Musical journey by Estonian arts trailblazer leads to support for new IEC

Updated: Nov 25, 2020

Update #83

Capital Campaign Update


The International Estonian Centre (IEC) project team is pleased to announced that good progress is being made on all aspects of developing the new home for the global and local Estonian community www.estoniancentre.ca/post/planning and that the Capital Campaign is resuming. The Toronto Estonian House sale closed on September 1, 2020 and the project is proceeding with next steps toward opening the new Centre in mid-2022.

Epp Sonin

For Epp Sonin, her mission in life is music and community, and she has shared her considerable talent with diverse and receptive audiences for more than four decades.


A dedicated musician, teacher and philanthropist who makes her home in Lexington, Massachusetts, Epp has stepped forward as a Kalevipoja Laud donor for the new International Estonian Centre (IEC) with a gift of $150,000.


This gift will support the development of a “community room” for the IEC. This special room will be used for musical pursuits such as choral singing and rehearsal space for a range of other types of performances. It is also envisioned to act as a hub for community activities, such as meetings for Estonian Guides, Scouts and handicraft (“käsitöö”) groups.


Epp was born in Germany to Estonian parents (Agnes and Udo Jürima) and spent her early years in Munich, Chicago, Toronto and Poitiers, France. She earned her formal music education in piano at New York’s Julliard, Mannes and Manhattan Schools of Music, earning Bachelor of Science in Piano and Master of Music degrees.


“My support for the centre allows me to pay it forward for my parents and honour their memory,” Epp explains. “They came to North America after losing their home and possessions and built up their lives here so we could have a good quality of life.”


Like many Estonians of their generation, Epp’s parents set to work establishing Estonian culture in their new home. Agnes became head of the Estonian House in New York and Udo was involved with the creation of the Chicago Estonian House at which he enjoyed many hours with his Estonian friends, and at Scout gatherings. They also built a family cottage near Parry Sound, Ontario.


A true Estonian love story, Epp and her late husband Dr. Ain Sonin, a physics professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) for 40 years, met at Metsaülikool, a summer retreat in Muskoka dedicated to preserving and promoting Estonian history and culture.


Epp’s son Juhan is a lecturer at MIT. He and his wife Kate have two sons: Udo Magnus, 13,

and Viggo Sebastian, 9. Her other son Aldo lives with his family in the San Francisco area.


Epp is a strong musical ambassador and embodies the importance of music to Estonians’ lives.


“It’s the air we breathe,” she said, adding that Estonia has come onto the world stage since its renewed independence due in no small part due to its prowess in some key areas.


“Estonia is known for many things, but is ahead of much of the world in two very important areas,” Epp points out. “This is its ability to create a digital society that moves quickly and effortlessly through social needs and government services and, of course, our unparalleled and age-old custom of sharing song and dance.”


A widely regarded soprano soloist, Epp has had a long and distinguished career as a performer. She has premiered new works at Lincoln Center, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University. She has had operatic leads in such well-known productions as Cosi Fan Tutte, The Magic Flute, Old Maid and the Thief, Dido and Aeneas, Amahl and the Night Visitors, Riders to the Sea and Gallantry. She has soloed with the Vancouver Symphony, the Boston Landmarks Orchestra, the Lexington Symphony and in 1992 with the Estonian National Symphony in a gala concert celebrating Estonia’s independence.


Epp believes strongly in music education and has shared this passion with hundreds of students for more than 40 years as a piano and theory teacher. She opened Lexington’s Munroe Center for the Arts in 1984 where she founded and directs the Lexington Music School. She is also an active member of the Cantata Singers of Boston.


Recently she was honoured with an official proclamation by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts “for her work as an arts supporter and her immeasurable contribution to the Lexington Symphony’s success.”


Epp is also an ardent supporter of the Follen Community Church in Lexington. Known locally as “the music church,” she has served as the soprano soloist and section leader to the adult choir for over 40 years. For 13 of those years she headed the Lexington Series with four concerts per year at the church, which brought to the community artists as varied as jazz trumpeter Herb Pomeroy and the Moscow String Quartet. Proceeds from those concerts funded an educational program for children of colour.


The historic church recently underwent a major renovation, and part of the new space includes the “Epp Sonin Music Centre.”


She believes that societies through the ages are remembered by their contributions to the arts and Estonians have shown the world the love and power of song.


“Having a new and beautiful centre in which the Estonians can interact with each other locally and with the wider community is the reason I feel compelled and honoured to join in supporting the International Estonian Centre.”


The IEC is delighted and honoured to have the musical spirit and energy of this talented Estonian leader as part of its core foundational support.


Get involved and help support our future


Are you interested in helping build this spectacular new home for the global Estonian community? Please join our growing list of capital campaign donors! The International Estonian Centre’s donor categories are Kalevipoja Laud for gifts over $100,000 (including naming rights for specific areas), Viru Vanemad for gifts over $10,000, and Kungla Rahvas for gifts up to $10,000. Stay tuned for the launch of the Kungla Rahvas campaign in 2021.


To make a donation, please contact Urve Tamberg at donations@estoniancentre.ca.

Donations may be made as a family gift, or in honour of an individual or family. All Canadian and U.S. donations will be issued a tax receipt.

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