A long line of exemplary mentors


We all know how significant it is for our students to be surrounded by professionals working in the Helsinki Music Centre. Two world-class symphony orchestras set an example to the young University of the Arts Helsinki students through their rehearsals and concerts. Many of the symphonists are also teachers at the Sibelius Academy. The experience that they have gathered during their long careers forms the basis of their mentorship, which, at its deepest level, means reflecting on life as an artist, not just teaching to play an instrument. Occasionally, students also get a chance to be a part of a professional orchestra. Gaining an understanding on how demanding the profession is gives further impetus to their own training.

A favourable growth environment feeds a child’s appetite for music organically. It may be that being brought up in a family that is musically active is even more meaningful to a child’s growing enthusiasm towards music than having a certain set of genes. For me, having a grandfather who played the piano was what drew me to the keyboard already back when I was still wearing diapers, and I was fortunate enough to never get anything but encouragement when I went on about my atonal banging.

I went to school on Nervanderinkatu in what is nowadays known as the “N building”. My school, Helsingin Suomalainen Yhteiskoulu (abbreviated as SYK) was experimental, and it engaged in a lot of music-related activities. When I was a young boy and saw some of the older students play in the school orchestra led by Matti Rautio, I remember saying to my mother that that’s where I want to play when I grow up, too. The thirst for music is often the result of having someone older than you set you an example – especially when you can model after both your circle of friends and people who are a bit older than you.

We who are already working and those who are still students have both found a passion for art at some point in our lives. We are links in a chain that has long traditions, and we understand that going through reforms and breaking boundaries have always been an essential part of that tradition. But there’s one thing that none of us can avoid: we have to work hard to maintain our competence. We also need to work hard to discover new things – not only because networking plays an increasingly important role in music. Our academy aspires to achieve fame around the world, as do the orchestras of the Helsinki Music Centre. The internet has made distances shorter, and we attract students to our esteemed academy from across the seas and continents.

But let’s think about our childhood environments for a moment, especially if they’re not in the hustle and bustle of big cities. Despite the ongoing internationalisation, we should still foster our heritage in our respective home countries in order to find our own voice amidst the global hullabaloo of the digital world. Our strongest traditions are rooted in our music and the way it’s interwoven in the nation’s culture. The path to success starts from the ground up, and we all know that we’re going to face some obstacles and hardships along the way. Those of us who have made it further on our paths can help others by setting an example. We need to lend a hand to the younger learners and their local teachers to make the chain stronger.

Nobody should walk the road alone, that would be far too gruelling. Now, as the summer is starting, it is time for music camps where younger and older music enthusiasts come together, filled with energy and dedication that is combined with the joy of being able to do things together with friends – and enjoying some free time, as well, which is also important.