Illustration: Mayo Bous
Illustration: Mayo Bous

What to do to study music in Cuba?

8 minutos / Darsi Fernández

01.11.2019 / Articles

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.

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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.
Teléfono: (+53) 7 208 0704 E-mail: [email protected]; [email protected]

Darsi Fernández

A lawyer. Hyperlinker Teen violinist mother. Organizer cream. Bad memory only for what suits you. Dream of retiring to read.

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    Félix Rivas


    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


    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


    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


    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


    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


    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


    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


    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.




    Luis Alberto Soto


    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


    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


    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


    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


    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


    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


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

    Jesús María Martínez


    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



    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.

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