There is not a day that Jesús Fernández does not pick up one of his instruments and play a tune.
Fernández began his professional career as a musician at age 11, when he studied at the Provincial School of Arts in Camagey, Cuba. Even before his academic interest in music began, Fernández was raised in an environment that was constantly accompanied by background music. He noted that, while not necessarily in an academic sense, the tradition of music has always been strong in his family.
At home, his musical pursuits started with a Cuban guitar known as the Tres, as well as another stringed instrument called the Laud.
In his academic life, he chose a different route and formally learned the technicalities through the saxophone, which he studied for several years. In conjunction with developing his skills with the Lad and the Tres, Fernández dedicated several years to the study of Solfege, music theory and harmony with the saxophone. Now, Fernández tends to pick up the Laud most often, but cannot choose a preference for one instrument over the other. He mentioned that choosing between instruments is like choosing between children and that each instrument has its own unique qualities.
Fernández decided to dedicate most of his recent efforts into developing his skills with the Laud having taught it for 12 years after graduating from the Provincial School of Arts. He also plays the instrument in two groups he now directs: the Quinteto La Luz and the Grupo Amanecer. The groups perform regularly at restaurants, festivals and other seasonal events. Due to his committment to the groups, Fernández plays professionally almost daily. In addition, he noted that his home life continues to be filled with music, where he and his family play together daily.
To Fernández, the Lad facilitates an intimate relationship between instrument and musician. He described that it can create sounds to match a wide range of emotional states and is thus conducive to pure self-expression. He noted that he doesn’t have to travel far to find inspiration and that he was born with it in his blood.
Assistant Professor of Anthropology-Sociology William Hope first met Fernández in Guantanamo, Cuba, when Hope first began studying Cuban music in 1998. After being taught how to play the Laud and the Tres by Fernández, the two continued to work together for several years. With the support of Knox College administration and after receiving a letter of invitation, Fernndez was finally able to make his first trip to the U.S., arriving on Sept. 5. Fernndez joked that he was brought to Knox because he has a brother who is a Professor of Anthropology.
During the rest of his stay, Fernández will continue to work with Instructor of Music Andy Crawford and Associate Professor of Music Nikki Malley, as well as the student jazz ensemble. Prior to his departure on Oct. 7, Fernández and the group will play a set at Fat Fish Pub for the weekly Jazz Night tradition on Oct. 5.
Fernández’s best advice to young musicians is that they should love what they do. He feels that empowerment results from having passion for your work. He noted that when people love what they do, they get more enjoyment and value from the fruits of their work.
Editors note: William Hope translated for Fernández.