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Omar Puente

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Born in Santiago de Cuba, Omar learned his love of violin form his father. As a student at Estaban Salas, Santiago's finest music school, Omar studied classical music under world renowned professors. At night he would stand outside La Casa De La Trova or hide in the dark, smokey passages to be inspired by legendary trovadores, Compay Segundo and Eliades Ochoa, to explore his Cuban heritage.

At the age of 12 Omar left his family to travel alone to Havana and take up his place at Escuela Nacional de Arte. The next six years were spent studying classical music by day under Russian and Cuban masters, and Cuban music by night in Havana's famous music Halls.

Omar completed his formal education at Instituto Superior de Arte (Cuba's university for the performing arts). His education there was furthered by fellow students, such as Gonzales Rubalcaba, Oriente Lope and Giraldo Piloto, as much as by workshops hosted by visiting tutors like Paquito d'Rivera. He still spent his nights hungrily consuming every note played by others. He learned Latin Jazz at the feet of Chu Cho Valdez and Arturo Sandoval and Cuban music from Ruben Gonzales and Guillermo Rubalcaba. Havana was in its Heyday and Omar was in his element.

After graduating, Omar joined the Jose Maria Vitier band and toured Cuba, Mexico, and finished up at the New York Jazz Festival. After a period as soloist with Agrupacion de Concierto he joined the Nacional Symphony Orquestra de Cuba (NSOC) where he progressed to first chair. During this time he continued to play with other bands and made an operatic tour of Italy, played at Club Tropicana, made tours of Europe with Ruben Gonzales and Latin America with Guillermo Rubalcaba. He also began to develop a recording career, working with the likes of Orquestra Reve, Charanga Habanera, Pabalo Milanes, Leo Brauer and Silvio Rodriques.
Omar left the NSCO to become a full time member of the Cuban Boys. They spent the next few years travelling the world, playing modern Cuban music in venues as diverse as the Montreaux Jazz Festival and the Hard Rock Cafe (Manila). They extended their popularity by playing opposite such names as Whitney Houston, MC Hammer, and Tony Bennett.

In Singapore in 1995, Omar met his future wife and when she returned to the UK in 1997, he came too. They married in 1998 and settled in Yorkshire. Since arriving in England Omar has maintained an international profile, playing all over Europe, USA and Africa, playing with such musicians as Tito Puente, Kirsty MacColl, Jules Holland and Courtney Pine. His arrival in the UK and opportunity to play with such artists that has allowed Omar to develop his own sound.

Omar is currently involved in Denys Baptiste's international tour 'Let Freedom Ring', based on a brilliant composition commissioned to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King's inspirational 'I Have a Dream' speech.

Omar has appeared on the BBC and several ITV channels, various radio shows as well as at venues the length and breadth of Britain: from Aberdeen to the Isle of Wight, Newcastle to the Eden Project, Belfast to Cork including Ronnie Scott's, The Jazz Cafe, QEH and RFH.

Omar teaches jazz violin and Cuban music at Leeds College of Music. He continues to teach in Havana, and maintains a close relationship with the Cuba Solidarity Campaign. He also supports 'attitude is everything' (a campaign to encourage arts venues to become accessible to disabled artists and customers).

 

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