How it began

Submitted by Jeff Goodspeed on Mon, 7 Jul 1997 - 9:12 am

Los Primos - 1996-97 "How it all got started"

How in the world did a group of Nova Scotians become lifelong friends with a group of Cubans?  It's a story of luck, love, laughter and an all-consuming passion for music and the people who make it.  And it all begins with two people from very different backgrounds with a strong social conscience and commitment to action.

Amara and Jeff Goodspeed.

Jeff and AmaraBack before they met, Amara spent 12 winters in Guatemala and Mexico working with survivors of the Civil War that happened in the 80's.  At  approximately the same time, Jeff was travelling the world (including most of South America) working as a musician.

Fast forward to Nova Scotia, 1996. 

Jeff and Amara find themselves billeting people for NSCuba, a Cuban friendship organization in Nova Scotia that is hosting members of ICAP (Cuban Institute for the Friends of the People) and a band from Cienfuegos, Cuba.

The Cuban band played in Halifax at St. Mary's University, the "Church" on North Street and at the LaHave Bakery on the south shore of the province, as well as at other Nova Scotia 'hotspots'. The band had a great trumpeter who could play amazing jazz!  But what was most amazing of all, is that he played it on a 40 year old horn full of holes!! The trumpeter was invited to sit in with Jeff and his group at Maxwell's Plum "Sunday Jazz" and the audience was blown away!  And that's when inspiration hit.  Jeff and Amara teamed up with NSCuba and Musicstop to buy their Cuban friend a new trumpet and other instruments for the band.

And so the story begins.

Not long after that momentous night at Maxwell’s Plum, Jeff who directs the Acadia University Jazz Camp, received a call from long time student Eli Wolpin of St. John NB. Eli had an uncle in upstate New York, who was a retired sax player from Cuba.

Uncle Rafael Quinones was invited to Jazz Camp in 1997 and there have been  Cubans at the camp ever since.

At the Camp’s final concert Jeff said…“Rafael, maybe next year we could bring some Cuban students to the camp.”Everyone cheered!

The day after camp ended, Jeff played a gig for the Canadian Airlines Golf Classic and was determined to find a Cuban connection there. He found Cathy Dunn, a wonderful Newfoundlander, who told him all about her fiancee Silvio Pupo in Holguin, Cuba…a jazz piano player!

Silvio was looking for a fake book and Jeff just happened to have a new copy in the car. The book was soon on its way to Cuba.Silvio now live in Dartmouth and and plays often with Jeff.

Rafael had told everyone at camp about the desperate shortage of instruments in Cuban music schools. Jeff was trying to think of ways to hel the Cuban music students and discouvered that many poeople were keen to help. It was decided to hold a dance to raise awareness and some money to buy instruments.

Rafael returned in Sept…the popular Halifax Dance Band, Salsa Picante joined in…

“CBC Radio helped and we had a party!”...

September 1997 “Salsa Picante at the La Have Bakery” help us raise money to send instruments to Cuba. Jeff described the event...“We had an outrageously good time…“We didn’t make any money...but CBC listeners sent in 12 horns over the next little while and by the time we left for on our first trip to Cuba, we had 18 instruments to take with us.”

And so the “Instruments for Cuba Campaign” was born!