La Vida Es Un Carnaval: Jessie Moran's Reflections On Cuba
My name is Jessie Moran and I am a cellist who teaches at The Long Island Violin Shop. As a student of the Crane School of Music, I had the privilege of studying for one week at the University of Cienfuegos, Cuba.
Aside from playing Cello, Violin, Viola, and Bass, I also enjoy singing. In particular, I found a love of singing Latin music. It was my passion for Latin Music that led me to the incredible experiences I had singing with Crane’s Latin Ensemble - and the opportunity to take a trip of a lifetime to Cuba.
The Latin Ensemble is led by Drs. Masha Baster and Peter McCoy, with assistance from manager Jordan Olinsky. This amazing team, leading a talented group of wind, percussion, brass, piano and vocal artists, worked tirelessly to arrange a unique cultural exchange with the University of Ceinfuegos. I thought I loved Latin music before, and during my time with the ensemble, but I never appreciated the genre the way I did in Cuba. The people, the culture, the food, and most importantly the music, were unlike anything I have ever experienced before.
Although this seemed like a fun vacation, it was a lot of hard work. Each day, the University hosted us for rehearsals, music classes, and dance lessons. It was incredible to work with the professors and students and see the way they tackle their difficult rhythms.
One thing I discovered in Cuba was that mostly everyone knew how to dance. Some dances we got to learn were mambo, salsa, and cha-cha. Learning these dances helped the ensemble rhythmically and stylistically, and made performing the music more fun! We also got to apply the dances we learned at all of the performances we were able to attend.
We spent a lot of time in the evenings at the Benny More club in the plaza of Cienfuegos where we saw professional musicians play all different styles of Latin music. Some of the members of the ensemble even had the opportunity to play along with the incredibly talented musicians. All of the musicians we met were very excited to have us and all of the people of Cienfuegos welcomed us with open arms.
One memory I will never forget was when the Crane Latin Ensemble was performing “La Vida Es Un Carnaval” at our performance at the university. As soon as we played the first measure, everyone in the audience stood up and started to cheer and dance. It was such a privilege to be able to speak to the students and audience members culturally through music. I hope to one day be able to revisit Cienfuegos and be part of something that exquisite one more time! It was an honor to be able to exchange music and culture with such an incredible country.
“Ay, no hay que llorar
Que la vida es un carnival
Que es más bello vivir cantando”
-La Vida Es Un Carnaval, Celia Cruz
“Ah, (there is) no need to cry
Because life is a carnival
And song makes life lovelier”