Butler alumna uses Fullbright Award to study in Latvia

Justine Koontz will use the grant to study Latvian music from the country’s capital, Riga.
Justine Koontz will use the grant to study Latvian music from the country’s capital, Riga. | File photo

Justine Koontz, who earned her master’s in music this year, is the third Butler University student or alumnus to win a Fullbright Award this year.

She will use the grant to study Latvian music from the country’s capital, Riga.

“We know some of their history and some of their music, but we don’t have the story,” Koontz said. “We don’t have the whys. So it’s an ethnographic study to be over there and be a participant in their culture and take note of what is going on. A lot of this will be observation and participation, getting to know people while I’m there and finding out what they have to teach me.”

Koontz’s Fullbright award will cover her travel, living expenses and a stipend as she works with professional, university and church choirs in the country to learn about Latvia’s musical culture. Upon completion of her studies, she plans to work with the American Choral Directors Association to make her research available to choral conductors in the United States.

“They have a massive repertoire of folk songs and really great contemporary composers, yet we don’t program their music that much in the United States,” she said. “And I think that’s because we don’t understand the background of their music. Why are they still singing these songs? Why are these songs so important to them? So part of this is going over there and understanding their culture and their value system and their history as a way to inform our programming here.”

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