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Georgetown Students and Cuban Musicians Find Common Ground in Beethoven

They'll perform together Saturday.
Georgetown Music Director Angel Gil-Ordóñez conducts students at Georgetown University. Photo courtesy Gil-Ordóñez.

In March, 12 Georgetown University music students went to Cuba to work with musicians at Lyceum Mozartiano de La Habana. This Saturday, the Cuban musicians will return the favor, performing a free concert at Gaston Hall with their DC counterparts. Washingtonian spoke with Georgetown music director and professor Angel Gil-Ordóñez about the program.

How did the idea for this music exchange program come about?

Everything started somehow when the Obama Administration started trying to open a little bit more to Cuba. That was an incredible moment, and I thought, Isn’t this a phenomenal opportunity to put together young Cubans and young Americans for mutual understanding.

How did you choose this school to partner with?

I went to see them work last July and was completely impressed. Our students stayed there during spring break for one week in March. They joined their orchestra and we did a concert together in Havana. We are replicating  the experience on campus with 10 of their musicians. So they are now here joining us for rehearsals, for visits, they’re visiting classes, they’re giving lectures about the music in Havana, they are performing in smaller groups and they are coaching our students.

What are you hoping students not part of the music department and other faculty members will take away from this?

I would say instead of building walls, building bridges. We want to build a path for understanding. We want to be welcoming, we want to be inspired by new ideas, by new cultures.

How did you choose which music to perform?

We decided that Beethoven was a common ground. So that was the piece that actually we shared, that was performed in Cuba and that we will perform here in Georgetown.

What has it been like to put on this program?

It’s been great because as I mentioned before the students have not the level of skills that the Cuban musicians have. To see these kids grow, I mean, being able to practice every day. They are giving 100 percent.

The free concert takes place Saturday, April 22, at 8 p.m. in Gaston Hall.

This interview has been condensed and edited.

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Editorial Fellow

Sydney is an editorial fellow at Washingtonian Magazine, where she writes about history, news, food, and events. A recent graduate of the College of William & Mary, she is interested in writing and videography. You can follow her on Twitter @sydneykmahan