Illustration: Mayo Bous
Illustration: Mayo Bous

What to do to study music in Cuba?

8 minutos / Darsi Fernández

01.11.2019 / Articles

Every now and then someone asks me the question that appears in the title, usually it is someone I know whose son or daughter excels by their musical talent very soon -or so their parents think. I have the impression that it is not easy to find complete and organized information about it, so here are some general comments about specialized music teaching on the Island, some possible options and useful contacts.

Cuba has a long tradition of musical education, with its beginnings in the early 20th century, and has seen -as founders, pedagogues and teachers of different specialties- such relevant names as Hubert de Blanck, Jose Ardevol, Harold Gramatges, Argeliers Leon, Edgardo Martin, Maria Antonieta Henriquez, Leo Brouwer, Roberto Valera, and a long and impressive list of etceteras, and as students -and in most cases also teachers in different stages- some of the most relevant musicians and instrumentalists of our country.

Formal music education in Cuba has three levels: Elementary Level (which is equivalent and simultaneous with Primary Education), Middle Level (which is equivalent and simultaneous with Middle Education), and Higher Level (Bachelor's Degree).

Music education is institutionalized and, like regular education, is free of charge in Cuba for Cuban citizens and permanent residents. This is not the case for foreigners or non-resident Cubans.

When someone is going to learn to play an instrument (except in cases such as piano), the principle is that the school provides one for each student as a free usufruct. The instruments are not of first quality and almost always they are second hand, but they are worthy considering that most of them have been imported or arrived as part of donations by conservatories or schools abroad, governments, NGOs and even musicians passing through.

There are elementary-level music schools in practically the whole country. Not all of them offer all the specialties, but certainly the basic ones: string instruments (violin, viola, violoncello, double bass), piano, singing, guitar, wind instruments (trumpet, saxophone, trombone, flute) and percussion. The middle level is also studied in almost all provinces, although in some there are only Art Instructors Schools, which prepare students not for instrumentalists or conservatory teachers, but for Music teachers in regular schools. The higher level (Bachelor's Degree) can only be studied in Havana (for all specialties), and in Camagüey, Holguin or Santiago de Cuba for some of them, and it is the only level whose classes can be taken either completely in person (5 days a week) or by meetings (1 or 2 days a week).

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

The calls for applications are open and are made through the mass media. Whichever instrument the budding talent intends to learn to play, he/she must take an aptitude test, which usually has two phases: the first one, called workshop, acts as a first filter to define those children with real physical abilities, skills and aptitudes for music, and the second is a test that evaluates more seriously the musicality and rhythm of the aspirants. The results (in the form of passing lists) are usually displayed on public murals in the music schools of each province or municipality, as the case may be. The number of students joining the system each year in September fluctuates depending on the medium-term needs of the musical groups in each territory, and also on the availability of teachers and/or instruments by specialty.

Once the children begin to formally study music, they have a rigorous system of evaluation for instruments and several theoretical subjects, in addition to the classes of Mathematics, Languages, Science, etc., which in the language of the music schools are called "schooling". At the end of each level they do what is known as a "level pass examination", which consists of assembling, rehearsing, and playing a complete program that usually includes studies and the most complex pieces that they are capable of interpreting using the skills they have learned up to that point. Only when this phase and the other school subjects are passed, the students will be able to continue their formal music studies. Otherwise, they can be inserted at any time to the corresponding course in regular education.

If the child did not begin to study in the music school at the elementary level, he/she can join the middle level, as long as he/she has passed the ninth grade of regular education and passes the music admission exam. Also, in order to enter the higher level, they must have satisfactorily completed the intermediate level of music (including the level pass examination), and the entrance examinations for Spanish and History; or have completed pre-university and passed the entrance examination for Mathematics, Spanish and History, in addition to a very rigorous exam for the music specialty they intend to study. Additionally, the students who enter formal music education directly at the higher level, are required to be no more than 25 years of age and possess an academic index equal to or higher than 85 points as an average in the intermediate level. A Provincial Selection Committee defines who enters the Bachelor's Degree in Music. This, regarding to formal and institutionalized education, which, in Cuba, is governed by the National Center of Art Schools (CNEART) for elementary and middle school education, and by the Ministry of Higher Education (MES) and the Ministry of Culture, for the higher level.

