Lara Kusnezov is a third-year undergraduate student at the University of Miami with plans to enroll in medical school in the future. During the Fall 2010 semester, Lara and seven other students enrolled in a musicology seminar taught by Dr. Deborah Schwartz-Kates in the Frost School of Music. This particular course focused on Latin American music collections held by the Cuban Heritage Collection(CHC) and the papers of Venezuelan composer Aldemaro Romero in the Libraries’ Special Collections.
The intent of the course was to introduce students to archival research and interpret and situate the significance of these archival documents within their sociohistorical frameworks. However, the course also allowed students to contribute to the actual processing workflow of both the CHC and Special Collections by creating biographies and scope and content notes for the collections. The coursework culminated in the writing of a professional article co-authored by the class.
Lara opted to work with the Manuel Ochoa Papers. Manuel Ochoa (1926-2006) was a Cuban-born musician and conductor who founded the Society of Arts and Culture of Americas in Miami as well as the Miami Symphony Orchestra. Lara spent much of her free time in the CHC Reading Room, sifting carefully through the contents of the collection box-by-box to build a sense of what the collection contains and its significance. Throughout, she met several times with Mrs. Sofía Ochoa, Manuel Ochoa’s widow, who volunteers with CHC to help process her late husband’s papers. Mrs. Ochoa helped Lara understand the collection as well as get a sense of who Manuel Ochoa was.
“Our collaboration aimed at presenting the most accurate reflection of Mr. Ochoa, his passion for music, and his life-long dedication to his work which is visible in his collection,” Lara told us. The Manual Ochoa Papers, along with the other collections that Lara’s classmates worked on, will soon have their finding aids updated with their contributions.
After the semester, Dr. Schwartz-Kates encouraged Lara to submit her research and work in the University of Miami Research, Creativity, and Innovation Forum. She submitted a poster depicting an overview of her work on the Manuel Ochoa Papers, which was placed third overall in Fine Arts. For Lara, the kind of research undertaken in the course was special and unique because instead of focusing on innovations or the use of technology for future applications, the emphasis was on archival research.
“Participating in the seminar provided me with a deeper appreciation for research into archives and brought to light the importance of delving into the past,” she says.
This seminar was considered a success, and Dr. Schwartz-Kates was offered an award by the Center for Latin American Studies to teach the course regularly as part of the Frost School of Music’s musicology curriculum. We congratulate Lara on her achievement and give our heartfelt thanks to Dr. Schwartz-Kates and her students for their interest, commitment, and contributions to our collections.