At only 19 years old, talented pianist Mario Orlando EI Fakih Hernández is thought to be among those making history in Cuban music in the present century for his masterly way of playing important pieces of the Cuban and international repertoire.
Mayito, as his friends call him, welcomed us at his small home in the upscale Miramar district of Havana. This young Cuban combines his music studies with age appropriate activities, although the piano does not leave him too much time for leisure.
Despite receiving several awards in competitions, including international ones, Mayito does not boast, but talks of his work and dedication to his instrument, which he considers his best friend, with modesty.
When very young, he began by dedicating himself to swimming, still his favorite sport, but one day he accompanied a cousin to a music appreciation workshop and saw a piano. It was love at first sight and he realized his future was not sports but music.
He started training to enter the Alejandro Garcia Caturla Conservatory, the finest in Cuba, and after much effort and study he got in, but for guitar, not piano.
Later, with the help of teacher Maria Antonia Lamas, he passed the piano aptitude test. He graduated from the Havana Middle Level Amadeo Roldan.
Conservatory and entered the Higher Institute of Arts. "I have had many wonderful music teachers, people such as Isabel Clavera, Maria Antonia Lamas, Victor Rodriguez and Aldo Lopez Gavilan-Junco, but I feel a special gratitude for Carmen Rosa Lopez, my lifetime teacher. Another of my passions is choir direction, in which Professor Digna Guerra has been a great help and I thank her for all of her patience and dedication." Today Mayito studies at the Mozarteum University in Salzburg, Austria, under Professor Klaus Kaufman. He won that scholarship through a competitive examination in which 60 students worldwide participated and only four passed.
"The help of my family, especially my father, mother and brother, has been of great importance. I wouldn't have been able to become a musician and continue studying without their help."
Mario Orlando began piano studies at 12 at the Alejandro Garcia Caturla Conservatory and graduated in 2004.
He made his debut as a soloist at 15 with the Matanzas Symphonic Orchestra and was pianist for the Havana Children's Symphonic Orchestra. He has played in Barcelona, Spain and was invited to play at the prestigious Enghien Piano Festival in Paris, where he received a favourable welcome from the audience and critics.
2001: 2nd Prize and Best Creation Prize at the 1 st Alejandro García Caturla Contest.
2002: 1 st Prize in the Amadeo Roldán Contest and Best Interpretation of Cuban and Latin American Music Prize. Best Interpretation of Cuban Music Prize at the Musicaliam Contest sponsored by the Higher Institute of Arts of Cuba.
2003: 1 st Prize and Best Interpretation of Classical and Baroque Music Prize at the 2nd Alejandro García Caturla Contest.
2004: 2nd Prize at the Amadeo Roldán Contest.
2004: 2nd Prize and Best Interpretation of Cuban and Spanish Music Prize at the 4th Ibero-American Piano Contest of Havana.
2005: Honourable Mention, the only one delivered by the jury at the 17th International Piano Contest in Ibiza, Spain.
2005: 2nd Prize at the 1 st International Piano Contest in Maracaibo, Venezuela.
2006: 1 st Prize and Best Interpretation of Costa Rican Music Prize at the 4th International Piano Contest María Clara Cullel, in San José, Costa Rica.