News from Latvia

The complete text of Gunta Sproge’s conference from the Chamber Music Pedagogy Round table at the ECMTA annual meeting in Rome

on .

Upgrade of the professional level of teachers of chamber music in

The Latvian academy of music named after Jazep Vitola, on the International master courses of the Latvian young musicians and «Winter master classes for Chamber ensemble teachers

«We play music together with friends»

In this report the basic attention is given to possibilities of improvement the qualification of the chamber ensemble teachers in the Latvian academy of music named after Jazep Vitola (LMA), and behind. The chamber ensemble Department was created in 1959. Its founder, the professor and composer Janis Kepitis (1908-1989) lead it till 1981, later this duty carried out prof. Dajna Vilipa, and since 1991 and on the present time the Dean of the Department is prof. Gunta Sproge. On this Department, which is called since 2002 “Department of chamber ensemble and piano accompaniment”, we have well prepared teachers, who not only continue working, but also develop the traditions, which were set up in the Latvian state conservatory of Jazep Vitola (nowadays music academy, LMA), in State musical college named after Gnessin (nowadays the Russian academy of music named after Gnessin. Prof. Gunta Sproge and prof. Aldis Liepinsh finished Post-graduate course in a class of the prof. George Fedorenko), St.-Petersburg state conservatory named after N.A.Rimsky-Korsakov (Prof. Janis Maletskis finished Post-graduate course in a class of prof. Tamara Fidler) and the Moscow state conservatory named after P.I.Tchaikovsky (Inese Milzaraya finished Post-graduate course in a class of prof. Marina Jashvili). Now we try not only to save these traditions, but also to develop, creating new contacts to foreign musical high schools.


In 1992 the two-level (“bachelor-magister”) system of teaching, accepted by the Latvian musical academy, has been entered also on our Department. For this moment there are over 50 graduates, who have finished chamber ensemble class, a piano duet class and “piano accompaniment” class. Graduates of academy (Dase Kljava, Gerta Hanssen, Martynsh Zilberts, Lelde Tirele) and foreign high schools (Eridana Zhiba has graduated in Karlsruhe, and a magistracy has ended in Riga) are now teachers of the Department.

The main idea of the work of Department is to teach students freely and inspired playing music, ability of excellent comprehending to the smallest details parts of all instruments, developing the sense of style and the form. A special attention is giving to chamber music by Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert and Brahms.

In 2001 13 studying programs at three levels were accredited in LMA (bachelor, magister and doctor), as well as many sub-programs for various specialties and profile courses. Creating and working out of programs is one of tasks of each Department.

Our Department closely cooperates with other departments, included in the State system of music education of Latvia, and the educational organizations – 134 music schools and 9 music colleges. This cooperation is shown in the organization of competitions and participation in jury work, in carrying out of methodical consultations, in work of the commissions of the graduate examinations in musical schools. And also it is shown at accreditation of their teaching programs, by creating and working out of teaching courses of these schools to provide continuity of educational process at different levels of studying. For example, work during entrance examinations in academy later, in September, is analyzed at seminars of teachers of musical schools.

Latvia is one of those countries where person, gifted in music, or painting, or sports, have a possibility of comprehensive and free development from the first till twelfth class, which is fixed by a law. At music school there are different kinds of chamber ensembles. Also in music colleges “chamber ensemble” class and “piano accompany” class are obligatory and equal to “solo piano” class, because these courses are finished with the centralized examinations. And for other specialties (string, wind instruments) chamber ensemble is an obligatory subject, that’s why the graduate from music college proceeds a unified line of the professional development in LMA. In Academy these subjects are also equal to “solo piano” and come to the end with degree examinations. Graduates-bachelors of academy, who basically will work as teachers in music schools and colleges, have many possibilities for the further perfection in academy.

