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CUBAN PIANIST WANTS TO STAY IN UTAH

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Remember the Cuban pianist who had to get last-minute visa clearance from the State Department so he could participate in this year's Gina Bachauer International Piano Competition? And promised he would be returning home as a condition of same?

Guess who now doesn't want to go back to Cuba.Friends of Alexis Feo Fernandez announced Wednesday that the 26-year-old pianist, who was eliminated in the competition's opening rounds, will be presenting a recital next week at Steinway Hall to help raise money to make it possible for him to stay in Utah.

Plans are for Feo Fernandez to get an extension of his original two-week temporary visa, then apply for a student visa that would enable him to study at Brigham Young University in Provo.

According to Bachauer officials, an application for the extension and a request for additional forms were sent by registered mail to the State Department on Monday.

"Obviously we do not wish to jeopardize our ability to bring other competitors to this country," said Bachauer associate artistic director Massimiliano Frani. "But in addition to our artistic goal, we also have a humanitarian one, and he told us some horrible stories about Cuba."

Through the two weeks of the competition, which concluded Saturday, Feo Fernandez stayed with his official Bachauer hosts, Roberto Crevillo and Niloufar Santinia. Then Monday, following a party thrown for him by other local Cuban families, he moved in with Douglas and Ofelia Gonzalez Wade, who have agreed to sponsor him locally.

"My wife left Cuba at age 12," Wade said Wednesday, "and still has a lot of family there. So when we saw an opportunity to help somebody else, how could we resist?"

Wade acknowledged that Feo Fernandez was originally admitted to this country on the condition he not stay, and only for the length of the competition and related recitals. "But those recitals have been extending and extending, and he probably has a good chance of having it (the temporary visa) extended another eight weeks."

Wednesday the pianist performed at Reading Elementary School. His Steinway Hall recital will take place Thursday, July 7, at 7 p.m., with a suggested donation of $10 per person, or $20 per family.

An aide to Sen. Orrin Hatch, whose direct intervention earlier this month broke the bureaucratic logjam blocking Feo Fernandez's entry into this country, said the Utah Republican had not "received the details of this case. But he has no objection to the change of status for Feo Fernandez to a non-immigrant student visa as long as the terms of the original visa are observed and as long as the other requirements of U.S. immigration law are met."