Spotlight on EdCC: Salsa band visits Cuba

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All photos courtesy John Sanders.

Edmonds Community College’s jazz and salsa band under the direction of music faculty John Sanders returned this week from a trip to Cuba. The instructor provided this report:

“Our trip to Cuba is the continuation of developing the Salsa music program at Edmonds Community College. I was very fortunate to have been granted a sabbatical in 2014 during which I lived for four months in Puerto Rico studying Salsa piano and composition. I returned to the college in the fall of 2014 and started the Salsa program, including the Salsa band. When President Obama softened the U.S./Cuba relationship in 2015 I started thinking about a trip for the band. Later that year I learned that a mentor of mine, New York percussionist Memo Acevedo, had lead a group of musicians to Cuba. I called Memo and we started to put the trip together.

“The source of what we call Salsa music are the Son (sounds like “bone”) and Rumba styles of Cuba. There have been many contributions from elsewhere in the Caribbean and U.S., but it all starts with Cuba. We traveled to Cuba during the Fiesta del Tambor (Festival of the Drum) and heard these Cuban musics first hand, as well as many contemporary styles fused with jazz, rock, and pop music.

“We were a group of 13 students, myself (director), fellow music faculty Chad Walker, EdCC vice-president of instruction Charlie Crawford, and community member Cesar Quintero. In addition to the festival, we also visited ISA (Instituto Superior de Arte), a state-run art college in Havana.

“I will remember the response of the students. This is also what I loved the most about the trip. The students were so thoroughly inspired, not only to come back and make music, but inspired to travel, to maybe even consider studying music in Cuba, to teach, to someday lead their students on a similar trip. They spent a week in a country so different from their own. Through mine and Memo’s connections, they were able to mingle daily with world-class Latin musicians. They exchanged music and laughter with Cuban music students from ISA. They are coming back to Edmonds with a little more authenticity in their Salsa style and a broader world view. Ultimately, they learned the immense power of music – how it transcends national boundaries and unifies people in celebration. Having so little in their lives, the Cubans are very good at this.”

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