Photo: Mirva Niemi

Lauri Supponen composes and studies in the music education programme

1. Who are you and how did you end up studying at the Sibelius Academy of the University of the Arts Helsinki?

I’m Lauri Supponen and it’s my fourth year studying composition and music theory at the Sibelius Academy. I’m at the last stretch of my studies, I only need to finish my thesis and complete the rest of the pedagogical studies. Besides composition, I’m also in the music education programme so that I can work as a music teacher.

I grew up in Belgium and when I was in high school, I decided that I wanted to pursue music as my profession. I felt like I had two options after high school: London or Helsinki. I ended up choosing London Royal College of Music, because it was closer to Brussels, and I studied composition there for four years.

After graduating, I decided to apply to study at the Sibelius Academy in Finland. Finland seemed like an exotic country in my eyes, because due to my parents’ jobs I had lived almost my entire life outside of Finland - but not ‘abroad’, as people often say, because I didn’t think I was living abroad in Brussels, which was my home. It was interesting to get to know the Finnish culture after years of living in other home countries.

2. How is studying at the Sibelius Academy different from London Royal College of Music?

I think that studying composition is very different in London compared to Finland. The Sibelius Academy focuses on the dogmatic side of things more, whereas in London the emphasis was on the students themselves and their identity as a composer from the very beginning of their studies.

Pedagogical studies are at a very high level in Finland in my mind. The teaching we’re offered is based on the latest scientific studies, and the music education programme is very comprehensive and of high quality.

3. What kind of courses are you working on at the moment?

Right now I’m finishing the so called ‘Sävellys II” module, which consists of a portfolio on the music that I’ve composed during my Master’s studies and a written thesis on composition. Next spring I’m supposed to finish my pedagogical studies.

4. What is your typical day as a student like?

Because I don’t have a lot of studies left, my days have a pretty independent and relaxed pace. I wake up late, edit my old songs and try to go to the Kaisa Library every day after lunch to work on my research. I often go swimming, as well, if I don’t have any classes in the afternoons. I go to the library and grab some sheet music with me and then later in the evening end up getting some food stains on it at Unicafe. I’m usually home at around eight. I spend my evenings listening to music and reading books. I’m taking a break from composing since I’ve been in this field for almost ten years. It feels good to take a breather and not just push full steam ahead like usually!

5. How does a composition student like you relax in his free time?

Lately I’ve relaxed by watching Breaking Bad, doing sports and this autumn I’ve gone mushroom picking a lot. It’s important to separate your free time from your studies in order to avoid stress.

6. What has been the best part of your studies?

One of the greatest experiences of my time as a student was when I got to play with Korvat Auki Ensemble last summer at Flow Festival. We got the chance to bring contemporary music to a big festival that wasn’t used to our genre. It was awesome seeing how classical music got to stand alongside popular music. It was exactly what Flow is about – giving recognition to music that is considered underground. I would have never believed that studying at the University of the Arts Helsinki would make something like that happen.

7. What has been the most challenging part of your studies?

The most challenging, but also the best part, has been encountering diversity. There’s no way you can avoid facing things that you find strange or difficult as a student. You just have to be able to face them and collaborate with all kinds of people.

8. How can art students prepare themselves for their time after graduation?

I find it important that students stay in the same country where they have completed their studies after their graduation at least for a certain period of time to maintain their existing network. The people that you get to know as a student are the same connections that you’ll need when you enter the professional life. So keep the people that are important to you close to you. Everything else will find its place.

9. What kind of thoughts do you have about life after graduation?

When you ask a contemporary composer what happens next, I think the most honest answer is often: ‘I don’t know’. We’ll just have to wait and see.

10. What kind of advice do you have for future applicants?

Don’t take the entrance exam too personally. Have faith in yourself and what you’re doing so you’ll stay true to yourself.