You Can Be a Hero to Cuban Music Students

I’ve learned about a campaign underway to change the lives of Cuban music students that we met during the Minnesota Orchestra’s recent tour to Havana… and I think it will resonate with you, my readers.


Julie Gramolini Williams, Marni Hougham, Lauren Ríos Hernández, and John Snow in Havana.

When the Minnesota Orchestra traveled to Havana for their historic concerts in May, the musicians were deeply impressed with the talent of the students they met, and delighted to work with them.  And as I explained in my recap of the tour, these interactions were life-changing for the students. The musicians didn’t drop by a school for a photo op, or limit themselves to master classes for a few handpicked students. They did much, much more, and it was profoundly humbling to watch. Trombonist Doug Wright, for example, provided mouthpieces for a student to help him with his tone production; others provided students with music scores, valve oil, or even bows.

Well, the musicians are not done yet—they are determined to change even more lives.  And they could use your help.

Let me explain.

While in Cuba, members of the oboe section met and worked with students of a remarkable Cuban colleague, Lauren Ríos Hernández.  Lauren is a member of the Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional de Cuba and has a large oboe studio at the Escuela Nacional de Arte, Havana’s principal music conservatory.

Lauren’s students play with great skill and dedication, despite imperfect instruments and a lack of oboe supplies.  She would like to give them experience on an English horn, but they don’t have one—and have no possibility of buying an instrument.

And this is where the Orchestra musicians came in.

With a little sleuthing, members of the Orchestra’s oboe section located a used Lorée English horn, offered by RDG Woodwinds, Los Angeles, at a generously reduced price of $7,400.

John Snow, Julie Gramolini Williams and Marni Hougham of the Minnesota Orchestra oboe section, and Paula DeCosse, an amateur oboist and friend of the Minnesota Orchestra, have set up a GoFundMe campaign to raise funds to buy the instrument, and have contributed the seed money to make it happen.  In just eight days they have raised over $6,500, but they could use your help in closing the gap—there’s less than $1,000 to go to reach their goal.

If you are interested and able to help, please check out the campaign’s page here.

Many, many thanks to Nancy Huang, the President of RDG Woodwinds in Los Angeles, for making this all possible, and the generosity of our Minnesota Orchestra oboists (and friends!). This instrument is in excellent condition—the Minnesota Orchestra’s very own Marni Hougham has played it on stage.

Thank you for your help—your support will change lives!


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