PlazaCUBA’s Music Explorations in
Havana in partnership with BHS Jazz 

The BHS Jazz Ensemble went to Cuba in January 2016. This recent trip to Cuba, as well as the trips in 2012 and 2014, was organized and operated by PlazaCUBA ( under an educational people to people license issued by the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control. PlazaCUBA set up a wonderful educational tour for the ensemble students filled with interactions with Cuban high school music students and professional  musicians.

The BHS Jazz Ensemble was invited back to collaborate with the premier conservatory of music in Cuba, the Escuela Nacional de las Artes (the “ENA”). The ENA is a very large high school for music and art in Havana. BHS Ensemble students played music with ENA students, visited academic classes and participated in many sectional workshops with amazing Cuban musicians.

Our relationship with ENA is part of BHS Jazz’s ongoing mission to celebrate cultural diversity and our trip to Cuba is part of an ongoing mission  to learn about the African roots of jazz.

While we ask the families of our students to pay 50% of the cost of international  trips, many families are unable to do so. With your support, every Ensemble student was able to go on this life-changing trip, regardless of their ability to pay.

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CUBA June 2012

The BHS Jazz Ensemble went to Cuba in 2012 and below are a few media reports on the band and the trip.

Listen to NPR’s piece on the band’s trip to Cuba.

Read Oakland Tribune’s article about the 2012 trip to Cuba.

Watch KPIX CBS news article on the 2012 Cuba trip.


CUBA Feb. 2014

Here are some messages from the Ensemble members while they were in Cuba in Feb 2014 (check out the Berkeley High Jazz Face Book page for even more):

(Feb 16, 2014)
Today we went to the Museum of the Revolution in downtown Havana and those who had been to that museum two years ago went to the Cuban art museum instead. We then went to the Callejon de Hamel, which was an exciting outdoor rumba party in an alley decorated by an artist named Salvador Gonzáles Escalona. If the footage is good a video will be uploaded soon of that performance!…Tonight we’re going back to Cafe Miramar, and tomorrow we’re going to school in Cuba!!! There will be lots to report about our experiences at the ENA tomorrow!

Max Schwartz

Hello everybody! (Feb 15, 2014)

We’re back at the hotel again after going to Matanzas today to explore the town and to meet the world-renowned Muñequitos de Matanzas, one of the most beloved rumba bands of all time, who taught us about the history of rumba and playing percussion in a Latin band. … Tonight we’re off to hear Interactivo, one of the most killing Latin pop bands in Havana! We will be going to the ENA starting Monday, so stay tuned for more reports!


Dear Friends and Family (Feb 14, 2014)

Our flights to Mexico City and Havana were painless! Upon arriving at the sweltering airport in Cuba we boarded our tour bus and went to the beautiful Hotel Copacubana. Some of us went to the pool as soon as possible after getting here because the weather was just too nice not to! We ended up staying here at the hotel tonight because everyone was super tired after being in transport for 15 hours. Tomorrow we’re off to Mattanzas to learn about the history of rumba! More info to follow!

Max Schwartz and the BHS Jazz Ensemble


CUBA 2016

Tales from Cuba 2016

Cuba 2016 Pictures Compilation

Videos from Cuba 2016