Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Libertyville High School orchestra students head to Cuba

Libertyville High School orchestra students head to Cuba
BY ANNA TARKOV | atarkov@pioneerlocal.com
Updated: March 25, 2013 9:25PM

LIBERTYVILLE — Libertyville High School's orchestra students have
traveled to Greece, Brazil, Italy, Peru, Croatia and even China — but
their latest destination has been many years in the making.

The 28 young musicians, orchestra director Jeremy Marino, and 13 adults
set out on March 23 for a weeklong journey to Cuba. Marino said he has
been trying to make a Cuba trip work for more than a decade.

"In December of 2000 the travel agent and I were talking about China and
how it was a new place to visit and he mentioned Cuba," Marino said.
"I've always been a huge fan of Cuban music so ever since that moment,
I've been checking in with the travel agent to see if it was possible,
if it had opened up."

Because of our country's long-standing embargo on Cuba, travel to the
island requires a license from the U.S. Treasury Department. Marino said
licenses have historically been granted to researchers, educational
groups, religious workers and anyone else who has a purpose for going to
Cuba beyond mere tourism.

In recent years though, those exemptions were hard to come by, he added.
Marino said he even contacted then-Congressman Mark Kirk about how to
get a license and repeatedly asked the travel agent to keep going
through all the necessary steps.

In the winter 2011, he finally got word that another school group had
been allowed to visit and the door was now open.

The next hurdle to clear was gaining approval from the school board.
Marino was pleased to discover that Associate Superintendent Al Fleming
and Libertyville High School Principal Marina Scott had both traveled to
Cuba in the past and were able to reassure the board that it would be a
safe and successful trip.

"It was a matter of having these trusted voices say that everything will
be fine, that they won't be arrested," Marino said.

As with all trips, Marino said has tried to prepare his students for
what they will see and experience while visiting such a foreign country.

"You'll see a lot of poverty and things being run down," he said he has
told the kids. "The important thing is to teach them why things are

Far from shying away from the realities of a much poorer nation, Marino
embraces them. He said that the strong potential for culture shock is
one of the aspects of these trips that he enjoys most.

"I really like that idea of getting off the plane and having that
experience where the kids are saying 'Wow, this is not home,'" he said.
"Everything is new and interesting and different."

Marino said past trips have provided plenty of these teachable moments,
such as performing in a girls' orphanage in Peru. The Cuba trip will be
no different as the students will have an opportunity to, among other
things, play with Cuban music students their own age and play baseball
with some Cuban youngsters. Musical instruments and baseball equipment
will also be donated to the Cuban children.

Senior Jennifer Isaza who plays the violin said she was looking forward
to the trip. Though not a novice to international travel, she said she
was eager because it was likely a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

"I figure this is the only time I'll be able to go to Cuba so I'm really
excited," she said.

Isaza is also eagerly anticipating swimming in the famed Bay of Pigs and
experiencing Cuban music and culture.

Marino said that the students will pay homage to local music by playing
some of it when they perform.

"You always appreciate it when someone is trying to speak your language
and it's the same with music," he said. "Hopefully they will appreciate
our attempts to play a rhumba."

Another violinist, senior Alex Wang, said he was interested in
experiencing a culture where the pace of life is different and a place
that overall differs entirely from a comfortable Chicago suburb.

Isaza and Wang both said traveling abroad was a great way to learn about
other cultures, a way that doesn't compare with sitting in a classroom.

"We study Latin-American cultures in our Spanish class," Wang said. "But
it's a different actually going there instead of reading something in a


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