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CODA | November 2015


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Author D. H. Lawrence once wrote, “Do not allow to slip away from you freedoms the people who came before you won with such hard knocks.”

My late father, Adalberto Pinelo, was a Cuban refugee. Politics had uprooted him from his life—forced him to leave his home and family at the age of 17 and come to a foreign country in 1961. For the record, my family didn’t leave immediately following Fidel Castro’s revolution on January 1, 1959. It was only after everything they had worked toward—their 134-acre farm called El Pilon in Herradura and all of their worldly possessions—were taken away.

My grandparents were aware Dad had been labeled a counter-revolutionary and were worried he’d be imprisoned, conscripted or worse. They sent their teenage son on a Pan Am flight from Havana to Miami. The first flight was cancelled and he waited all day at the airport. His family—parents, brother, aunts and uncles—all waited at the airport to see him off. Maybe they didn’t know it at the time, but in the months and years that followed, they would also leave their homeland forever.

Dad was 17 with not even a high school diploma and didn’t speak English. He stayed with a cousin in Miami and worked as a day laborer, waiting on the street corner with other immigrants to work a variety of jobs. Every day was a little different. Relocated to the Chicago area, he navigated his way through community college to college to graduate school, ultimately becoming a Professor Emeritus and Fulbright Scholar at Northern Kentucky University. He embraced his adopted country, becoming a citizen and cherishing its freedom. Oh, and he also loved the Orchestra.

In this season of Thanksgiving, we’re reminded of the hardships and sacrifices of the people who came before us, and give thanks for those who continue to advocate for and protect our freedoms.

At the beginning of the month, John Morris Russell and the Pops participated in the USO Tribute Cincinnati, a nationally recognized event benefiting wounded American soldiers and their families. It is a tremendous honor for us to be part of this tribute to the men and women making sacrifices to protect our freedoms today.

Also centering on the theme of freedom this year, One City, One Symphony is the CSO’s community wide project that brings us together through music. On Nov. 13 and 14, Louis Langrée leads a celebration of freedom and the 150th anniversary of the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution abolishing slavery.

I’ll close with a quote from the late Dr. Maya Angelou, who said “History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again."

—Chris Pinelo