Minnesota Orchestra leaves Cuba on high note after historic trip

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Music was the universal language that bridged together two nations in a symbolic way as the Minnesota Orchestra spent several days in Cuba and performed two sold-out concerts.

The musicians and supporters are returning home to Minnesota Sunday after their historic visit; they are the first U.S. orchestra to perform in Cuba since President Barack Obama announced a thawing of relations with the communist island nation this past December.

It's also the first visit by any U.S. orchestra to Cuba in more than 15 years, according to the New York Times. The last time the Minnesota Orchestra performed in Cuba was in 1930, according to a press release.

The orchestra was part of Havana's International Cubadisco Festival, and it drew more than 2,000 people to the country's national theater for concerts Friday and Saturday, the Star Tribune reports.

Tickets cost 50 cents, with half off for students, according to the New York Times. The shows were broadcast live across Cuba and throughout the U.S. as well.

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Takeaway - the people

Music director Osmo Vänskä wrote in his trip blog what he takes away from this trip extended beyond the stage:

No one in the orchestra is talking about the concerts today. Instead, we’re talking about the people we’ve met here, from students to shopkeepers to cab drivers. We’re talking about the bands that played for us and with us, the kids who came to our final rehearsal and applauded wildly at our awkward first attempt playing a famous Cuban dance tune, the artists at the central market who talked excitedly to us about their lives and work.

The orchestra musicians also visited music students at the Instituto Superior de Arte, a small university in Havana. The students played for musicians, and the musicians played in return.

For more photos, check out the orchestra's web page.

The trip also marks the first major tour for the Minnesota Orchestra after a 16-month lockout, NPR reports.

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