Monday, February 15, 2010

Valentine's Day, Music, School, Ballet, Church, and the Olympics

Priecīgu Valentīna dienu everybody!  We hope that everyone had a fantastic Valentine's Day.  Here's our "Valentine Story:"  Niki and Bill started dating in the summer of 1987 when we were both students at Lee's Summit (MO) High School.  We were married December 19, 1992, and now have two beautiful daughters, Sarah and Leah.  We now live in Riga, Latvia, and have later bed-times than in Maryville, MO, U.S.A.
This is Liva Kalnina, our Latvian language teacher.  We have been meeting with her about once a week, and she has been very helpful teaching us basic pronounciation, vocabulary, and important history and traditions of the country.  The Latvian language has several sounds that English simply doesn't share, so Liva has had her work cut-out for her!  We feel lucky to have found her (thanks Irene!) and Liva has been a big help.

Bill played trumpet at St. Saviour's Anglican Church in Old Town yesterday morning.  The organist is Kristine Adamaite, an outstanding musician and graduate of the J.V.L.M.A.  Here's a link (warning, the mp3 recorder was acting-up a bit and there are some funny sounds at the beginning): 

We've had a few inquiries about the home-schooling adventure.  We've settled-in to what seems to be a workable morning routine for everybody.  On weekday mornings, Sarah and Bill walk to the Music Academy, find a room from one of the nice "key-ladies," and hang-out for a couple of hours, during which time she works on assignments (spelling, mathematics, hand-writing, reading, journaling, piano practice) and he practices trumpet.  During this time, Leah stays with Niki and they work on things here at the apartment.  The late-morning and afternoon are filled with lots of other educational activities, so everyone is getting a lot done.  We feel very fortunate to have the help of Mrs. Farlow and Mrs. Rogers from the Horace Mann Laboratory School at Northwest Missouri State University.
The educational system is a bit different here, and many of the applied teachers at the Music Academy don't actually have an office...they check-out a key from one of the ladies at the entrance of the building, then proceed to practice or teach in that room.  There is a master schedule, but many of the lessons get moved around because of schedule conflicts.  No complaints, by the way; it's just a different system to which one adjusts.  Anyway, the really interesting part of this is that Sarah and Bill have actually spent quality time in several  different, and quite unique, rooms at the JVLMA.
When Sarah and Bill are finished, they come home and Bill takes Leah to run errands!
Leah has really begun to love elevators.  Since we don't have a lot of those in Maryville, the world is her oyster!
We're having some fun with this...

Leah's class back in Maryville has been doing a "Healthy Foods" unit, so Niki and the little ladies made-up a board game called "Eat Right" that looks like this:
From the Fulbright side of things, Bill has been busy teaching applied lessons to the trumpet students at the Jāzepa Vītola Latvijas Mūzikas akadēmijas. He also teaches trumpet players and co-coaches (with Janis Retenais) an excellent brass quintet from the Jāzepa Mediņa Mūzikas Skolas.  He continues as the flugelhorn player in the Latvian Brass Band and is playing in the J.V.L.M.A. Symphony Orchestra for 4 performances of Pictures at an Exhibition this week.  Schmuyle...every trumpet player's favorite muted piccolo trumpet excerpt!
Latvia Fulbrighters "Night on the Town!"
(left to right - Irene Geisler, Gabriel Burkett, William Richardson, Leah Richardson, Thomas Rotnem, Sarah Richardson, Niki Richardson, Michael Dozler, and Ardyth Sohn)

 Bill's primary contact at the J.V.L.M.A. is brass coordinator and tuba/euphonium teacher Janis Retenais.  In addition to Bill's teaching duties, Janis has kept him busy with adjudicating responsibilities.  Last Wednesday was the first "Youth Music Competition" on which Bill served as a member of the official jury.  These events are kind of like "Solo and Ensemble Contest" in Missouri, except the players are from a greater age range (probably ages 9-17 or so), play 2-3 memorized solos with piano, and perform in a larger room (often on a stage).  The jury this last week had four members, and they heard 16 saxophone players and 15 brass players.  If he didn't get it right the first time, Bill is scheduled to serve as an official adjudicator for six more of these events, taking him outside of Riga to see how music schools operate in places other than "the big city."  Hmm..."Rural Music Education in Latvia," - sounds like a Fulbright proposal!  I wonder if I know anyone who would be interested in researching along these lines?
 Latvia is well-known for its National Opera, which features outstanding opera and ballet productions.  We attended our first performance at the opera house this past Wednesday evening for a "children's rock ballet" of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.  This was a collaborative production between the  Rīga Choreography School, the Kristiansund School of Ballet from Norway, Denmark's Emīls Dārziņš School of Music, and the Copenhagen Music College.  The hall is amazing, and the performance was excellent!
From a church perspective, we have lots of "needs" including, but not limited to, active youth program, worship in English, etc.  We visited St. Saviour's Anglican Church last week (and Bill returned to play there this morning), which is an English-language church in Old Town.  We also visited the Riga Reformed Church yesterday afternoon at 4 p.m.  While the service was in Latvian, English translation was provided through headsets.  We felt really good about it, especially since Sarah and Leah ran-off with the rest of the children for the entire service!  We've come a long way, baby.  It was a more contemporary style of worship with guitarists and microphoned singing, something that felt familiar.  Countryside Christian Church-goers will be pleased to know that "Here I am to Worship" sounds even more beautiful in Latvian!  Special thanks to Mission to the World missionaries Becky and Carl Chaplin for informing us about this church...we will be back!

We will admit that living here in Latvia has given us a bit more of a global perspective than we formerly had regarding cooperation and understanding which is, of course, one of the primary reasons for the existence of the Fulbright program.  Now we would never encourage anyone to cheer against their own country (unless they wanted to, of course!), but feel free to consider following the Olympic exploits of some Latvian athletes.
Latvians Martins Dukurs (skeleton), Jānis Miņins (bobsled captain), Roberts Rode (men's alpine skiing), the Latvian hockey team, and many others are definitely worth watching!

Our final picture is with Dzemma, the primary daytime security guard in our apartment.  She has been very helpful and even knitted wool socks for the girls.  A very nice lady...
Okay, that's it for now.  Visu labu!


mallorymurray said...

Wow, it looks like you guys are having quite the adventure! Thanks for sharing!

Lenore Bellamy said...

Wow, so fun to read your blog & see pictures. We miss you!

gcep said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
gcep said...

I love your blog! Gunta