Travel Diary: NJSO donors enjoy trip to Cuba

Feb 11, 2014

A group of NJSO donors in the Orchestra’s Amadeus Circle giving society has embarked on a five-day, four-night cultural tour of Cuba. On a trip arranged through The Latino Institute, 18 travelers will tour Havana and visit landmarks and attractions including the Museo Nacional de Música in Old Havana, Instituto Cubano de la Música and Hemingway’s home outside of Havana, Finca Vigía. They will attend performances by both the Ballet and Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional de Cuba and will enjoy presentations on authentic Cuban arts and crafts.

NJSO Director of Development Alicia Benoist is chronicling the experience as the tour unfolds, so check back in this space for dispatches from the trip!

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February 11, 2014


Amadeus Circle leader Anna Drago in front of a home that has been maintained and made into a high-end, state-owned restaurant. She is posing by the Japanese “folly” that looks out at the Gulf of Mexico and back on the Miramar section of Havana.

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February 10, 2014


Who knew Mozart was a citizen of Salzburg AND Havana? Amadeus Circle members pose in Old Havana with the composer who inspired the NJSO donor society’s name.


Our very own REACH! Members of the National Orchestra of Cuba played for us; the program included “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and “As Time Goes By.”

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February 8, 2014

UPDATE: The travelers enjoyed an evening at the Ballet Nacional.


Pictured: The NJSO travelers at the Hotel Nacional on their way to the ballet.


Amadeus Circle members Alan and Hope (“Esperanza”) Danzis at the Ballet Nacional de Cuba. The strong and graceful dancers offered a pastiche of favorite scenes from Swan Lake, The Nutcracker, Don Quixote, etc. The legendary director Alicia Alonso was in the house tonight!


Pictured: NJSO Chief Financial Officer Roxanne Kam finds another Beatles-inspired site.

ORIGINAL POST: The Amadeus Circle travelers toured Finca Vigía, Hemingway’s home outside of Havana.


Pictured: the group outside of Finca Vigía.


Benoist writes:

Here we are at the Hemingway house with some of his favorite things. We are in front of Hemingway’s boat Pilar. In the foreground are the graves of Ernest’s beloved dogs.

CUBA_Feb_8_-_Hemingway_house_dining_room.JPGPictured: the dining room at Finca Vigía.

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February 7, 2014

UPDATE: Benoist writes that the group enjoyed an evening at the Tropicana cabaret and club in Havana.

Feb_7_-_Tropicana_dancer1.JPG   Feb_7_-_Tropicana_-_AC_member_Lee_Blair_with_dancer.JPG

Amadeus Circle member Lee Blair was plucked from the audience and strutted his stuff on stage with the dancers.


In honor of the NJSO’s Beatles concerts this weekend, we stopped at the John Lennon statue in Havana. There is a guard whose job is to make sure Lennon’s glasses are safe—he puts the spectacles on the statue when visitors come and removes them when they leave. Though Cuba is very safe, John’s glasses had been stolen repeatedly.

ORIGINAL POST: NJSO Director of Development Alicia Benoist writes in from Havana:

We have all safely arrived in Havana, Cuba, and have checked in at the Hotel Nacional, the beautiful, historic Unesco world-heritage site built in the 1930s by infamous mobster Myer Lansky. Some rooms have plaques inside am outside to commemorate the various luminaries who have slept in the rooms. How fitting that I get to stay in Pablo Casals’ room. I am thrilled! Music is all around.

We just enjoyed a family-style dinner over looking the Gulf of Mexico with a peacock in the tree squawking as he looked down on us.


Pictured: Amadeus Circle leader Joe Nadler jams with conservatory students from the National School of Music.

At this morning’s visit to the National School of Music, we heard talented conservatory students play traditional Cuban music. Amadeus Circle leader Joe Nadler sat in with the group for a fabulous spontaneous jam session that wowed everyone in the place!

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February 6, 2014

The winter storms that have blanketed the Northeast caused airlines to cancel thousands of flights this week, but after some maneuvering, the travelers met up in Miami, Florida, to make their charter flight to Havana in decidedly warmer weather!

Pictured: travelers on the NJSO donor trip to Cuba prepare to board their flight from Miami to Havana.

Learn more about the Amadeus Circle.