Minnesota Orchestra takes off on flight to Cuba

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The Minnesota Orchestra took off on a flight to Cuba this morning to perform a pair of concerts on May 15 and 16. They are the first U.S. orchestra to visit Cuba since President Obama took steps to normalize relations between the countries in December 2014

"Eighty-five years ago, the Minnesota Orchestra, then called the Minneapolis Symphony, performed Beethoven's music for Cuban audiences," Music Director Osmo Vänskä said. "It is a thrill and privilege for us to do the same so many decades later. So much has transpired; so much has changed in the world since then. What has remained constant is the power of this music to affect and build bonds between audiences and performers."

The orchestra received an invitation from the Cuban Ministry of Culture in February to play at the 19th annual International Cubadisco Festival in Havana. Both concerts will be played at one of Cuba's largest theaters, Teatro Nacional.

"We are humbled to be a part of the exciting process of reestablishing America's cultural ties with the nation of Cuba," Concertmaster Erin Keefe said. "This tour represents a unique chance to bring two cultures together through music, and we could not be more grateful for the opportunity."

The trip is being funded as a gift from Marilyn Nelson and her husband Glen Nelson. Marilyn, chairwoman of Carlson Cos., serves as a Life Director on the Orchestra Board.

"This initiative will demonstrate the power of music to offer extraordinary opportunities for cultural exchange," Marilyn said.