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part soninArvo Pärt and Epp Sonin, Carnegie Hall, NYC


Why am I living in the United States? It’s my parents’ fault! Udo Jürima and Agnes, along with my grandparents, Kaarel and Eleanor Jürima left Estonia in September 1944, as did many others. They lived and worked near Munich (where I was born) for the Americans, until they were given the opportunity to emigrate to the United States in the 1950’s.

I attended schools in Chicago, Toronto, France at the Conservatory and in New York City at Juilliard, New School University and the Manhattan School of Music. I moved to Boston in the early 1970’s with my husband, MIT Professor of Physics, Ain Sonin (also Estonian). There our two sons, Juhan and Aldo were born.


We have lived near Boston for 45 years, during which time I established a small music conservatory where several Estonian born young artists have also taught, including Diana Liiv and Hando Nahkur.

Performing for many years and in many cities, I have always included a selection of Estonian songs in my programs to introduce this wonderful music to the general public. Audiences always seem to enjoy and be interested in the culture, art and language of this small, not well known country in the Baltic.


As I’m involved in a number of non-profit arts organizations, I always try to present Estonian music. Recently, as Chair/President of the Lexington Symphony Board, the orchestra and I introduced Arvo Pärt’s piano concerto and as part of Boston’s Cantata Singers, we performed the Boston premier of his Adam’s Lament.

I have always felt a strong connection to Estonia, though the language at home was mainly English. My first trip to Estonia was in 1980 when I had the honor of performing songs with Veljo Tormis, as well as recording some of his wonderful music. In 1992 I soloed with the Estonian National Symphony in Tallinn, singing Tobias’s Ilmaneitsike.

Feeling inadequate linguistically, I often didn’t want to converse in Estonian. My mother, a writer for Postimees in Tartu had excellent language skills. Through her outreach work as President of the New York Estonian Cultural Society, she encouraged American Estonians by example and by her continued involvement in Estonian activities, cultural events, Estonian church and school.


Last summer, when I saw the invitation from the University of Tartu to those outside Estonia to come and take a short but intensive Estonian language course, I got very excited. I thought, “it’s now or never” to sit in a classroom and attempt to learn the complicated grammar which is part of this beautiful language. It was a wonderful experience, even though I was surrounded by motivated younger students.  The teaching was on a high professional level with homework, readings and tests and with a faculty that was kind and understanding.  Added to this were great informative trips, films and gatherings to discuss our experience.

Thank you and grateful for this experience


Epp-Karike Jürima-Sonin


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