Spotlight: Arts help Ami Purdue stay in touch with heritage

Ami Purdue is a third grader at Parkview Elementary School in Bellingham.
Ami Purdue is a third grader at Parkview Elementary School in Bellingham. Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

It was a small part in a Skagit Opera production of Madame Butterfly that led Ami Purdue to the violin.

A family friend suggested her for the silent part of Dolore, the child of the Japanese “Madame Butterfly” and a U.S. Navy lieutenant. But in the orchestra pit, Purdue noticed one of the musicians and was smitten.

“I liked the way the violin sounded so I told my parents I wanted to take lessons,” says the 9-year-old, who is a third-grader at Parkview Elementary School in Bellingham.

She was just 4 years old at the time and has played violin ever since, taking Suzuki lessons in Bellingham.

Purdue, whose mother, Seiko Atsuta Purdue, was born in Japan, has found inspiration for many of her talents from her multicultural roots.

Each summer, Purdue travels to Osaka with her mother where they visit family. She spends several weeks attending a Japanese public school to immerse herself in the cultural and language of her mother’s birthplace.

Seiko Atsuta Purdue said it’s important to her that her daughter learn Japanese so she can communicate with grandparents, cousins and aunts on her side of the family. Through school in Japan, she has also connected with friends in Japan, who she keeps up with year-round through cards and letters.

Purdue also takes Japanese writing lessons each week in Bellingham. She learns Kanji, a system of Chinese characters that make up the Japanese writing system. Purdue said watching Japanese television with her mom also helps her language skills.

Purdue’s week is full of extracurricular activities, including ice-skating and gymnastics.

Each year she can understand the language a little more, even if her proficiency in Japanese writing is coming along slower.

“I can mostly understand what they say,” Purdue said. “But the Kanji strokes are really hard.”


Spotlight shines on children 12 or younger who excel in arts or education and shares how their parents helped them achieve success.

To suggest a child to profile, send their name and a brief description of their accomplishments, along with a parent’s name and contact information, to newsroom@bellinghamherald.com.