‘Cuba’s Violin’ documents a musical journey connecting two nations


José Osvaldo Hunter Hernández practices the violin.
José Osvaldo Hunter Hernández practices the violin. Courtesy of Maya Albanese and Antoine Goldet

José Osvaldo is a talented young violinist at Almadeo Roldan, a prestigious music conservatory in Havana, but he does not have his own instrument.

“I would love to represent my country’s music in the world,” says Osvaldo, who studies with a Czech violin that he must return after he graduates. “It's very sad after so many years of practice, effort and sacrifice not being able to exercise your profession.”

Cuba's Violin, a short documentary by Maya Albanese and Antoine Goldet, follows the journey of an instrument from New York City to Havana via Miami. The film illustrates the dire need for musical instruments and supplies on the island as well as challenges with repairs since the implementation of the U.S. embargo decades ago and subsequent fall of the former Soviet Union.

Albanese, who plays several instruments, sings and grew up surrounded by music, felt a close connection to the topic. Her mother is a teacher of musical theory and also a professional composer.

“I knew we wanted to tell a story about Cuba through the lens of music because Cuba is a country full of talented musicians, and music is a neutral, universal language,” she said.

“Music is a great lens to illustrate the cultural-economic paradox in Cuba, where you have people who are well educated, well trained musicians, and a lack of the material resources they need to make their music,” she said.

Albanese says the film could not have been possible without Horns of Havana, a non-profit organization that brings instruments to students in Cuba.

“It was Horns to Havana that worked with Conservatorio Amadeo Roldan to identify José Osvaldo as the student most in need of an instrument,” she said.

Albanese met Susan Sillins, founder of Horns to Havana, during a trip to Havana on December 2014. That same week, President Barack Obama and Raúl Castro announced the normalization of relations between the two nations.

So as she documented the music tale, she also witnessed a new chapter of U.S.-Cuba history.

“I was just lucky,” Albanese said. “It was totally unexpected and I ended up covering the breaking news story.”

Filmmaker Bios

Maya Albanese is a correspondent, creative producer, and film director covering women's issues, technology, food, music, fashion, and Latin America. Her work has been published on The Washington Post, Huffington Post, NBC Nightly News, TODAY Show, Telemundo, PopSugar, and She has worked in Europe, Asia, and Latin America to produce content in Spanish, French, and English. She has a B.A. in International Studies & French from UC Santa Barbara, and an M.S. from Columbia University in Journalism & Documentary Filmmaking.

Antoine Goldet is a French investigative reporter and video journalist based in NYC where he reports on the criminal justice system. He has interned at Libération and France 24's UN bureau and freelances for The Marshall Project, Fusion, the Center for Investigative Reporting andPBS Frontline.