Coffee and tea in the principal’s office!

One great experience of our school workshops includes a meet and greet with school directors and teachers and often in the principal’s office.   This is no ordinary handshake but a real sit down and chat with local treats and customs bestowed upon us. In the town of Zenica in BiH, the principal wished us safe travels with a traditional gesture that includes throwing a glass of water onto the street.  Then today in the small city of Telšiai, Lithuania, the school director gave us homemade goat cheese sprinkled with caraway seeds.   I think school principals back in the States need to reconsider how they greet a visitor!!  Usually it’s just a sign in and a nod from the secretary.

We are on our last leg of this musical journey and it’s been a great adventure.  In Latvia and Lithuania, the short, snowy and cold-weather days have impeded the little bit of tourism we get to do.  However, the musical conversations with teachers and students as well as the hands-on workshops about string improvisation have really made this a special type of tour.   I think we get a better sense of the people and the community when we visit music schools and and work with local musicians in smaller cities.   Today we visited the Zemaitijos Kelegijos in the city of Telšiai and played for both faculty and music ed. students.  We encouraged a young violinist in the room to join us on “NOW” our free improv song. This was such a treat.  Firstly, his professors were so stunned to see him join us and bravely agree to partake in 4 short improvisations.  Each short improv included a different parameter and in each we made space for our young friend to shine. And shine he did!!  The smiles and enthusiasm from his colleagues were palpable as was his own satisfaction at a successful first stab at improv.  It is pretty cool to show string players that improvisation is possible on typically Classical music instruments.

Earlier in the day Dina, Alisa and I took a walk up the hill for a view of Lake Mastis.  It is covered in snow.   I’m sure it’s a great summer destination! In fact, we have been told that very sentiment in each Latvian and Lithuanian city so far.  I will have to plan for a return visit and partake in some summer jet skiing or just plain swimming and sunshine.  We got a cappuccino at the theater cafe where we performed–the Zemaites Dramos Teatras.  Our concert there tonight was fun and more formal than others have been.  It’s a good sign when the audience does the synchro-clapping and an even better sign when they give us a standing ovation.  I think they liked it!

Over dinner–we had some “alone together time” on our computers and looked across the way at the local mega-store called, ‘Matrix’.   It’s like a Target but Lithuania style.  I bought some fishing wire to fix up my cello case strap that broke and of course had to buy a wool sweater brush and some hello kitty products–true Lithuanian items only found here in the old country!

We did learn a bit about the Jewish history of this city-called Telz by the Jews. The Matrix mega-store happens to be on “synagogue street”!   This city still has one of the only surviving wooden synagogues.   This is a cool fact–unique Jewish architecture!!  Additionally, the Telz Yeshiva learning style was the one adopted by American Yeshivas!  Some real heavy hitting rabbis came from this community and their brand of Judaism still holds for many ultra orthodox communities today.  Of course we all know how it went down for this community, sadly.  Here’s a link I found with details:

Tomorrow we leave bright and early for the city of Kėdainiai for a workshop.  I hear this is the cucumber capital of Lithuania!

Here’s a photo of houses and Lake Mastis in the city of  Telšiai