Ten days of my time in Latvia this summer is being spent at the 9th annual Young Musicians' Master Classes in Sigulda.
In 1985, my mother (who is also a pianist and piano teacher) suggested that she and I attend the first Latvian music camp that was taking place at Mount Orford, Quebec, Canada. Not knowing what to expect, but always ready for adventure, I agreed and we went. I also attended the following year. Now, twenty-five years later, I find myself with this wonderful opportunity to attend and take part in the latest incarnation of this camp, on Latvian soil - and to share this experience with my own daughter!
Prior to attending that first camp my experience of Latvian culture had been mainly within my “half-Latvian” family and the few Latvian families that lived in my hometown. There were a few years during which the kids of my age group were given some regular classes in Latvian folk dancing, folk songs, and some elementary language skills, but not on the scale that operated in the larger cities. I had attended some Song Festival events as a child, and those experiences all had an impact on me, but I was not really aware of the Latvian community of musicians and music-lovers prior to 1985.
That first music camp was the beginning of so many important things for me; a chance to get to know many wonderful musicians and gain many new friends, a chance to learn Latvian language and Latvian music and to discover the richness of being a Latvian musician. That experience was formative for me in learning about my Latvian identity, and also led to many other opportunities within the music world and within the Latvian community.
Now, so many years later, I find this Sigulda music camp just as exciting and inspiring, and now with the added joy of actually gathering together in Latvia itself. To meet so many of the friends I made in 1985 again, and to make new friends from so many different parts of the world, and to share this special passion for music and Latvian culture is such a rich experience. I feel so honoured to be invited to join such a unique and gifted community. It is truly amazing how many talented musicians and wonderful people are here together.
The Masterclasses take part in a fairly recently built (2001) building, the Sigulda Music School, which is known as
My participation in Sigulda involves working with voice students in their lessons with Canadian-born baritone, Nigel Smith, accompanying them in recital, as well as performing some solo pieces and some Schubert songs with Nigel.
I look forward to returning to this camp again soon. Hopefully this time I won’t wait twenty-five years between camps.