Enseñanza musical en Cuba. Ilustración: Mayo Bous / Magazine AM:PM.

What to do to study music in Cuba?

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Every time I receive the question that appears in the title, usually from someone I know whose son or daughter has been uncovered from the early years with musical talent - or so her parents believe. I have the impression that it is not easy to find this complete and organized information, so here are some general comments about the specialized teaching of music on the Island, some possible options and useful contacts.

Cuba has a long tradition of musical education, with its dawn at the beginning of the 20th century, and has seen passing - as founders, pedagogues and professors of different specialties - to names as relevant as Hubert de Blanck, José Ardévol, Harold Gramatges, Argeliers León , Edgardo Martín, María Antonieta Henríquez, Leo Brouwer, Roberto Valera, and a long and impressive etcetera, and as students - and in most cases also teachers at different stages - to some of the most relevant musicians and instrumentalists of our country .

Formal music education has three levels here: Elementary Level, (which coincides and is simultaneous with Primary Education), Middle Level (which coincides and is simultaneous with Secondary and Pre-University studies), and Higher Level (Bachelor).

Music education is institutionalized and, like basic education, it is free in Cuba for Cuban citizens and permanent residents in Cuba. Not so for foreigners or non-resident Cubans.

When someone is going to study an instrument (except in cases like the piano), the principle is that the school provides one for each student in a condition of free usufruct. The instruments are not of the highest quality and almost always in use, but they are worth considering that the majority must be imported or have arrived as part of donations made to the country by conservatories or schools abroad, governments, NGOs and even musicians from He passed.

There are elementary level music schools in virtually the entire country. Not all of them study all the specialties, but surely there are the basic ones: string instruments (violin, viola, cello, double bass), piano, singing, guitar, wind instruments (trumpet, saxophone, trombone, flute) and percussion. The average level is also studied in almost all provinces, although in some there are only Art Instructor Schools, which prepare students not only for instrumentalists or teachers of conservatories but for teachers of Musical Education in basic education. The upper level (Bachelor) can only be studied in Havana (for all specialties), and in Camagüey, Holguin or Santiago de Cuba for some, and is the only level whose classes can be taken either in person (day courses) ) or by encounters.

To enter the elementary level of music, interested children must have passed the 2nd grade of primary school in the case of the so-called long careers (piano, violin, and cello); for the rest, they must have passed the 4th grade of primary school (short careers).

The calls are open and are made by mass media. Whichever instrument you intend to study budding talent, you must take an aptitude test, which usually has two phases: the first one they call a workshop, in which a kind of the first filter is done to define those children with true physical abilities, skills, and aptitudes for music, and the second is an exam that evaluates a bit more seriously the musicality and rhythm of the applicants. The results (in the form of approved lists) are usually shown on public murals in the music schools of each province or municipality, as the case may be. The number of students who join the system each year in September fluctuates depending on the medium-term needs in the musical groups of each territory, and also on the availability of teachers and/or instruments by specialty.

Once the boys begin to formally study music, they have a rigorous system of evaluation by instruments and several theoretical subjects, in addition to the classes of Mathematics, Languages, Sciences, etc., which in the language of the music schools they call "de scholarship". At the end of each level, they do what is known as a "level pass", which consists of assembling, rehearsing, and playing a complete program that usually includes studies and works of the most complex that are capable of interpreting with the skills learned there. Only when - in addition to passing grade - this phase is approved, can formal music studies continue. Otherwise, they can be inserted at any time to the corresponding course in basic education.

If the child did not begin to study institutionally at the elementary level, he can join the middle level, provided he has passed the ninth grade of general training and passes the music entrance exam. In turn, to study the higher level, they must have successfully completed the average level of music (including the level pass test), and the Spanish and History entrance exams; or have completed the pre-university and pass the entrance exams of Mathematics, Spanish and History, in addition to the very rigorous ones of the musical specialty that it intends. Additionally, for this type of student who joins formal music education directly at the higher level, it is required that he be no more than 25 years of age and have an academic index equal to or greater than 85 points on average in the Medium level concluded. A Provincial Income Commission defines who is approved to begin studying the Bachelor of Music. This, regarding formal and institutionalized education, which is governed in Cuba by the National Center of Art Schools (CNEART) for elementary and secondary education, and by the Ministry of Higher Education (MES) and the Ministry of Culture together, for the upper level.

You can also study music legally with teachers outside this institutional system. One of the activities expressly authorized to perform as Self-Employed Work (TCP) in Cuba is that of a Professor of music and other arts (sic). Thus, both Cubans and interested foreigners can directly hire the services of a music teacher, who must be licensed by the Ministry of Labor for the activity. According to data consulted, there are about 460 teachers of music and other arts authorized to perform this activity on their own.

The practice of "preparing" with "private" teachers to children for the initial examination of the elementary level in the formal or institutional system is widespread. As soon as parents detect a certain talent or vocation, they look for a teacher who teaches, outside the formal system of music education, what we call private lessons (usually in the teacher's home, although some move home from the student). These preliminary teachers provide the child with a preparation that guarantees certain basic skills or knowledge. It is also becoming increasingly common for parents to decide to "reinforce" the process of learning the instrument or complex subjects such as harmony or music theory during any of the levels, with private teachers in the student's extracurricular schedule. The price of private music lessons for Cubans ranges between 1 CUC and 5 CUC per class, depending on the level, the subject, the teacher and the geographical area.

Foreigners who are not permanent residents in Cuba may also choose to study in the organized music education system by levels, and also manage summer workshops and short courses; The methodology is legislated in detail in Resolution No. 26 of 2012 of the Ministry of Higher Education (Regulations for foreign students in Cuban education centers). The fees, on the other hand, depend on the type of course, its duration, the disciplines that interest the foreign student, and other variables, so it is recommended to establish contact directly via telephone or email.

Finally, for those foreigners passing through, who do not directly know musicians or music teachers, and who are looking to make inquiries or receive a few days course with good teachers, we recommend Havana Music School, which offers this type of tailored teaching and information about cultural options once in Cuba.

More info:

Centro Nacional de Escuelas de Arte (CNEART)
Calle 90 A # 9005 esq. 5ta. C, Miramar, Playa, La Habana C.P. 11 600.
Teléfonos: (+53) 7 202 1629 / 7 204 0047

Escuela Nacional de Música (ENA)
Calle 120 e/ 9na y 11, Cubanacán, Playa, La Habana.
Teléfono: (+53) 7 208 4831 y 7 208 0243

Universidad de las Artes (ISA). Facultad de Música
Calle 120, No 904, e/ 9na y 23, Cubanacán, Playa, La Habana.
Website: http://www.isa.cult.cu/pregrado/facultad-de-musica/
Teléfono: (+53) 7 208 0704 E-mail: [email protected]; [email protected]

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