Written by 5:23 pm Music

Tania León, a Cuban who triumphs in classical music without forgetting salsa

U.S.-based Cuban composer and pianist Tania León, who will likely be honored this 12 months by the Kennedy Center in Washington, together with George Clooney, U2, amongst other artists, tells EFE that she doesn’t forget to enjoy and dance with salsa despite her long profession in classical music.

“I can direct (Igor) Stravinsky or play (Aaron) Copland, but I dance salsa. For Cubans, dancing is prime, it is a component of the day by day weight loss program,” she underlines, recalling the nights of her adolescence in Havana’s La Tropical, with live bands.

The 79-year-old pianist identified that she has had a life “filled with surprises” since she left Havana greater than 50 years ago, and although the dream of studying on the Paris Conservatory was not fulfilled, Recent York City welcomed her and have become a world reference in music.

León has directed musicals on Broadway, in addition to heading orchestras inside and outdoors the US. In her catalog there are 40 chamber works, 10 orchestral pieces, 6 ballets, an opera and various vocal compositions and piano pieces.

“I only desired to be a pianist in Paris and study with Nadia Boulanger,” she points out, “but life is filled with ups and downs and surprises, and I ended up settling down and making my life in Recent York.”

On December 4th, Tania León will likely be honored along with actor George Clooney, the Irish band U2, led by Bono, Christian pop singer Amy Grant and legendary singer Gladys Knight, with the tribute to a lifetime of the distinguished Washington center for the performing arts.

“An unexpected surprise,” León she said about this distinction from the Kennedy Center, which is often attended by the president of the US.

She says she didn’t expect the Pulitzer Prize for music last 12 months either, which she won for Stride, a bit commissioned by the Recent York Philharmonic for an initiative that celebrated the nineteenth Amendment, which gave women the best to vote.

“These items exist, but one doesn’t search for them,” says León in regards to the awards.


“To think that I emigrated with two diplomas: one in music and the opposite in public accounting, because my family considered it was obligatory to have a plan B in life and the piano didn’t offer them much financial security.”

U.S.-based Cuban composer and pianist Tania León, who will likely be honored this 12 months by the Kennedy Center in Washington together with George Clooney and U2, amongst other artists, told EFE that she doesn’t forget to enjoy and dance with salsa despite her long profession in classical music. Photo: Gail Hadani/EFE.

Her departure from Cuba in 1967 was on one in every of the so-called “freedom flights” organized by the Catholic Church. Her initial destination was Miami, but her jump to Paris was delayed because immigration regulations forced her to attend five years to acquire a passport.

“From the age of 9 I told my family that I’d live in Paris. There was a force that called me,” she said, but her lack of resources forced her to look for one more path and “the sofa” offered by a pair who were friends in Recent York led her to try her luck within the Big Apple.

León was unable to take classes in Paris with Boulanger (1887-1979), who was a French composer, pianist, organist, conductor, mental and teacher who trained and taught lots of the great composers of the twentieth century.

But, as an alternative, just turned 24 years old, without speaking English and with a solid knowledge of music theory, which is the universal language of musicians, he met by accident in Recent York famous black dancer and choreographer Arthur Mitchel, “who modified the weathervane of my personal boat.”

Mitchel saw her working on the piano at a dance academy within the black neighborhood of Harlem, invited her to a performance at Lincoln Center to see ballet for the primary time, and told her about his project to create the Harlem Dance Theater.

“He asked me to put in writing something for him in order that he could turn it right into a choreography, and I took the plunge. Not only did I start composing, but I used to be also a founding member in 1969 and the primary music director of the group.”

Currently with two marriages that resulted in divorce and no children, León continues “100% lively and healthy,” as she said, “age is within the spirit.”

She has only retired as a university professor in Recent York, although she does residencies that include classes and a concert along with her music. She is currently a visiting professor in Philadelphia, she’s going to soon do the identical with Yale University.

One pending issue is composing for the cinema, a surprise that she’s going to need to wait for because she is currently working on three orchestral pieces and a bit commissioned by a flutist that may keep her busy until the start of 2025.

“I write with out a piano, as if it were a letter. It’s a really particular process, very individual,” she said.

Despite her academic and classical training, León recognizes that she doesn’t discriminate against any sort of music and that salsa especially continues to be her favorite.

Jorge Mederos/EFE


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