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How to follow the Minnesota Orchestra in Cuba

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The Minnesota Orchestra landed in Cuba Wednesday afternoon to begin its historic five-day trip to the communist island nation just 90 miles from the coast of Florida.

The orchestra is on a unique musical and diplomatic journey, made possible by the recent thaw in relations between Cuba and the U.S.

Almost everything about the journey is historic.

– The orchestra traveled there on the first direct flight between the Twin Cities airport and Havana. The Customs and Border Patrol recently approved MSP as a “port of entry" to allow the direct flight, at the request of U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota. Travelers going to Cuba have to fly through an official port of entry; other airports with that designation include Atlanta and Miami.

– The group's visit is the first major cultural exchange between the two countries since President Barack Obama announced changes in policy this past December. The Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra was the last major U.S. orchestra to perform in Cuba, in 1999, The Associated Press says.

– It's the first time the Minnesota Orchestra has traveled to Cuba in 85 years. The group last performed in Havana in 1929 and 1930, when it was known as the Minneapolis Symphony.

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Music director Osmo Vänskä and the Minnesota Orchestra will perform as part of Havana’s International Cubadisco Festival – one of the most notable gatherings of the Cuban music industry – with concerts Friday and Saturday evenings that will be broadcast throughout Cuba.

The orchestra’s trip also includes community engagement events with Cuban music schools.

The tour has gained international attention for its political and musical significance for the two nations, which have had an icy relationship since the early 1960s, shortly after Fidel Castro took power and established a communist regime in the nation.

As such, it also has quite a media contingent traveling along, including a reporter from the New York Times.

Several Minnesota media outlets have sent representatives as well, including KSTP, the Star Tribune and Minnesota Public Radio.

MPR has a blog which is being updated regularly, as well as a Tumblr page with tons of photos.

The network has a news reporter there as well as a production crew which will broadcast the concerts live on Friday and Saturday, beginning at 7 p.m. both evenings. Here's more on the live broadcasts.

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