Tuukka Haapaniemi: Learning to be a musician is learning to be human

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Tuukka Haapaniemi is a Finnish singer and vocal artist. He is also a Sibelius-Academy alumnus and has his degree in Music Education. Tuukka is best known from his a cappella group Club For Five, which he formed together with his fellow students during his studies at the Academy. His friendly personality, deep and charismatic voice and hardworking attitude has made him a familiar face in the Finnish music scene. For him the most important things about music are the feeling of togetherness and cherishing the overall musicianship. 

Tuukka started his studies at Sibelius Academy in 1998. Before entering the Academy, he had gained musical experience in a local music school, having viola as his main instrument. However, Tuukka’s low bass voice brought him a lot of jobs as a singer already in the very beginning of his career and naturally his instrument and focus changed from viola to voice. During his studies, he worked as a freelancer, joining some of the most prestigious professional choirs in Finland, such as the National Opera Choir and the National Radio Chamber Choir.

In 2000, Tuukka founded Club For Five with his fellow students from the Music Education department. Now, 15 years later, Club For Five has gone a long way from being a student band into being one of the most successful vocal groups in Finland. Today, Club For Five is a full-time job for Tuukka and the group is working all year round, touring both nationally and internationally. The group is based in Helsinki and they practise in their own studio. Their working methods and habits have been shaping up during the many years of singing and performing together and Tuukka is referring to the band as a family.

- There are times when it gets confusing weather to listen to my working-self or my civil-self. If we have problems within the group, we might as well refer to marriage problems, we are just that close to each other, he says.

Drum n’ Bass – without the drums or a bass

When Tuukka wrote his thesis at Sibelius-Academy, he was asking himself a question “How does a vocal group learn?” During his studies he had found his passion for group work and was now focusing on different learning types in his academic work. Tuukka gained some valuable experience on the matter while taking over a teaching job at his old seat of learning, Helsingin Suomalainen Yhteiskoulu (a local upper secondary school). He spent a year having a full-time day job as a music teacher and during that year he discovered that he could have chosen a career as a teacher as well. But he didn’t. Club For Five and other jobs around the field of vocal music took over and he chose to follow that path. Tuukka values his time as a student in the Music Education department and gives credits to the open-minded and supportive atmosphere around the Academy. He was able to develop his overall musicianship and focus on different roles and intruments. Tuukka is the drums and the bass of Club For Five, without playing the actual instruments, but using his voice to imitate the sounds. Tuukka mentions transcribing being his main tool of learning to function as a vocal percussionist or bass.

- I transcribed Bobby McFerrin’s music, from every note to every single breathing sound and ghost note. I listened to drummers and broke their playing in to smallest atoms in my paper. This was my way of learning. Sometimes you need to see every tiny detail in front of you before you can start putting the pieces together. This leads to better understanding and gives a chance to more relaxed interpretation.

Network, experiment, innovate!

Aside from Club For Five, Tuukka is working as a vocal coach, arranger and composer. Many vocal groups and choirs ask consultancy from him, which proves that he has managed to build a solid career in his field.

- Singing a cappella is a very special thing and instrument, which transforms easily from genre to genre. The field itself is very specific and narrow but inside of this field I work in a very wide spectre. 

Tuukka graduated from Sibelius-Academy in 2008. He advises current students to be open-minded and innovative and try out as many things as possible during the years of studying. He also encourages students to start building their network as early as possible and do projects with different people and within different genres.

Learning to be a musician is learning to be human, that’s the key for building your overall artistry.

In August 2004 Tuukka received a phone call from Gustav Djupsjöbacka, the principal of Sibelius-Academy at that time. He asked Tuukka to arrange a welcoming activity for the new students starting at the Academy that year. And what did Tuukka do? He decided to rip off the instruments from each student and implement Sibelius’s Finlandia, without any real musical instruments what so ever. He divided the students into groups and gave each group few pages of the score. He advised the students to actualize the music by using any possible tool or equipment they could find, only singing and musical instruments were not allowed. This creation was performed in the opening ceremony of the Academy and most likely for the very first time in the history, was Finlandia performed with coffee cups and floor brushes, by a brand new generation of Sibelius-Academy students. This represents Tuukka’s imaginative and playful attitude towards music making, as does the feedback he got from a student in this project: “You showed me that music is not in the fingers, it’s in the heart”. 

 

Written by Venla Ilona Blom
Singer, beatboxer, composer
GLOMAS (Nordic Master in Global Music) student
Sibelius Academy

The Alumnus of the week texts are written by students participating in the Sibelius Academy mentoring programme