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Local audiences benefit from Cuban pianist's decision

Cuban pianist Nachito Herrera's decision to ply his energetic Latin jazz in the United States is good news for Mankatoans.

By Adam Pulchinski, Free Press Correspondent [published in The Free Press, Mankato, MN, 9/30/2011]

In 2001, Cuban pianist Nachito Herrera was faced with a decision. He could either go back to his native Cuba and never again return to the United States, or he could stay in Minnesota.

Luckily for local music fans, Herrera made his decision to stay, and about a decade later, he will be performing at Minnesota State Mankato in Halling Recital Hall of the Performing Arts Center Thursday night.

Herrera was born in Santa Clara, Cuba. When he was 7 years old, Herrera’s family moved to Havana where he studied classical music. By the age of 12, Herrera was considered a child prodigy. He even played Rachmaninoff’s “Concerto No. 2” with the Havana Symphony Orchestra.

When Herrera was 17, his interest turned to Cuban music, jazz and Latin jazz. He studied with Cuban musicians such as Rubén González, Jorge Gomez Labraña and Frank Fernández. When Herrera turned music into a professional career, he joined Cubanismo, a Cuban music company that toured the world.

On Pickett’s record label, Herrera has released two albums.

Herrera will see plenty of audiences in what’s left of 2011. In addition to playing around the Twin Cities, including a performance at Orchestra Hall with the Minnesota Youth Symphony Orchestra, he will be playing in Wisconsin, and of course, Minnesota State Mankato.

“The guy’s a monster, he really is,” said Dale Haefner, coordinator of the Performance Series at Minnesota State Mankato. “He just plays with so much passion and vitality.”

Haefner, who teaches in Music Industry Studies, sought out Herrera after being contacted by the dean of arts and humanities at the college. Haefner liked what he saw, and felt Herrera fit in the scheme of performers he likes to bring to campus.

“I’m looking to fill as many niches as I can,” Haefner said.

Minnesota State Mankato presents more than 20 performances per season, ranging from bluegrass to blues, jazz to folk music, and world music. Haefner also tries to tie in performers with other events on campus. Herrera, who will be performing as part of a trio and with vocal accompaniment by his daughter, will be present during a Latino Conference.

For the complete Free Press story, see Friday's print edition, or go to

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