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The LMTA Celebrates Its 90th Anniversary

The Lithuanian Academy of Music and Theatre (LMTA), the only higher school of music, theatre, film, and dance in Lithuania and the largest in the Baltic states, is celebrating its 90th anniversary.  On this occasion, the Academy held a press conference to present the essentials of today’s LMTA life and highlight the event programme of the anniversary year.

Raminta Naujanytė-Bjelle and LMTA Rektor Assoc. Prof. Dr. Judita Žukienė (c) G. Matkutė

Today, the Academy is the largest higher education institution of music, theatre, film, and dance in the Baltic States. This is the result of consistent work by many generations,” said LMTA Rector Assoc. Prof. Dr. Judita Žukienė at the press conference.

Established 90 years ago in Kaunas, the conservatory was the first higher music school in Lithuania – thanks to efforts by such distinguished people as Juozas Naujalis, Juozas Gruodis, Juozas Tallat-Kelpša, and others. Yet, today, the Academy is much more than that. Judita Žukienė continues: “Today, we’ve grown quite a lot – we offer studies not only in music, but also in theater, film, and dance at all the three study cycles. We have university status and are proud not only of our artists, but also of our researchers.

Being leaders in the region, we feel responsible for the field of culture and its prospects because we constantly strike a balance between two areas: we cherish tradition we have inherited and we preserve our cultural identity; on the other hand, we understand that today’s first-year students of the Academy are the creators of tomorrow’s Lithuanian, and perhaps even more global, art. As a result, we embrace change: we do not know what the Lithuanian art will look like several decades later. We prepare students who are ready to accept challenges and think individually because each of us is a creator. We are proud of our lecturers, the most prominent Lithuanian artists and researchers in music, theater, cinema, and dance.”

LMTA Rector Assoc. Prof. Dr. Judita Žukienė and Prof. Valentinas Masalskis (c) G. Matkutė

Today, the LMTA today is not only a higher music school (as it was when it was founded), but also offers studies in theatre, cinema, and dance. The Academy has faculties in Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, and Klaipėda. One of the participants of the press conference was actor and director Valentinas Masalskis, a professor at the LMTA Klaipėda Faculty. In 1976, Masalskis graduated from the then State Conservatory and began teaching at the LMTA in 2008. Today, Masalskis is particularly concerned about the culture of the Western Lithuania.

Klaipėda’s capacity is increasing. At the moment, I’m working with about 20 students who are graduating this year. Some of them may leave to different parts of Lithuania, but some will stay in Klaipėda and its region. For me, that’s the most important thing. I represent this part of Lithuania and I am glad when young people stay here and create. Because we cannot think only about Vilnius or Kaunas, we must think about the whole country,” stated Valentinas Masalskis.

Prof. Valentinas Masalskis and Beata Baublinskienė (c) G. Matkutė

This year, Professor is also taking a new group of student actors at the LMTA Klaipėda Faculty: “The new generation is a pleasure for me. These young people are much freer, more confident, more motivated than I once was. I remember that during my studies, I was just spinning my wheels. Secondly, I am very happy about Klaipeda: the city is fairly empty and it does not have so many temptations for a young person. Vilnius as the capital offers numerous temptations. When you arrive at Klaipeda, you have the sea, the nature, and your work. And that work starts from eight in the morning until ten at night. I’m a learner too— I’m learning from my students. If the teacher becomes just a teacher, this is very bad. A teacher must learn every day. Today, I’d be a very good student because I’d love to study.”

The LMTA Klaipėda Faculty also hosts students from Ukraine who are studying in Professor’s V. Masalskis’ course. They arrived from the Kyiv National I. K. Karpenko-Karyi University of Theatre, Cinema and Television. V. Masalskis continued: “These students are exceptionally gifted; they were selected from 40 million. Our students are selected from 2,5 million, and the motivation is absolutely different. From these students, I’ve learned that now I’m going to demand more intelligence from young people. So that they read much more. The Ukrainian students have impressed with their knowledge.”

Prof. Dr. Audrius Stonys (c) G. Matkutė

Another participant of the press conference, Audrius Stonys, LMTA Professor and Doctor of Arts, graduated from the then Conservatory in 1989 (in TV directing). Yet, the Department of Film and Television was founded only in 1993. A. Stonys remembered he was a frequent guest at the Academy from the age of seven as his parents, actors Česlovas Stonys and Regina Kazlauskaitė, were studying here. Later, Henrikas Šablevičius began to teach at the Academy and he was the one who founded the Department of Film and Television. A. Stonys states that today young people who want to study film no longer need to explain why it is worth choosing Vilnius, and not, for example, Łódź, Krakow or Prague that boast their prominent film schools. Many LMTA graduates have become laureates at key film festivals, and the Lithuanian cinema, cultivated by the LMTA, is world-famous.

