Van Ness Feldman Proud to Play a Key Role in Bringing Cuban Musicians to Jazz Fest

May 9, 2017

Every year since 1970, the City of New Orleans hosts the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival (Jazz Fest), a ten day long cultural festival that highlights the indigenous music and culture of New Orleans and Louisiana.  Jazz Fest features thousands of musicians and artisans who gather at the historic Fair Grounds Race Course for a celebration of food, art, and music ranging from Jazz to Blues and Zydeco, and everything in between. 

This year, the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Foundation, the non-profit organization who owns Jazz Fest, chose to highlight the influence of Cuban music and culture in Louisiana.  One of the largest groups of Cuban artists and musicians in the United States since the 1950’s, performed as part of the Festival’s Cultural Exchange Pavilion.

Realizing the momentous task of securing over 150 visas for the Cuban musicians and artisans in order for them to participate in the Festival, the Foundation reached out to former Louisiana Senator and current Van Ness Feldman Senior Policy Advisor, Mary Landrieu, to assist them with bringing the musicians to the Festival. With the help of the firm’s attorneys and policy professionals, Jazz Fest was able to successfully navigate the delicate diplomatic relationship between the United States and Cuba, and understand the evolving nature of the laws associated with inviting Cuban nationals to the United States.

Van Ness Feldman professionals advised Jazz Fest regarding the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, Department of Homeland Security, and Department of State’s policies with respect to inviting Cuban artists to participate in the Festival and the payment of performance fees.  The firm also assisted with expediting the visa applications of all of the Cuban artisans to meet Jazz Fest’s advertising deadlines, both in Washington, DC as well as in Havana.  The firm worked with the Cuban Ambassador to the United States, Mr. José R. Cabañas Rodríguez, and his staff on the visa process.  The firm also helped Jazz Fest determine the best means of bringing all of the artisans’ musical equipment and artistic tools under the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s regulations. 

This past week, Senator Landrieu, along with attorneys Mona Tandon and Alan Mintz, escorted the Cuban Ambassador to New Orleans to attend the festivities.  Senator Landrieu said of the experience, “We cannot underestimate the power of building bridges and promoting cultural exchange.  Jazz Fest plays an important role in highlighting inclusion.”

Richard Agnew, Chairman of Van Ness Feldman said, “The firm was honored to be able to play a role in putting together a successful festival that celebrates two rich histories.”



With over 100 professionals in Washington, DC and Seattle, Van Ness Feldman focuses on law and policy relating to energy, the environment, health care, natural resources, native affairs, land use, real estate and litigation. Van Ness Feldman’s attorneys and policy professionals are experienced in representing companies looking to do business in emerging markets, and are able to assist clients in navigating the constantly changing policy and regulatory requirements applicable to Cuba.  Learn more at

Related Professionals

Related Services & Industries

Government Advocacy & Public Policy