Performance at Main Street Arts to benefit Cuban music schools


SAXTONS RIVER — The Vermont Jazz Center 6tet will play jazz standards and original works at Main Street Arts in Saxtons River on Monday, Dec. 28 at 7:30 p.m. in a benefit for Cuban music schools. The performance is being organized by organized by "Arts Bring Connection," a charity designed to bring the Cubans and Americans together through music and the arts.

Created by Mary Hepburn, the founder and former Director of Main Street Arts, Arts Bring Connection will be taking a group of twenty-one artists and musicians to area schools and conservatories in the city of Santiago de Cuba on Jan. 6. The group includes professionals in the areas of classical, jazz, early music, traditional music and visual arts. They will be visiting and collaborating with students and teachers and bringing along hard-to-obtain musical instruments, instrument repair kits, and art supplies. ABC also hopes to fund a scholarship for a Cuban student to travel to Boston for summer study.

Hepburn visited Cuba in July and said, "When I was there I was astounded by how much the students and teachers did with so little."

6tet member Bill Ballard says that audience members "will be in for a treat and for a good cause." According to Ballard, the 6tet focuses on the music of the "modern jazz" era from the 1940s onward. The Vermont Jazz Center 6tet consists of Rob Freeberg on trumpet, Jim Heffron on the tenor Sax, Bill Ballard on alto sax, Cathy Martin on the piano, with William Auer on bass, and Mike Patek on drums.

A mix of advanced students and instructors, "We all met through the VJC's regular Wednesday night Jam Sessions, said Ballard. "Since the spring of 2013, we have been rehearsing and playing on a regular basis, arranging our own music and taking our band to local schools and other venues ever since."

According to VJC Director Eugene Uman, "The musicians in the VJC Sextet are some of VJC's best, Their selection of tunes is catchy, varied and accessible and their arrangements are complex and interesting. Their blend is finely tuned and beautiful." Uman said that the 6tet have been great ambassadors for jazz in the region, "We are very proud of them."

Hepburn noted that the ABC visit comes at a time when relations with Cuba are being normalized after more than fifty years. "When I was in Cuba earlier to lay the groundwork for this program, I was at a private home as they announced the resumption of diplomatic relations between the US and Cuba. You should have seen the joy on the face of our host when she gave us the news."

ABC will be visiting and collaborating with teachers and students at Conservatorio Estaban Salas, a high school music conservatory; Escula Vocacional de Arts, "Jose Maria Heredia", a school for art, music, and dance; and Academia de Artes Plasticas, "Jose Joaquin Tejada," a visual arts high school. Some of the supplies and instruments have been donated directly with the rest being purchased with funds raised by ABC's "GoFundMe" crowd-funding website.

Admission to the Monday's concert is by donation. Event organizer Jill Newton said that she didn't want there to be a price barrier preventing anyone from attending but did note, "ABC will also have a filmmaker who will document the trip. Donations of $100 or more will be rewarded with a copy of the documentary film!"

MSA's Artistic director David Stern, said, "I recently learned that Mary Hepburn was named "Citizen Cool by Ben and Jerry's a few years ago in recognition of the cool things she does to make the world a better place. This project is yet another example of it. I hope the community turns out in force to support this project. They should enjoy some great music while they are here."

For more information, about the concert, contact Jill Newton at 802-869-2960 or via

About Arts Bring Connection

The brainchild of Main Street Arts founder Mary Hepburn, Arts Bring Connection is dedicated to using arts and music to build ties between the American and Cuban people. To learn more, go to,

About the Vermont Jazz Center

Under the direction of Eugene Uman, the Vermont Jazz Center is dedicated to creating and preserving jazz through the presentation of workshops, concerts, and instruction to a broad constituency of artists, students, and the general public.

Founded in 1988, Main Street Arts is a non-profit arts center dedicated to serving the creative needs of the area. We encourage creative expression through a full range of artistic experiences.


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