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From Kaunas to London: A Kanklės Player's Reflection. Part I

If you have read my brief bio, you will know that I left Lithuania, and my lovely city of Kaunas, to study Music Performance in London, UK. This was a well-thought-out decision; my goal has always been and continues to be to popularise kanklės outside of my home country.

In Lithuania, you can study the kanklės at the Lithuanian Academy of Music and Theatre. This is where almost all kanklės players pursue higher education, such as Bachelor's and Master's degrees. This instrument is rarely studied in other countries, and I have yet to hear of anyone studying it in the UK! This is due in part to the fact that there are no kanklės teachers in other countries, and despite similarities with the harp, harp teachers are usually hesitant to take on something they are unfamiliar with.

Surprisingly, when I applied to five different universities in the UK, all of them accepted me into their Music programmes, so the only thing left to decide was which programme would best suit my musical needs! I studied music at Brunel University, but I had to travel to Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance for my instrument lessons.

I agree that coming from a music conservatoire, I was surprised to learn that we would only receive 15 hours of instrumental lessons per year. This is unusual for me because at the conservatoire, we would get at least 5 hours per week. However, what initially surprised me ended up teaching me some valuable lessons that I am now using as a professional musician.

It is a different method in which you go to your teacher after learning the music notes of a piece. At university, the teacher does not actually learn the notes with you, but rather supports you in finding different ways to interpret your chosen pieces. As you begin your artistic journey, you gradually gain independence, developing a distinct artistic identity while seeking alternative paths to shape your career, all without relying solely on teacher guidance.

That is why, after graduating from university, I am not worried or dependent on anyone; while at university, I learnt most of the skills I would need once I begin my performer's career outside of higher education. But isn't that, after all, what universities are all about?


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