It is also possible to study music with teachers out of this institutional system. One of the activities expressly authorized as Self-Employment (TCP) in Cuba is 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 consulted data, there are about 460 music and other arts teachers authorized to perform this activity on their own.

The practice of "training" the children under tutors 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 tutor to give what we call private tutoring (generally at the teacher's house, although there are some who go to the student's house). These tutors prepare the children and guarantee that they improve certain basic skills or knowledge. It is also becoming more and more common for parents to decide to "reinforce" the learning process of the instrument or complex subjects such as harmony or solfeggio during any level, with tutors during the student's extracurricular hours. The price of private music lessons for Cubans ranges from 1 USD to 5 USD per class, depending on the level, the subject, the teacher and the geographical area.

Foreigners who are not permanent residents in Cuba can also choose to study in the organized system of music education by levels, and also look for 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). Fees, on the other hand, depend on the type of course, its duration, the disciplines the foreign student is interested in studying, and other variables, so it is recommended to contact directly by phone or e-mail.

Finally, for those foreigners passing through, who do not know musicians or music teachers, and are looking for consultations or a course of a few days with teachers of good level, we recommend Havana Music Schoolwhich offers a personalized teaching program and information on 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]

Darsi Fernández

Abogada. Hipervinculadora. Madre de un violinista. Organizadora nata. Mala memoria solo para lo que le conviene. Sueña con jubilarse a leer.

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    Leave a comment

    Félix Rivas

    21.03.2020

    Hola hola,tengo 15 años y llevo 3 meses estudiando particularmente piano, pero por problema de la escuela el la que estaba tuve que abandonarla en el 10mo grado pero no sé si puedo acceder a alguna escuela de arte para tomar licenciatura estuve leyendo pero no sé, tengo mis dudas

    Magazine AM:PM

    16.09.2020

    Hola Félix, gracias por leer Magazine AM:PM. Nuestra recomendación es que llames al Centro Nacional de escuelas de Arte (tienes los teléfonos encima, pidas con algún especialista y expliques tu caso. Saludos y suerte en tu vida y tus sueños de continuar estudios de música.

    Yetzenia Richardson

    25.09.2020

    Hola 👋🏼 mi pasión es la música 🎶 y la verdad deseo mucho estudiarla y crear mi vínculo con ella, no he tenido suerte y no he podido ingresar en ninguna escuela pero mis ganas d hacer música son inmensas me puede ayudar por favor para poder encaminarme… es lo q mas quiero pq hay es donde siento q esta mi sitio

    Magazine AM:PM

    25.09.2020

    Hola Yetzenia. Ante todo, gracias por leer nuestro Magazine y por escribirnos. Somos solamente una revista que habla de música cubana pero no formamos parte de ninguna institución formal responsable de la enseñanza musical en Cuba. Al final del artículo aparecen los teléfonos de las instituciones que son responsables de estos asuntos. Estamos segurxs, eso sí, que, con la vocación que dices tener, ya sea a través de estudios formales, o de manera privada o de modo autodidacta, puedes llegar a realizar el sueño de tu vida. No te desanimes.

    Juan Salvador López

    28.09.2020

    Hola, soy un joven colombiano de 17 años, interpretó el violonchelo hace 4 años en el conservatorio de la universidad Nacional de Colombia. M gustaría estudiar en Cuba. Que debo hacer?

    Magazine AM:PM

    29.09.2020

    Hola Juan Salvador, gracias por leernos! Al final del artículo están los teléfonos de las instituciones que son responsables de estos asuntos. Te recomendamos llamar para aclarar cualquier duda!

    Heidy Carvajal Vega

    14.10.2020

    Hola tengo 14 años y siempre quise aprender violín se un poco pero quiero cuando termine noveno grado estudiar en una escuela de música porfa me pueden ayudar?? Quiero mucho vincularme a la música.

