Forty-five band students from Alberni District Secondary School will be spending their March 2016 spring break in Cuba.
After a lot of fundraising and extra rehearsals, band director Michelle Dyler said they will be ready for the busy and long-awaited cultural exchange.
The Grade 10–12 students are part of a small tour band and will spend their time in the country performing, but also taking in what the culture has to offer.
They will have the opportunity to take part in a joint program performance at the Ministry of Culture, participate in a percussion and Latin Rhythms workshop and attend performances by local artists.
Other highlights include a walking tour of Old Town Havana and the Parque Historico del Morro, exchanges to two arts high schools, a salsa dance class, a tour of the Vinales Valley, shopping and swimming.
Dyler hopes the students get the most out of the experience. One eye-opener she said they have been preparing for is humanitarian work at an orphanage.
“The students watched a documentary on Cuba and its history and learned how different the economy is from here,” Dyler said.
“I think they will see how privileged we are here and that we can’t take things like running water and food for granted. They have to be self-reliant because they can’t just buy new things so they fix their instrument reeds and other parts.”
The trip is a first for the band program and was inspired from the experiences of other schools.
“We heard of other school districts doing similar trips and how rewarding and enriching they were,” Dyler said. “So we wanted to try it ourselves.”
To prepare, the various jazz bands have been taking in extra practices before school and at lunch. They have also helped to reduce the costs through bottle drives, chocolate sales, a tag day and Christmas kettles.
The next bottle drive is set for Saturday, Jan. 30 so students are hoping the community saves all the holiday beverage containers until then.
A large contribution students will leave in Cuba is a collection of instruments. They are currently collecting used music supplies and instruments to clean up and fix, which will be used for their own performances before being gifted to locals. Dyler asks if anyone has an instrument to donate, email firstname.lastname@example.org or band director, Margot McNally at email@example.com.