World-Renowned Minnesota Jazz Musician Headlines Cuba Music Festival

A great honor for an internationally renowned jazz musician who lives in Minnesota.

The White Bear Lake resident is returning to his homeland for the first time since recovering from a near-fatal case of COVID-19.

For Nachito Herrera, music is the perfect language to bring people together.

Although he is already considered one of the best Latin jazz pianists in the world, he will soon be performing on his biggest stage yet.

“For me, that’s huge because I love my country. I love my music. I love my people,” Herrera said.

Since leaving Cuba for Minnesota more than 20 years ago, Herrera has returned to his native country more than half a dozen times. But his next visit will be the most significant yet.

He will headline the Havana International Jazz Festival next week, where he will give an opening concert, lead a masterclass for high school and college students, and host a closing gala where he will perform with the National Symphony Orchestra of Cuba and the National Choir.

Nachito Herrera, world famous Cuban jazz musician (FOX 9)

“It’s a big party. Celebrating that we’re here. We’re alive. We’re friends. We’re going to come together,” Herrera said.

Herrera has good reason to celebrate.

In March 2020, a severe case of COVID-19 left him in a coma for two weeks and at one point doctors told his wife he may only have hours to live.

When he was released from the hospital, Herrera says he realized that life is short and he no longer wants to take it for granted.

“For me, it changed my life. I don’t want to waste time. I don’t want to waste any minute, any second of my life,” Herrera said.

Jazz pianist Nachito Herrera will headline the Havana International Jazz Festival next week.

Herrera wrote a song called “Esperanza” for the doctors and nurses who saved his life, and he will perform it for the first time in person in Havana.

The title means “hope” and Herrera says that’s what his brush with death gave him for the future.

“If you want to do something today, do it because you don’t know if you’ll be able to do it tomorrow,” Herrera said.