1. There is a possibility to continue studying in a two-years magistracy at «chamber ensemble» or «piano accompany» class in a free of charge or paid group (depending on quantity of the points received at entrance examinations), and one of choice subject could become the another subject, that corresponds to real practice, as musicians often combine both directions in their work. Many magistrates successfully unite study with work on a specialty, and after graduation from the magistracy receive corresponding degree. An obligatory subject for magistrates in a chamber ensemble class in LMA is an «assistant practice», where they learn the technique of playing in chamber ensemble, regularly participate in professor’s teaching process, also in master classes of foreign experts, and also get practical skills in working with students.

In 1999 Latvia has signed the Bologna declaration in the sphere of education; therefore the diplomas of LMA are admitted in all other states. Students of all levels (bachelors and magistrates) have a possibility to participate in all international events, for example, in the International festivals of student's chamber ensembles of musical high schools of the Baltic States. A reference point for this festival was 1966, when chamber ensemble competitions were founded. Each festival is an opening of the new perspective musicians, new or little-known pieces for chamber ensemble, the composers, and new professional contacts. Especially it is important the possibility of popularization of chamber music of three Baltic States, the initiators and keepers of tradition of this festivals. In 1995 the festival passed in Berlin, when for the first time during the festival the international master classes were organized, which has become an obligatory component of festival. I can say that more and more musical higher institutions get in the circle of Festival, and its international status becomes more and more valuable. The biggest quantity of the countries – 11 have taken part in festivals in Tallinn (2000), Riga (2001) and Vilnius (2002). The Economic crisis of last years has affected to our festival, too, therefore number of the countries-participants was reduced, but there is an invariable kernel of festival, which is formed by musical high schools of three Baltic States. In April, 2009 there was 33rd festival in Riga, which has been devoted to 50th anniversary of our Department. Musicians from Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, Denmark (Copenhagen), Germany (Stuttgart) and Russia (St.-Petersburg) took part in it. And now we see the renewal of this process, and even increase the number of participants of this festival.

In the spring of 1993 to stimulate student’s activity in creating new chamber ensembles and to support already existing ensembles, the Department together with administration of LMA and the Latvian radio has organized competition under the motto «Best student's chamber ensemble of the Latvian musical academy named after Jazep Vitola», which regularly passes now in March. This year it was already 19th edition.

Laureates of this competition receive the award of Musical academy, and also the Latvian radio – recording at radio studio. Besides, the award of Department for the most professional and artistic performance is appropriated. There is also an independent jury of Council of students, which marks with the award-surprise most scenically interesting decisions. Thanks to Latvian radio there is a recording of a final concert of competition, which is a very important result, as well as the birth of new and perspective collectives.

2. As it has been said, musicians have a chance to study free of charge (state budget), or for a payment. The paid program of the second educational level on a profile «professional teachers of musical subjects» (since 1999) is intended for the working teachers who do not have higher education. Within four years they study subjects, basically having a pedagogical orientation, receive degree of the bachelor and professional qualification, for example, the “teacher of piano”. They have to pass exams in piano playing, educational practice and a technique of teaching. Working teachers can also continue the education in magistracy (a paid course), enlarging their knowledge and skills. Those who chooses a profile «music and education» of a magistracy program, can specialize in such training courses as «playing in ensemble», «piano accompany», «piano playing», etc.

3. Another form of work are exchange programs. LMA’s activity is intended on the development of the international cooperation on a global scale, but first of all on integration into the European system of music education. It is promoted by an exchange between students and teachers, at the same time providing high quality of education. Such exchange basically passes in frameworks of the program of continuous training "Erasmus" which offers unique possibility to study from 3 months till one year in one of high schools of the partner countries. LMA has contracts with 78 musical high schools of Europe. In "Erasmus" program students and teachers of academy participate in various «intensive courses». LMA has contacts with Moscow and St.-Petersburg conservatories and also Minsk Academy of music, therefore there were realized many interesting projects. Our Department takes an active part in all these programs.

