of a devoted few has resulted in an incredible bit of international mission work. We did a great deal for Cubans with a relatively small outlay from Canadians. The impact of the musical instruments cannot be exaggerated. Through this initiative new networks have been established here and in Cuba.
The word from Cuba is that the musical instruments project has had wide-ranging effect
The city of Matanzas has come alive to the possibility of great music through students and teachers and bands and orchestras that now have their own instruments. Wanda, the KAIROS Director, continues to affirm how this mission has changed her city for the better.