The Cuban American Youth Orchestra (CAYO) is an independent 501(c)(3) non-profit cultural exchange program for Cuban and American musicians. Musicians between the ages of 14-19 are invited to audition for this tuition-free orchestral experience, led by internationally-renowned Finnish conductor Osmo Vänskä.

Fifty musicians will be chosen from each country to study, travel and perform together over the course of a month. During this time, students will experience local culture, participate in homestays with friends in our arts communities and build lasting relationships. Tour arrangements will be provided by our friends at Classical Movements, Inc., whose expertise in Cuba stretches back nearly two decades. We are also proud to announce media partner Minnesota Public Radio. CAYO is planning its inaugural season for summer 2018.


In 2015, the Minnesota Orchestra made headlines across the world with its historic tour to Cuba. In Havana, the Orchestra worked side-by-side with young Cuban musicians who showed everyone involved the power of heart and perseverance; in America, those involved in the tour returned to insatiable curiosity and excitement. It is a rare thing to be at a place in history where you can see change as it happens; we are there now.

The energy around this tour sparked the idea of bringing Cuban and American student musicians together for a similar musical and cultural exchange, designed to broaden horizons, provide youth with the highest level of artistic training, and shed light on that which can bring our neighboring countries together.

Please note that though the Minnesota Orchestra’s historic visit to Cuba served as the inspiration for CAYO, our project is operated and funded entirely independent of the Minnesota Orchestra.

Bridging 90 miles of water, with music and friendship.
Juntos en Armonia – Together in Harmony.



As a working musician, educator, and arts administrator for the past 20 years, I have learned that a complete musician – and human – requires equal parts mind and heart. The 90 miles which separates the United States and Cuba also holds the seeds of mutually beneficial learning. No American on the Minnesota Orchestra tour left the island untouched by the intuitive sensitivity of the young musicians we met in Havana and the goodwill of the Cubans who welcomed us as friends. As the Executive Director of CAYO, I am seeking supporters and partners who can help launch and shape this ambitious project.

At turning points in history, the arts can act as a messenger, sent ahead of the document signings, as a sign of goodwill and hope for our mutual futures. And because children are the most crucial recipients of that message, there is no better way to deliver it than through arts education. Because of the vision of those who dared to dream big in 2015, those of us from that trip can promise, without reservation, that it will be something these students will never forget; we can hope, without fear, that music will help us all become the humanity we hope to be.

– Rena Kraut

Mission Statement

The Cuban American Youth Symphony (CAYO) believes in the potential of arts diplomacy. CAYO provides a professional-level musical and educational experience in which Cuban and American youth can turn to each other with honest curiosity and a true desire for mutual learning. CAYO seeks to leave a musical imprint on the hearts of our musicians, staff and audience, cultivating a spirit of goodwill and hope for our mutual futures.


CAYO uses the powerful medium of musical expression to connect Cuban and American youth with their audiences and with each other.

CAYO introduces students from diverse backgrounds to a professional-level education in orchestral and chamber performance.

CAYO offers a people-to-people cultural enrichment opportunity for the young students who will shape the futures of our respective countries.


CAYO 2017 Fall Academy /Academia de otoño
October 29-November 5, 2017

The CAYO Fall Academy has selected four pre-professional musicians from Havana to join four of their counterparts in Minnesota for a week-long educational collaboration. With the support of our already established partners – the University of Minnesota and MPR – and help from our friends at the Minnesota Orchestra and the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, we will offer educational exposure to the area’s top performing and teaching professionals. Participants will observe rehearsals, receive lessons and chamber music coachings, perform at area Spanish-language schools, attend workshops in arts administration and business, and interview and perform on MPR. They will work closely with each other to start to understand cultural differences and lift barriers between our countries. The Cuban students will be housed with local musician families, offering them a deeper educational experience.

At the conclusion of the Fall Academy, CAYO will have in place student leaders who will act as mentors and RA’s for our tour participants in summer 2018.

CAYO WINTER ACADEMY / Academia de Invierno
February 2018 – Miami

CAYO Chamber Orchestra Tour  / Gira de Orquesta de Cámara
July 2018    Minneapolis – DC – Havana

CAYO Full Orchestra Tour  / Gira Grande
July 2019    Minneapolis – Chicago – NYC – DC – Miami – Matanzas – Havana

This tour will be comprised of students aged 14-19, and will have equal representation from each of our countries.

Selected by audition, the students will convene in Minneapolis in summer 2019 for a week of rehearsals, cultural exchanges, and team-building exercises. A celebratory concert at the end of the week will kick off a two-week tour of the United States, with performances in Chicago, New York, Washington, D.C., and Miami. From there we will board a ferry to Havana, acknowledging the rebirth of the thriving interchange between Miami and Havana in the 1950s. The students will spend part of their week in Cuba in homestays with the families of their Cuban colleagues while they encounter the culture of the island.

The CAYO experience will culminate in a final concert, free to the Cuban public and broadcast from Havana to the United States.