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Saundra Amrhein
Unaffiliated independent scholar
Cuba's Chords of Change: The Journey of a Mother, Son, and Piano through a Nation's Transformation

A one-of-a-kind portrait of contemporary Cuba, this is the true story of an Afro-Cuban mother loyal to the Cuban Revolution of her youth and her piano prodigy son, whose career suffers with the revolution’s decline.

My book project will give readers a rare look inside the everyday lives of Cubans experiencing a societal and cultural change both gradual and dramatic. At the heart of the book is a compelling life story. Violeta Aldama is an Afro-Cuban fidelista, whose son is a child prodigy on the piano in a country brimming with world-class musical talent. The book tracks Violeta’s desperate efforts to help her son into a music career as the social landscape transforms and this old believer faces her own crisis of faith in the system. Through Violeta’s story, the book focuses on Afro-Cuban families struggling to find their place, meaning and survival in Cuba’s new divide between the “haves” and “have-nots.” The project explores larger questions in the humanities about the breakdown of civic trust in a national crisis, the remaking of social, racial and personal identity, and the ways music acts as an expression and engine of social change, and also as a platform upon which people build new lives.

Project fields:
Ethnic Studies; Ethnomusicology; Latin American History

Public Scholars

Research Programs

$50,400 (approved)
$50,400 (awarded)

Grant period:
9/1/2016 – 8/31/2017