Prof. Dr. Audrius Stonys, Raminta Naujanytė-Bjelle, Assoc. Prof. Dr. Judita Žukienė (c) G. Matkutė

Raminta Naujanytė-Bjelle, a well-known composer and performer, is a doctoral student at the LMTA. She says that there is a big difference if you had to compare the LMTA now and 12 years ago. For a student, today’s studies at the LMTA are convenient and enjoyable. “The Academy boasts a high concentration of distinguished people able to provide the most relevant knowledge. And you can access them all so easily – what you need to do is get this knowledge. I’ve studied abroad, it’s far from the case elsewhere.”

On 29 March, the Lithuanian National Philharmonic Society hosts the celebration event of the 90th LMTA anniversary. The concert will feature a new piece Spaces created by Raminta Naujanytė-Bjelle and Matas Samulionis exclusively for this occasion. The piece will be performed with modular synthesizers (Mantas Samulionis), while Bjelle will sing and use interactive music gloves.

The celebration concert will also feature works by Eduardas Balsys, Julius Juzeliūnas, Vytautas Germanavičius, Linas Rimša, and music by European classics. The music will be performed by the LMTA Symphony Orchestra, the LMTA Chamber Choir, the LMTA chamber ensembles and solo performers, under the baton of Martynas Staškus and Gintautas Venislovas.

New book 90 Facts and Stories About the Lithuanian Academy of Music and Theatre (c) G. Matkutė

At the press conference, Eglė Kasteckaitė, Head of the LMTA Art Centre presented the event programme for the whole anniversary year. Throughout 2023, the LMTA will host a series of interviews called Conversations in the Great Hall that will feature artists representing different generations. The series was started last December with a conversation between Prof. Vytautas Landsbergis and LMTA Rector, Assoc. Prof. Dr. Judita Žukienė. This was followed by interviews with pianists Petras and Lukas Geniušas, film directors Algimantas Puipa and Laurynas Bareiša, and theatre directors Gytis Padegimas and Aleksandras Špilevojus. On 18 April, the LMTA Great Hall invites you to enjoy a conversation between composers Mindaugas Urbaitis and Raminta Naujanytė-Bjelle (moderated by Rasa Murauskaitė-Juškienė). A month later, on 19 May, the cycle of Conversations will continue with a meeting with choreographers Aira Naginevičiūtė-Adomaitiene and Greta Grinevičiūtė (moderated by theatre critic Vaidas Jauniškis). In the autumn, Conversations in the Great Hall will feature actors Valentinas Masalskis and Matas Dirginčius, Nele Savičenko and Jovita Jankelaitytė, Gintaras Varnas and the younger generation of theatre actors.

On 3 June, the LMTA invites you to a special event named Skambanti aikštė (Lt. A Square Full of Sounds). This event – the LMTA alumni reunion – will take place in Lukiškės Square. This Vilnius square, located just in front of the LMTA Central Building, will turn into a huge stage open to the public, where representatives of different LMTA departments will perform music, present theatre and dance performances, and film screenings.

On 9 September, the celebration events dedicated to the 90th LMTA anniversary will move to Klaipėda. In numerous spaces of the Lithuanian port – on ferries, in the Smiltynė beach, on the banks of the River Danė, and other venues– the students and teachers of the LMTA Klaipėda Faculty invite you to join The Jazzing Ferry, to see The Vision of the Past of Smiltynė Kurhaus, Dance Improvisations, and other events.

This year, several competitions– among others, the 3rd International Virgilijus Noreika Competition for Singers, the International Accordion Competition Vilnius 2023, the 4th Juozas Naujalis Competition for Choral Conductors – and scientific conferences organised by the LMTA are dedicated to the 90th anniversary of the Academy. Throughout the year, an exhibition 90 Pauses. Catch Your Luck! invites visitors to see a collection of mementos that have brought good luck to their owners, the LMTA lecturers, professors, artists, and performers. To commemorate the anniversary, the LMTA has published a book 90 Facts and Stories About the Lithuanian Academy of Music and Theatre (Lt. „90 faktų ir istorijų apie Lietuvos muzikos ir teatro akademiją”), a collection of facts from the LMTA official history as well as stories and memories of teachers revealing the informal life of the Academy.

Beata Baublinskienė
English translation by Viltė Gridasova 

28 March 2023  

Pictures by Gabija Matkutė: