This September, University of Nebraska at Omaha faculty and students spent one week in the Baltic nations Lithuania and Latvia as part of ongoing exchanges with Šiauliai University and the Jāzeps Vītols Latvian Academy of Music (JVLAM). During this time, participants travelled to Rīga, Latvia and Šiauliai, Vilnius, Palanga, and Klaipėda, Lithuania, attending concerts, giving performances, and visiting sites of interest.
2016 marks the twentieth anniversary of Omaha’s Sister City relationship with Šiauliai, Lithuania. As part of the celebration of that relationship, the UNO Jazz Ensemble performed alongside groups from the City of Šiauliai and Šiauliai University, such as the Šiauliai City Big Band and members of Pavasaris Women’s Chorus. Musicians from all groups joined together for several numbers at this gala concert. The UNO Jazz Ensemble performed in the Šiauliai Big Band Festival, one of the most popular jazz festivals in the Baltics, and UNO faculty performed a classical music concert with Šiauliai University faculty at Šiauliai Cathedral!
Participants then had the opportunity to travel further afield in Lithuania, taking a trip to the capital Vilnius as well as to the Baltic resort towns of Palanga and Klaipėda. In Vilnius, the UNO Jazz Ensemble performed a concert sponsored by the Cultural Affairs Office of the United States Embassy in Lithuania, and participants toured the historic Vilnius Old Town. Students spent the day at the beach in Palanga before heading to a famous jazz club in the evening for a jam session with the Klaipėda Jazz Orchestra. Performers were joined by a special guest artist on trumpet – the Mayor of Klaipėda himself, Vytautas Grubliauskas!
In Latvia, participants were hosted in Rīga by Professor Jānis Puriņš of JVLAM. Professor Puriņš has been to Omaha on several occasions to guest conduct the Wind Ensemble. UNO faculty presented a classical recital hosted in the Museum of the History of Rīga and Navigation, which was sponsored by the United States Embassy in Rīga, in remembrance of the events of 9/11 fifteen years prior. UNO students also collaborated with JVLAM students on a performance, toured the academy, and learned about the history and culture of Rīga.
It was a jam packed week of travel and performances! “I thoroughly enjoyed every day of the tour. We saw amazing things, ate delicious food, and made lasting friendships,” says UNO Music Education student Beth Gunderson. “The most rewarding moment of the trip was making music with the students from Šiauliai, where I felt connected to the culture of Lithuania.”
Šiauliai University and the University of Nebraska at Omaha maintain an active exchange relationship of students, faculty, and ensembles. UNO students have the opportunity to attend Šiauliai University for up to a year on exchange. Interested students should contact the UNO Education Abroad office for more information.
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