In the Footsteps of Jean Sibelius
Turn off your cellphones because the show is about to start. As the audience sat in silence, violins started playing at the Carelia Hall in Joensuu, North Karelia.
The Joensuu city orchestra is comprised of 35 musicians who interpret a varied repertoire of music. You can see these talented musicians not only at concert halls but also in senior institutions, the Lutheran church and youth events.
We are all used to reading about famous rock stars and pop singers in tabloids, but what is it like to be a classical musician in Finland? A monument of Sibelius, the most famous Finnish composer, is a landmark in Finland’s capital.
Sibelius’ music, like “Finlandia” and the “Karelia Suite,” are still widely interpreted throughout the country as he is considered the most prominent and respected composer. For young musically inclined Finns, following the steps of Sibelius can be a challenging task. There is only one university-level institution that trains musicians in Finland: the Sibelius Academy.
“It’s very difficult to get a permanent job as a musician, the audition candidates come from all over the world and you need to be the best.” -Lauri Mykrä, musician
Difficult, but rewarding path
Studying music on a professional level can take from 2.5 years to 5.5 years. Applicants are selected based on their qualifications and entrance exam; they can then choose from a wide variety of fields such as church music, jazz, vocal arts and a variety of instruments.
Lauri Mykrä, a graduate of the Sibelius Academy, started playing the accordion when he was nine and bassoon when he was 14. After years of studying in different countries like Sweden and Germany, he did his postgraduate diploma in Norway.
For now, he is part of the Joensuu City Orchestra and he told Finland Today that he would like to get more and more young people to the concerts. “I’ve given free concert tickets for exchange students and refugees many times,” he said.
Through constant practice, he maintains his music skills. Lately, he has also bought an accordion purely as a therapy instrument so that he can enjoy music as a hobby once more. Lauri’s clear passion for music is not only infectious, but it will also hopefully draw in younger generations to the world of classical music.
Since 2013, the conductor of Joensuu City Orchestra has been a Dutch musician, Jurjen Hempel. How did he end up in this small Finnish town? Well, he won third place in the first international Jean Sibelius competition in 1995, which led orchestras throughout Finland to invite him as a conductor.
Like him, other musicians have come to Finland and started a career here. According to Lauri, “it’s very difficult to get a permanent job as a musician, the audition candidates come from all over the world and you need to be the best.”
Whether it is the cold weather or the idyllic summer landscapes, new generations keep being inspired as Finnish classical composers gain recognition worldwide.