4. Teachers of our Department also participate in a sphere of so-called informal education. In the late nineties the department «the improvement of qualification of teachers» was created in LMA. There were informal, but the licensed education programs. After graduation from this department the student can get the opportunity to work at music school as the teacher, with a diploma, confirmed by Latvian government. Till 2001 the pedagogical course was not obligatory, but now it is necessary to study such subjects as pedagogic, the psychology, a teaching technique and teaching practice not less, than 320 hours. The second licensed program of «the improvement of qualification» allows studying playing on the related instrument (for pianists – an organ, for clarinetists – a saxophone, etc.).

Professional improvement of qualification in a volume of 36 hours is obligatory for all teachers of music schools and secondary musical educational institutions, that is defined legislatively. Here are courses, seminars, conferences, master classes, etc. For teachers of high school we’ve got improvement of qualification in a volume of 160 hours (80 hours are individual studying) during election term on a post (6 years).

Besides, teachers of Department regularly participate in the International master courses of the young Latvian musicians, which pass every two years in different cities of Latvia: Yaungulbene (1994), Ogre (1996-2008), Sigulda (2010). First these courses passed in Canada, Quebec (in 1985-1990). Latvian musicians, who live in America, take an active part in their organization from the very beginning and till now – composer Daze Aperane, the pianist and organist Ingrida Gutberga. These master courses are sponsored by the World union of free Latvians, private patrons of art, Fund of the capital of culture of Latvia, the ministry of culture of Latvia, LMA, etc. I participate myself in these master courses from the very beginning, and I see their continuous development and updating. Since 2000 studying of teachers of music and chamber ensemble teaching is included in the program of master courses. They listen to special lectures and participate in a practical work (also chamber ensemble). All participants of these courses get the certificate of the Riga pedagogical academy. Gunta Melbarde, the teacher of the Riga first music school named after Jazep Medynya, plays a great role in the organization of theoretical exercises and concerts of chamber ensembles of music schools pupils. The circle of topics is very wide. For example: «Playing of chamber music and the personality. The pianist in an ensemble» (the pianist, docent of LMA Gerta Hansena); «New forms in teaching keyboard instruments. Playing music in an ensemble» (pianist Sigitas Gedraitis/Vilnius, Lithuania), etc.

One of the very important event for our Department (together with the Methodical centre of educational institutions) is the organization of competitions of chamber ensembles and piano duets for pupils of primary and secondary music schools of Latvia. Since 1997 it passes every 3 years (the chairman of Jury is G.Sproge). The International competition of chamber ensembles and piano duets «Jürmala 1997» was also a considerable event, and was continued in 2000 and 2011.

For 9 years we continue the cooperation with the Fund «We play music together with friends» under the leadership of Gunty Melbarde. It is shown in the organization and a supervision of work of the international jury of this festival-competition. Jury members are prof. Petras Kunca, Egle Chobotiene (Lithuania), Anneli Kuusk (Estonia), Evan Rothstein (France), Alexander Kulikov (Finland), and others. An important role belongs to methodical discussions after the competition, when judges analyze for teachers execution of their pupils in details, specifying both achievements and problems. During existence of this competition I can note the increased level of mastery both in technical and art, and also scenic culture of ensembles.

The same name «We play music together with friends» have annual «Winter master courses for teachers of chamber ensemble». Such cooperation is necessary, so that the preparation for competitions is held at professional level and began from the first steps of the young musician.

Under the initiative of the same fund there is an electronic magazine of the Baltic courtiers «We play music together with friends», which is published twice a year in Latvian and English languages. There are articles concerning chamber music and education, written by members of our Department (Aldis Liepinsh, Inese Milzaraya, Gunta Sproge). Thanks to ECMTA all internet users who visits an ECMTA site can get acquainted with this magazine, and it is a considerable step to popularization of our work in Europe, allowing to our teachers to expand their outlook and to be informed about all new in their point of interest outside of Latvia.

All mentioned above shows multilateral possibilities for improvement of qualification of chamber ensemble teachers, which are available in Latvia, and this process is constantly enriched and updated.