    Magazine AM:PM

    15.10.2020

    Hola Heidy; gracias por escribirnos. Nuestra revista no pertenece al sistema institucional de la música en Cuba y por tanto no tenemos la posibilidad de ayudarte como nos gustaría. Lo más que podemos hacer es recomendarte que llames al Centro Nacional de Escuelas de Arte y a la ENA (ambos teléfonos están en el recuadro amarillo de encima. Ellos deben poder orientarte. De todos modos, si tienes una verdadera vocación, también están los profesores particulares; no cejes en tu empeño de hacer música.

    JOSE CORDOVA

    03.11.2020

    SOY ECUATORIANO Y QUIERO ESTUDIAR CANTO TENGO EXPERIENCIA .SE PUEDE ESTUDIAR ON LINE Y EN CASO DE SER POSIBLE COMO LO PODRIA HACER.

    Luis Alberto Soto

    19.11.2020

    Buenas tardes ,mi nombre es Luis Alberto quisiera tener la oportunidad de estudiar música con uds.
    Tengo 59 años y vivo en Bogotá Colombia.

    Magazine AM:PM

    22.11.2020

    Hola Luis Alberto, muchas gracias por leernos. Nuestra revista no pertenece al sistema institucional de la música en Cuba y por tanto no tenemos la posibilidad de ayudarte como nos gustaría. Lo más que podemos hacer es recomendarte que llames al Centro Nacional de Escuelas de Arte y a la ENA (ambos teléfonos están en el recuadro amarillo de encima. Ellos deben poder orientarte. Suerte!

    Ester Ortiz

    18.12.2020

    Hola yo soy una estudiante actual de la escuela nacional de música de Nicaragua, yo estudio música desde que tenia 8 años y soy estudiante actual de violín y me gustaría estudiar en Cuba, para profesionalizar un poco mas la carrera de violín; llevo 5 años estudiando violín contando este año, y me gustaría empezar a estudiar en un ambiente más estricto, me podrían dar un consejo para lograr lo que quiero.

    Magazine AM:PM

    28.12.2020

    Hola, gracias por leernos! Al final del artículo están los teléfonos de las instituciones que son responsables de estos asuntos. Te recomendamos llamar para aclarar cualquier duda!

    Chavelys Melany

    03.01.2021

    Hola a mi me encanta la música y la verdad me encantaría acceder a una escuela de música. Tengo 14 años ustedes me pueden recomendar una escuela

    Chavelys Melany

    03.01.2021

    Hola tengo 14 años y me encanta cantar aunque nunca he ido a una escuela de canto pero las personas cuando me escuchan dicen que lindo cantas. y me gustaría acceder a una escuela de música.

    Marco antonio Muñoz ayala

    08.01.2021

    Buenos días quisiera saber si hay becas para estudiar en su institución soy natural de Perú y tengo 26 años

    Jesús María Martínez

    14.01.2021

    Cordial saludo
    Estoy interesado en tomar un curso de flauta traversa allá en la Isla. Tengo 64 años y me gustaría ir a Cuba para conocer el país y de paso estudiar música.
    Agradezco lal información

    Un abrazo

    Sheilla

    08.06.2021

    Hola, tengo 21 años y estoy estudiando una carrera universitaria , pero desearía mucho aprender a tocar un instrumento , ya sea piano o violín, debí hacerlo desde niña teniendo en cuenta que siempre me he inclinado por las artes espontáneamente y hasta hoy eso no ha cambiado. Agradecería que alguien me informase si fuera posible realizar mi deseo… y me orientara. Gracias.

    Sulema

    10.08.2021

    Quisiera saber los requisitos para postular en la carrera de música en especialización producción musical

    Ernesto

    14.10.2021

    Hola, deseo estudiar guitarra, como principiante, desde cero, de preferencia en Santiago de cuba, soy una persona adulta, me podrian proporcionar un correo o numero de whatsap, para facilitar la comunicación con los profesores???

    Belinda Afa Perez

    25.11.2021

    Hola mi niño tiene 8 años ahora pasa para 4to grado. Quisiera saber cómo puedo prepararlo para la escuela de música. A el le gusta la guitarra tenemos una en casa y el estudia por vídeos de internet. Gracias


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