Meet the artist: Frode Haltli sets an example for every musician to boldly follow their individual paths

Renowned accordionist Frode Haltli recently led a master class for a diverse group of Sibelius Academy accordion students.

Frode Haltli and Pilvi Huhta in masterclass in November 2023. Photo: Leonardo Rojnic

During his visit, Haltli also shone as the soloist for the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra.

Teacher and performer: a dual identity

Reflecting on the master class, Haltli was enthusiastic about the array of talent he encountered. The group of approximately Sibelius Academy 15 students, a mix of bachelor, master, and Junior Academy students, showcased their skills through classical transcriptions and contemporary accordion music. 

Haltli is known for his extensive and versatile performing career. As an educator, however, his approach is rooted in guidance and mentorship. He emphazises that it’s about encouraging the students to keep the joy with them and to remember why they started to play music in the first place. He urges them to foster a strong social and musical network during their student years.

”I actually think that to be a student is a extremely privileged position. As a student, even more important than thinking about the future career as such is to focus on the surroundings. I would advise them also focus on the social side of being a musician – it is the time for creating future professional networks.”

Navigating the unique path of an accordionist

Addressing the challenges of being a professional accordionist, Haltli highlights the need for creativity and adaptability. Acknowledging the limited mainstream avenues for accordionists, he encourages aspiring musicians to carve their own paths and exploring diverse musical genres.

”I don’t actually like the word entrepreneur much, but you have to be creative and make your own path. And for a lot of musicians this is an unpleasant thought. To me it has also been a blessing.”

Haltli’s own musical journey spans classical contemporary, folk, improvisation, and jazz. Despite his rich background, he acknowledges the impossibility of mastering every musical style. 

”I think it’s important as a musician to be open to different kinds of music. You don’t have to learn everything, but openness can create something new in your own expression. And I think it’s really important to listen to a broad genre of music.”

Memorable lessons for aspiring musicians

For the students, Haltli is a refreshing external influence. He emphasizes attention to detail, understanding that refining small elements contributes to a larger musical picture – also for example improvisation.

”Many students are not yet that experienced in improvisation. I try to tell them that there’s nothing dangerous about improvising or even composing. I think it’s something all musicians should do. I think it’s a natural consequence of playing an instrument. It’s just music!”

Music, art, and societal engagement: collaborating across generations

Haltli believes in music’s potential to bridge societal divides. While recognizing that not all musicians may engage in activism, he emphasizes the power of music to add positivity to the world, especially in times of darkness.

In recent years, Haltli has found inspiration in collaborating with younger musicians through his ensemble, Avant Folk. This blend of experienced and emerging talent creates an environment ripe for mutual learning and growth.

”When you bring really experienced musicians together with young, hungry ones, we can all learn from each other.”

Frode Haltli’s visit to the Sibelius Academy’s accordion class was a testament to his dedication to nurturing young talent while advocating for a multifaceted approach to music. His teachings transcend technicalities, focusing on holistic musical development and the essence of maintaining joy and curiosity in music-making.