On the evening of Saturday, June 18, 29-year-old Osmany Chauvin Elias stood on stage under the lights of Bomhard Theater, accompanied by only pianist Harry Pickens. He played “You Don’t Know What Love Is” on his saxophone to a crowd of over 500 guests. Four months before that evening, he was arriving to Louisville for the first time. “It was a great opportunity,” Osmany says. As he was leaving the theater that night, he says, everyone stopped him, thanking him for his performance. “It was a great experience.”
Osmany is originally from Santiago de Cuba. He left Cuba over two years ago, and he and his wife journeyed to Louisville on the recommendation of some longtime friends here in Louisville. At first, they struggled to find housing, ultimately securing a one-bedroom apartment. Now, five days a week, they attend English as a Second Language (ESL) classes at KRM, practicing their English, and looking for work.
Each morning, Osmany first goes to a practice room at University of Louisville to play saxophone or clarinet. He does not hesitate to name his favorite musicians: Sonny Rollins and Dexter Gordon, he says. At the age of nine, Osmany began learning how to play music from his father. “My father, grandfather, grand-grand father — everyone played saxophone or piano,” he says. In Cuba, he studied classical music in college.
Each week, he plays salsa music at Sky Bar. Other musicians invite him to join jam sessions throughout the city. “The pay – it’s not important,” Osmany says. “I want to play. I want people to know I can play.”
After he met jazz pianist Harry Pickens through their collaboration for the United We Sing concert, Osmany received Harry’s help to get into Jamey Abersold’s Summer Jazz Workshop. “It is an incredible opportunity to interact with other musicians,” Osmany says. “Big names. From all over, from New York,” he says. “My dream is to study, to get a Masters at a jazz school. Berkeley, Juilliard–anywhere. The school is not as important. It’s important that you feel, that you bring your heart when you play.”
View the United We Sing Concert Performance
You can view Osmany and Harry’s performance and the entire United We Sing concert in the full online video. Thank you to Tommy Johns with 750four Productions for capturing this event on video.
United We Sing Program
Cosa Seria: Rafael López, Joanna Garcia, Alberto Abril, Angel Sarracent, Johnny Castaneda, Joan Paumie,
Mike Smith. Featuring: SYacademy Cuba – Selen Wilson & Yosvany Pascual
Drum Circle Celebration Strive – Cheyenne Mize & Nina Rodahaffer
Rafiki Yangu (Abdallah Nitereka) Abdallah Nitereka
Una Furtiva Lagrima (G. Donizetti. Arr. M.B. Skopljak) Muhammad Skopljak & Maria Castillo
Precious Lord, Take My Hand (Thomas Dorsey) David Tha
Amataha y’ Inyambo (Abagumyabanga) Seruka – Aimee Ninahaza, Fleur Kesie Gahimbare
Kaha Jadai Chau Timi (Manbir Gazmere) Bishal Biswa
You Don’t Know What Love Is (Don Raye / Gene de Paul) Osmany Chauvin Elias & Harry Pickens
Get to Know Me (Fred Bogert) Fred Bogert
For Orlando and the World (Harry Pickens) Harry Pickens
United We Sing Choir
Unite With Me (Fred Bogert)
Notes of Love (David Mockon) Featuring Shabnam & Vahid Mockon, vocals
Nakazonga (Lokua Kanza) Featuring Jean Claude Bomay & Exode Sungura, vocals
Building a House (Christella Philippe) Featuring Christella Philippe, vocals
La Gozadera (Alexander Delgado Hernández, Randy Malcolm, Arbise González) Featuring Eddilfledo
Martinez San Gil & Jorge Ruiz, vocals
Purpose of Freedom (Harry Pickens) Feat. Cynthia Fletcher, Christie Rice Tompkins & Joe Warfield, vocals
We are One America (Harry Pickens)
Harry Pickens is an award-winning pianist, composer, author and educator. His greatest fulfillment in life comes from sharing his gifts of music, communication and connection in service of a world that works for everyone.
Fred Bogert has spent the last 45 years producing, composing and performing music throughout the United States, including three Grammy nominated CDs. He has written for and performed with the Austin Symphony, the Nashville Chamber Orchestra and many successful independent artists, while his studio work includes over four thousand recordings. He serves the Louisville community as an ordained minister at both Highland Baptist and Ridgewood Baptist Church.
Strive was founded by Music Therapist Cheyenne Mize and Registered Nurse Nina Rodahaffer. Strive’s mission is to provide creative wellness education and services to the Louisville community. Strive makes useful and meaningful programming available to all in an effort to foster affordable growth and learning for anyone who is striving for more in life.
Kentucky Refugee Ministries would like to thank the Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts for their partnership in making this celebration a reality.
Thank you to the performers and choir members. Our appreciation to Rev. Joe Phelps and Highland Baptist Church for the generous use of their sanctuary for rehearsals.
For capturing this event on film and in pictures, we thank A.P. Dow, Gary Guthrie, Tommy Johns, and Chris Petot.
A very special thanks to Helen Lang, whose generous financial support helped to make this concert possible.