Arts+ Piano Teacher Dzidra Reimanis: A Journey of Music and Service

Dzidra Reimanis and feline friend

At the age of 97, Dzidra Reimanis reflects on a life dedicated to music and community service, particularly through her involvement with the Community School of the Arts (now Arts+), founded at First Presbyterian Church. Born in Latvia, Dzidra journeyed to the United States in 1949 and began a remarkable new chapter in her life.

“When I first came to the United States I was working in an office. I had some problems with my health and had to stay at a hospital. When I got better, a friend told me, Dzidra, you will not go back to the office anymore. Your life has to be in music. So I began teaching the piano.”

After settling in the United States, Dzidra immersed herself in her passion for music. She began her work as a piano teacher tutoring students through private lessons. Then, in 1969, she received an invitation from Henry Bridges, choir director and organist of First Presbyterian Church, to participate in a project aimed at providing music education to children from all backgrounds and areas of Charlotte.

“I received a letter from Henry Bridges at First Presbyterian Church. And he said, very simply, that they are having this project, that they just started and he would like me to be one of the teachers. I never found out where he got my name! But I was one of the first four teachers they had. I really longed for involvement in the community in some way, but I didn’t know exactly how to go about it. I was thinking maybe at my church I could do something. But as it happened, I didn’t have to do anything because Henry Bridges invited me, and I was part of the community!”

Many of the children served by this program did not have access to musical education, and through her dedication, Dzidra played a pivotal role in shaping the musical journeys of countless students over the years. This program would come to be called the Community School of the Arts (now Arts+).

“At home, I taught private lessons to children from the neighborhood I lived in. But Henry wanted to teach all children. The Presbyterian Church had all these pianos that were quiet apart from Sundays. And there were children who could study music and have a place to practice. So Henry hired four piano teachers and one theory teacher, and I was one of those teachers.”

Transportation was a big issue for the school. Back then, some students, particularly those from underserved areas, had to rely on bussing to get to their lessons. This meant long rides and sometimes unpredictable schedules. Despite the challenges, Dzidra and her fellow teachers were determined to give every student the chance to learn music, no matter where they came from.

Reflecting on her decades-long involvement with the Community School of the Arts, Dzidra highlights its positive impact on students and the community as a whole. She fondly remembers moments of joy and fulfillment as she witnessed her students’ musical abilities blossom over time.

Now retired, Dzidra remains grateful for the opportunity to share her love of music with generations of students and looks forward to seeing the school’s legacy continue to thrive in the years to come.

“I was very excited to be there. It was my life. I felt I was doing something good. As far as my profession goes, if everything had gone right in my life, I would still want to be a piano teacher. I am just so grateful it happened that way.”

Henry Bridges, Choir Director and Organist of First Presbyterian Church with students

The the Community School of the Arts (now Arts+) was founded in the church building in the fall of 1969 with 20 children receiving free lessons. Over the years, lessons were offered in dance, art, and violin, and satellite locations were set up around the city.

Henry Bridges remained executive director until 1984 when he resigned to teach piano at the satellite program at Piedmont Courts Public Housing Project.
In 2018 when the school changed its name to Arts+ it was serving 4,500 children. Mr. Bridges passed away at the age of 90 in March 2018.

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