By Alex Ballingall, The Ottawa Citizen January 8, 2011
OTTAWA —It all started eight years ago, when Kazimier Samujlo noticed the decrepit quality of a musician's trumpet while relaxing at a resort in Cuba. Now, along with his fellow musicians in the Manotick Brass Ensemble, Samujlo is preparing to travel back to Cuba to donate an array of musical instruments and supplies to a Cuban music school called the Matanzas School of the Arts.
The five-piece ensemble will also perform a series of concerts in Havana, Cardenas, Veradero and Matanzas during their two-week stint in the Caribbean country.
"The whole group is devoted to this. And not only playing, I mean helping out others," said Samujlo, 62, who plays trumpet in the ensemble.
Samujlo has returned to Cuba many times since the day he met the man at the resort with the unfortunate-looking trumpet.
"It was horrible. Horrible. Over here, you'd just take a car and run over it," he laughed, describing how it looked like it was held together by a bunch of wire.
Later, that man introduced Samujlo to the director of the arts school in Matanzas, where his son was a student. While visiting the school, Samujlo was struck not only by their shortage of instruments and supplies, but also by their musical abilities and enthusiasm.
"I was floored from the first time I put my nose into that school," Samujlo said. "When you see them playing, when you see them dancing, singing ... your jaw goes down to your chest."
Ever since their first visit, he and his wife have been returning once a year to donate what they can to the school -- usually one or two used trumpets and a sampling of old mouthpieces, reeds, and other musical supplies.
"It was like manna from the heavens for the school of arts," Samujlo said.
And this year, with the help of his friends in the Manotick Brass Ensemble, Samujlo hopes to bring more to the school than ever before.
Over the past several weeks, the ensemble has been asking the public to donate any used instruments and music supplies for them to bring on their trip, said Martin Luce, the group's manager and trombone player. Guitars, trumpets, flutes, clarinets, and an accordion are among the smattering of instruments they've collected so far.
To help with the cost of carrying so much extra luggage, the group has held a series of fundraising concerts. The last such performance is set for 2:30 p.m. Sunday at the Glebe St. James Church at 650 Lyon St. Titled "Beatles to Beethoven," the concert will showcase the diversity of the group's repertoire of more than 1,000 brass quintet arrangements, said Luce. He added that attendees will hear arrangements pulled from such musical genres as pop, classical and, of course, Latin.
Other members of the ensemble travelling to Cuba are trumpeter Bob Weaver, Christine Hansen, who plays French horn, and Harold Floysvik, who plays the tuba.
The group, along with their respective spouses, leaves for Cuba on February 3rd, 2011.