Professor Jukkis Uotila: From a summer camp you can get a push towards professional studies, networks and inspiration

The Jazz @ Sibelius Summer Academy summer course will be held from 6 to 10 June 2022 in Seinäjoki.

Professor Jukkis Uotila set up the Sibis Jazz Camp in the town of Seinäjoki, Finland, 25 years ago. The idea for it came from Denmark.

“In 1980 I started as head of the jazz department at the Sibelius Academy. At that time I was also I was also teaching in Denmark at a local jazz camp. I really liked the way the it was organized: it had a clear schedule and the way the teaching was organized was very pleasing. For example in addition to teaching there was plenty of time left to play together freely. From there, I got the idea to organise a similar event in Finland.”

It took a few years before the Sibelius Academy’s Seinäjoki unit was discovered as the venue for such a camp. The first Sibis Jazz camp was organized with the support of the unit’s then director, Seppo Sepponen. Over the years, there have been a wide range of participants: from young students planning professional studies to professionals and advanced enthusiasts. The age range has been wide, from teenagers to musicians in their sixties. The camps have been built around band playing since the beginning. In addition, they have been offered lectures in jazz music theory.

With well-known international names visiting as teachers, the Sibis Jazz Camp was quite professional-focused in its early days. Over the decades, the camps have been attended by a large number of current top names in the Finnish jazz scene and have been taught also by the Sibelius Academy jazz faculty. Thus the camps have also offered a foretaste of what it would be like to study at the Sibelius Academy. Especially for Sibelius Junior Academy students and those who have thought about studying at the Sibelius Academy, it has served as a place to get acquainted with Sibelius Academy’s studies. There have been approximately 30 students each year, up to a maximum of 60.

“Perhaps our summer camp has also been a kind of stepping stone to the Sibelius Academy and to professionalism – a place to meet other students from all over the country. For me, the most important thing has been for people to be able to play with each other – also outside the day’s official program.”

Uotila hopes that the camps are remembered for time spent being together, interacting and inspiring others.

“I hope that after attending, the participants will remember how nice it was to chat and play with the teachers. It was very important also to me as a young student. Jazz students and professionals can sometimes be quite alone in their own locations. These camps offer an opportunity to meet colleagues from all over the country, this time even around the world.”

Return to the camp’s roots in celebration of the jubilee year

To celebrate its 25th anniversary, the Sibis Jazz Camp will be held as part of the international Sibelius Summer Academy and is called Jazz @ Sibelius Summer Academy. For this reason, among other things, internationality is strongly reflected in the content of the camp, and two international stars are invited as teachers in addition to the Sibelius Academy’s own teaching staff. International students are also welcome.

“We also want to attract more advanced participants to further education and network with each other. After COVID-19, it is even nicer to get to play together again. That’s perhaps the thing I am most waiting for in this year’s camp.”

The content of the Seinäjoki jazz camps has often focused largely on “mainstream jazz”. They have been shaped according to the bands participating in the courses and the teaching staff in the camp.

“Perhaps in the future, styles from the outer edges of jazz genre could also be brought to the fore. The content could perhaps also be themed, depending on the style of jazz ever represented”, Uotila envisions.

The camp spirit comes from discussing and playing together

Uotila ran the first three Sibis Jazz Camps in Seinäjoki. Since then, he has worked there as a teacher several times.

“In the second camp year, we we had evening gatherings in a penthouse of a tower block in Seinäjoki. There was also a fire place for grilling some sausages. We hang out there – students and teachers together – and I got a lot of nice memories from there. That year we had a lot of foreigners, who also enjoyed the hanging out time and jamming together”, Uotila recalls.

Indeed, the feedback about the camp spirit from from international teachers has always been good. The community that is created during the camp each year through joint play and pastime has been important. In a rather small town like Seinäjoki, the spirit of togetherness is emphasized. It is also important that the infrastructure lends itself to the camp atmosphere.

“For example it’s valuable for the camp spirit to be able to call play and jam at night without regulations on silence,” Uotila smiles.

Jazz @ Sibelius Summer Academy is organised in Seinäjoki, Finland on 5 to 10 June 2022. Application period ends on 13 May.