Family to spend semester abroad

Argen Duncan

An Eastern New Mexico University jazz musician and his family are headed to Latvia next semester — on a Fulbright scholarship.

Associate Professor of Music Christopher Beaty received the scholarship to teach jazz from the middle of next January through mid-June at the Yazeps Vitols Latvian Academy of Music in Latvia’s capital city of Rega.

His wife, Eileen MacNaughton, and their three daughters, Emma, Stella and Olivia, expect to accompany him. The girls will be ages 12, 8 and 4, respectively, during the semester abroad.

“I’m looking forward to getting out and experiencing different cultures and foods and everything that goes along with that,” Beaty said.

The Latvian school has about 500 students in music and a jazz program that’s two or three years old, he said.

“So they’re really looking to get that program off the ground,” he continued.

Beaty expects to teach — in English — help develop curriculum and perform.

Also, with the U.S. State Department-run Fulbright program, Beaty said, he’ll be something of an ambassador for America.

MacNaughton, a professional violinist and music teacher at the Arts Academy at Bella Vista in Clovis, has been invited to work with violin students and play with the orchestra at the Latvian school.

The girls will go to an English-speaking public school, Beaty said.

Beaty said the family had been studying Latvian and would have to get used to public transportation and frigid winter weather in the country.

MacNaughton said she and her husband were excited their daughters, instead of just reading about Latvia, would be there and interact with people who have another view point.

“When you make a connection with kids on a personal level, it’s easier for them to get the big picture,” she said.

Their daughters who are taking violin or ballet lessons here will continue, MacNaughton said. That experience will show them music is music all over the world, she continued.

MacNaughton said the girls are excited to ice skate in Latvia, and she expects to take them to concerts.

“And if they get too homesick, there is a McDonald’s,” MacNaughton said.

Beaty applied for the scholarship in the summer of 2009. It was a long process because applications go to U.S. peers and then to the host countries, he said.

This spring, Beaty received an invitation to Latvia.

Fulbright Senior Program Officer-Europe Jean McPeek said in an e-mail that peer reviewers believed Beaty had a lot of offer Latvian students.

“He is a highly regarded musician and academic who has performed extensively nationally and internationally,” she said. “He also founded and sustained an impressive jazz studies program and a local jazz festival that annually attracts jazz luminaries.”

McPeek also said Beaty’s New Mexico students would benefit from exposure to Latvian students and musicians.