Review of 2004 Activities

With each passing year, TILTS is doing more to help Latvia improve its education system and to introduce Latvian culture internationally. Our thanks to all our participants and suppporters for a successful 2004! Following is a recap from our annual member communication, published January, 2005.

School Improvement Project

Under the leadership of Peteris Zarins and Edite Irbe, with the assistance of Arnis Sprancmanis as the project’s treasurer, and with your contributions and help, we are continuing to provide computers and educational materials to schools in Latvia. Compared to 2003, TILTS showed more activity: In 2004 our assistance reached a total of $21,000 (in 2003 the total was $13,000). The recipients of the largest grants – each receiving computers worth about $5000 – were three schools: Malupe grade school (Aluksne region), Gulbene high school and Latvian schools in Siberia.

The support from TILTS has been primarily for updating computer technology, but the schools tell us that money for textbooks and related classroom supplies is equally in short supply. Today there are about 1000 schools in Latvia. By our American standards, most of these schools are very small and rural. For example, in the Cesis region, 30 out of its 46 schools have less than 200 students. In the Limbaži region, only 6 out of 25 schools have more than 300 students. In the Rezekne region 19 rural schools have less than 100 students each. The fact that the schools are small means that a relatively modest contribution can provide a major impact on the school’s budget.

Therefore, we again encourage you to send a donation to a Latvian school through our TILTS organization. We are convinced that there is no more rewarding way to "spend a dollar" than to donate it to the TILTS' school improvements program. If you so desire, please specify which school you wish to help. You may wish to choose a school in Latvia that has special significance to you. Was it your school, or maybe that of your parents or grandparents?

TILTS can help you establish the needs of your chosen school. Some schools have the necessary computer hardware, but lack supplies and computer programs. We will direct your contributions to meet the school’s particular needs, and we will handle all the communications and transactions.

In addition to your TILTS 2005 annual membership fee, what if each of us donated at least an extra $50 to help a school in Latvia? We will let you know how your gift was used.

Please contact Peteris Zarins if you would like to contribute. Donations in USA are tax- deductible.

Theater

In 2004 TILTS arranged a North American tour from Dailes Teatris in Riga, showing the play “Zemes Nodoklis” ( “Property Tax”) by the well known Latvian playwright Mara Zalite. The tour included 12 communities, including Minneapolis, Toronto, New York and St. Petersburg, FL, and performances were attended by a total of over 1000 people. It was a success financially, as only three actors were involved and we managed to make arrangements for a driver, who took the troop in a van through most of the North East. Most responses from the viewers were very favorable. But it was a serious play, and some viewers had expected lighter entertainment.

Classical Music

Under the leadership of Dace Aperans, TILTS arranged the following four concert tours in 2004:

  • Early in 2004, two talented young artists, the saxophonist Artis Gaga un the pianist- composer Solveiga Selga-Timpere presented concerts in New York, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Milwaukee and Minneapolis. They presented their own compositions as well as recent compositions by other Latvian composers. The concerts were very well received, and the audiences particularly appreciated the selection of the program.
  • In the spring of 2004, Juris Kalnciems, the head of the Piano Department of the Jazeps Vitols Latvian Academy of Music, undertook his first North American concert tour. He gave concerts in New York, Boston, Cleveland and Toronto. His program included variations of some popular Latvian folk melodies, as well as compositions of Franz Liszt and others. He was very well received.
  • In the fall of 2004, the Latvian pianist currently living in Chile, Armands Abols, presented concerts in New York, Boston, Philadelphia and Houston and subsequently two in Latvia – in Riga and in Sigulda. The concerts in Latvia were also arranged either by or in cooperation with TILTS and were dedicated to the memory of his piano teacher Prof. Ilze Graubina. The program consisted of pieces by Vasks, Keninš, Medinš, and Moussourgsky. The concerts received much publicity in the newspapers LAIKS (in America) and DIENA (in Latvia). This publicity, as well as an interview with Mr. Abols by the Latvian Radio, helped to advertise the concerts. Audience reception was favorable, and press reviews were very positive, particularly in the music publication “Muzikas Saule”. The tour was arranged by Astra Zemzare.
  • In November of 2004, the mezzo-soprano Antra Bigaca of the Latvian National Opera and pianist Ventis Zilberts gave five concerts in the USA (New York, Boston, Cleveland, Detroit, Minneapolis) and one in the well known Glenn Gould studio in Toronto. In New York and Boston the concerts were presented as part of the November 18 Latvian Independence Day celebrations. This was the second concert tour TILTS had arranged for Mrs. Bigaca, the first one was five years ago. The audiences enjoyed the performances, and so did the reviewers for the press.

In November of 2004, and interesting project associated with the 2000 USA tour by the Riga Dome Boys Choir was concluded. The boys’ choir in the 2000 tour was accompanied by the composer and organist Aivars Kalejs. Following the concert in Charlotte, NC, Aivars was commissioned to compose an arrangement based on Methodist Hymns for the 75th Anniversary of the Myers Park Methodist Church there. Coordinated by Astra Zemzars and Dzidra Reimanis, the world premier of the composition took place in November of 2004. Everyone was enthusiastic about the composition, and Aivars is being considered for a USA tour.

Popular Music

In the fall of 2004, TILTS arranged 12 concerts by the singer Normunds Rutulis, covering also the smaller Latvian communities of Buffalo and Syracuse. The tour was a success – the audiences were large, people liked the popular music presented by this highly accomplished artist, and all the concerts were financially successful. Some communities would like to hear Rutulis again (he has now another repertoire of the newest songs by Raimonds Pauls). The tour was arranged by Janis Bibelnieks.

Movies and Lectures

  • In cooperation with Nora Kula and Andris Prieditis of Latvian Heritage Foundation of Boston, we had an opportunity to arrange lectures by the writer, translator and diplomat Anna Zigure with the choice of three topics: “The return of Edvards Virza”, “Elza Sterste – a saint or a martyr“ and “The fragile boundary between reality and vision (reflections about the image of Latvia)”. Lectures took place in three cities: Washington, DC, Philadelphia, PA and Priedaine, NJ. The audiences were very receptive.
  • In the fall of 2004, the cinema director from Riga, Laima Zurgina, visited eight locations in the USA and three in Canada with a showing of her video “Mana Mila Riga” (My Dear Riga). The audiences liked the two-hour long video, and, as it had subtitles in English, it was enjoyable also by those who did not know Latvian. In addition, Mrs. Zurgina had also some shorts of Latvian cultural personalities. After the showings, the author answered questions about the video as well as about the current state of the cinema industry in Latvia. A total of over 500 people saw the video. The tour was arranged by Anda Cook.
  • In the fall of 2004, with TILTS financial support, Mara Pelecis video “Between Latvians” was shown at the New York Film Festival in Greenwich Village. Mara has submitted her video to other film festivals, including Canadian Documentary Festival Hot Docs, Ann Arbor Documentary Film Festival and Chicago Documentary Festival. The video has received a good review in Minneapolis City Pages, and in the Minneapolis-St. Paul Film Festival it received the Audience Award among videos from local directors and overall was voted to be among the best 20 of the total 160 submitted.

Exceptional Young Artists Fund

On January 23, 2004, the world famous violinist, originally from Riga, Gidon Kremer and his ensemble KREMERata Musica presented a benefit concert at the Kosciuszko Hall in New York City. The concert, arranged by the Exceptional Young Artists Fund, included also performances by the former recipient of the Fund’s support Egils Sefers and the pianist Gints Berzins. A reception followed the concert. The event was well attended and resulted in a benefit of $6,965 to the Fund. The Fund expresses sincere appreciation both to the artists and the very receptive audience.

In 2004, under the leadership of Laila Robins, working with Helga Petrasevics, the Exceptional Young Artists Fund awarded a total of $24,450.00 to the following artists:

  • Dzintra Milca-Ehrliha, piano
  • Solvita Moss, soprano
  • Julija Kocina, piano
  • Marcis Kuplais, cello
  • Rudolfs Ozolins, piano
  • Janis Petraskevics, composer
  • Egils Sefers, clarinet
  • Ilze Urbane, flute

In the fall of 2004 meeting, TILTS directors elected Janis Cigusis as a member of the committee managing the Exceptional Young Artists Fund.

Anyone wishing to make a contribution to the Exceptional Young Artists Fund can mail a check to:

“TILTS”
c/o Laila Robins
241 Central Park West Apt. 14H
New York, N.Y. 10024

Support

In 2004 TILTS provided financial support for a total $13,100 to the following projects:

  • $10,000 to the Central Scientific Library of the City of Liepaja. The award is for further improvement of the library, acquisition of books, and a more broad accessibility of computers to the public. Dr. Sigurds Grava contributed funds to TILTS for this award.
  • $400 to Mara Pelece for the submission of her video “Starp Latvijam” (Between Latvias) to the New York Film Festival, and $200 for the submission of her film to other film festivals.
  • $2500 to the New Conservatory of Dallas for the support of a benefit concert in Riga organized by Arkady Fomin. Mr. Fomin was born in Riga, and the benefit concert is to feature the TILTS Outstanding Young Artist Fund award recipient Ilze Urbane and others.

Recognition

We are gratified that, on the basis of our initiative or support, the President of Latvia has bestowed Triju Zvaigznu ordenis (the Three Star Medal, which is the highest civilian medal) or the Triju Zvaigznu goda zime (the Three Star Pin) to the following:

  • Dr. Sigurds Grava, the IV class Triju Zvaigznu ordenis for his assistance in establishing Urban Planning as a discipline in Latvia and, in particular, for his guidance and assistance in the creation of the Riga Development Plan 1995-2005, of which he is a co-author.
  • Dagmara Vallena, the IV class Triju Zvaigznu ordenis for her initiative, dedication and work over many years in the advancement of Latvia’s interests, leadership in organizing Latvian cultural events, and helping Latvians in Latvia.
  • Katrina Cakste Wilson, the Triju Zvaiznu zelta goda zime for her initiative, drive and accomplishments in providing medical and other types of assistance to Latvians, primarily children, in Latvia, and for soliciting this support among Americans outside the Latvian communities.

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