Estonian Studies Centre/VEMU at the Tartu College is a focal point of the thriving Estonian community in Toronto. I started visiting Tartu College as a young child, thanks to my parents encouraging me to participate in Estonian events and culture actively. The current program has so much to offer that I visit the building weekly, sometimes even more than once a week! Sometimes I like to think of it as my second home.
I’m constantly involved with music and theatre and often attend concerts and performances at Tartu College. Recently, we’ve had many top-notch musicians and actors visit us. My personal favourite concert was in the fall, when we had an extremely popular country/indie/folk band from Estonia, Curly Strings, do an energetic performance that had everyone dancing and cheering along. It was absolutely heartwarming to watch people from outside of the Estonian community drop in to the concert and become so enamored with the music and overall performance that trying to sing along with the songs in Estonian wasn’t given a second thought. Interest in our culture is what we welcome everyone to experience, and concerts such as this are one of many that offer a peek at what we have to offer.
The Curly Strings concert was something that also served as an opportunity to bring together a substantial amount of our community, both young and old. I remember arriving and thinking that I hadn’t seen some of these people in a very long time. It’s not often that people from outside of Toronto are able to come to cultural events and it was fantastic seeing old family friends and loved ones come together again to enjoy a great night out.
My friends often ask me what Estonian culture and music is like. What better way to experience this than attending a live concert such as this, right in your own city? So, keeping this in mind, I brought several of my closest friends to the performance. I was really proud when I saw many of them purchase the band’s CD after the concert and enthusiastically approach them for autographs. They expressed how happy they were that I had invited them to come with me and vowed to find out more about the music and culture in general. In that moment, I couldn’t have been more proud of my heritage!
Estonia and its culture have always been a very central part of my life, and I have VEMU to thank for constantly offering new events for me to experience. Culture is essential for communities to evolve and grow, both separately and closer to each other.