In Memoriam - Olga Diaz Parlade de Pancier

Tribute to Olga Diaz
One of Cuba’s Great Pianists

Yesterday, on December 27, 2008, the music world lost a great pianist and artist, Olga Diaz. Today, I also lost my mom. For over 65 years, my mom, Olga, has played the piano and entertained so many people from all over the world. I’m not a journalist as I am sure there will be better written articles about her in the next few days. I’ll give you the story from a son’s perspective.

She was born in the Province of Oriente, Cuba in a town called Palma Soriano in 1936. At age 5, she started playing the piano and ultimately earned her degree in Music at the Universidad de Oriente. She studied with Dr. Aurelio de la Vega, and Edmundo Lopez, two of the greats that the island has produced.

In 1958, at age 21, my mom entered a contest for the Festival of the Americas. She designed the winning flag and won $ 1,000.00 and a trip to Miami. In April 1958, she was greeted in the local papers as the “Latin Beauty” when she accepted kudos from the then Mayor of Miami, Robert King High.

Shortly thereafter, things started getting dangerous in her hometown, and her parents told her to stay in Miami until things calmed down in Cuba. Her parents returned, my mom stayed. As history would have it, my mom never returned to see her homeland and place of birth again. The communist revolution took hold and my mom ended up doing what she could to get her siblings, her parents, and other family and friends out of Cuba.

She met my dad, her husband and soul-mate Maurice sometime in 1958 and they married shortly thereafter in 1961. My mom played in various venues during the late 1950’s and 1960’s, in the day that Downtown Miami was a happening town with a nightlife. She has a trio at the Everglades Hotel for many years and later played on Miami Beach at various hotels as well. As the beach started to die down, my mom got her next gig at the Doral Country Club where she played for over 25 years. There she met and befriended folks from all over the world. She also played concerts in various countries including the US, Canada, Mexico and Argentina.

My mom became a US Citizen during the Bicentennial in 1976, and while she spent the majority of her life here in the USA, her heart and soul was Cuban. She would say that she thought and dreamed in Cuban. She played music by serious Cuban composers like Rene Touzet, Cervantes, Lecuona, and afro-cuban Jazz melodies and standards from the great popular composers especially those who lived here in exile.

After I graduated high school and started college, my mom decided to go back to school and she obtained her Masters in Piano at the University of Miami School of Music. Even without a great command of English, she wrote a thesis and got her graduate degree in her fifties.

My mom would play you a Lecuona piece, followed by Duerme Negrito, followed by Chopin, Cole Porter, Bernstein, Piazzola and Gershwin. It was a thrill to see her play Rhapsody in Blue with the Miami Symphony Orchestra many years ago.

My mom was a major talent just as many other exiled artists here are and were. Sadly, the media pays more attention to those who chose to play under fidel than those that chose to play in freedom.

Besides being a great artist, she was a wife to my father for over 30 years, a great mother and a loving grandmother to my two children. And to those that knew her and loved her, she was the greatest friend you could ever have.

My mother, Olga Diaz, now joins the list of great artists from Cuba that have passed away in exile. Some of which I knew well like Rene Touzet and Mario Fernandez Porta, and others. When they were alive, they would always attend my mom’s concerts and she would always play tribute by playing their music.

Perhaps it was a wise Rabbi who said that as long as we keep the memory of our loved ones alive, they will always live on. All those who were touched by music, her wit, and her love will always keep her alive. My mom is now with her soulmate, my dad, and is surely playing the piano in Heaven for him and the for the angels that she loved so much.

Services will be held at Caballero Rivero Woodlawn Funeral Home located at 8200 SW 40 Street on Monday, December 29, 2008 from 6:00 p.m. until 11:00 p.m. A Mass in her memory will take place at St. Brendan Catholic Church on Tuesday, December 30, 2008 at 10:00 a.m.

In lieu of flowers, please make a donation in her memory to the Dan Marino Foundation, P.O. Box 267640, Weston, FL 33326. (954) 389-4445.


Ms Calabaza said...

So very sorry for your loss. My thoughts and prayers will be with you today. God Bless.

Melek said...

My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family in this difficult time. May your mother rest in peace! She will always live in your heart.

I wish you well :) Melek

"Oh heart, if one should say to you that the soul perishes like the body, answer that the flower withers, but the seed remains." ~Kahlil Gibran

harold and jill davis said...

michael, so sorry to hear of your mom's passing. you are in our thoughts during this tough time. may she rest in peace.

Anonymous said...

Lo siento mucho, conocia a tu mama a traves de una amiga en comun, una "mina" fuera de serie, qria mucho a mi pais(Argentina) realmente es una perdida muy grande para el arte, pero mas aun para todos y cada uno los q la conocimos. Su alma siempre volo, sus manos volaban sobre el piano...y su suenos volaban bien lejos...ahora si corazon q fue una casa de puertas abiertas....volara y manos alma y corazon andaran juntos por siempre . Q Dios la tenga en la gloria, q nosotros no la olvidemos y q descanse en paz.

Agustin Farinas said...

my sincere condolences on hearing of you Mom's passing yesterday. May God have her by His side in Heaven. You will be in our prayers and our thoughts. God bless you.

ptg said...

You have my sympathy, Mike. It is my faith that you will be reunited with her, and my hope that one day I will have a chance to meet her in Heaven.

God be with you.

queenmothere825 said...

Mayo 22, '09
A traves de la revista Herencia es que me he enterado de la muerte de la inolvidable Olga. Yo era gran admiradora y asisti a sus conciertos y le llevaba flores. Lamento que niguna de las amistades en comun me hayan avisado
Tambien tuve e gusto de visitar su casa y admire una foto que tenia de un eclipse, eramos admiradoras del firmamento. Alla en el cielo estara tocando en "conjunto" con otras estrellas cubanas que tambien nos han dejado y y haciendo reir con su simpatia.
Josefina Dougnac Thompson

Srcohiba said...

Josefina - Check the post I put up on the Tribute Concert on 5/30/09 at 3:00pm at Roca Theater