History of Sibelius Academy

Helsinki Music Institute, 1882

Sibelius Academy is the only music university in Finland and the biggest of its kind in Scandinavia. It was founded as the Helsinki Music Institute in 1882 on a private initiative. Martin Wegelius was appointed as the first director, and he led the Institute until his death in 1906.

Wegelius thought that musicians should educate themselves broadly. He himself taught theoretical subjects, music history, and solfége. Due to a lack of suitable study material, he also wrote some textbooks himself. Wegelius emphasized the teaching of composition and, by doing that, he managed to create a new generation of composers in Finland.

Jean Sibelius and his Contemporaries

One of the students of the Institute was Jean Sibelius, who became the Institute's nominal and symbolical figurehead. Sibelius studied composition and violin there from 1885 to 1889. For a short period in the 1890s, he also taught music theory and, later, composition.

The directors who followed Wegelius were Armas Järnefelt (1906–1907) and Karl Ekman (1907–1911). In 1911, Erkki Melartin started as a director and began immediately expanding the Institute to make it a conservatory.

After the expansion in 1924, the name of the Institute was changed to the Helsinki Conservatory. Two years later, a Department of Military Music was founded.

Sibelius Academy, 1939

After Melartin, Ernst Linko (1936–1959) began his term, during which the name Sibelius Academy was adopted (1939). New departments were also created: the Department of Church Music was founded in 1951 and the Department of School Music in 1957.

During Taneli Kuusisto's term as the rector (1959–1971), the Academy became an institute educating professional musicians only. The Academy was solely responsible for educating school, church, and military musicians.

Sibelius Academy Becomes a Public Body

Financial problems eased in 1966 when a bill for state support was passed and the Finnish government took over most of the Academy's expenses. Sibelius Academy became a public body in 1980 and a university in 1998.

While Veikko Helasvuo was the rector (1971–1981), a degree renewal was carried out and the Academy adopted a new degree system. Under this new system, the degrees given out by the Academy were equal to other Finnish university degrees.

In 1983, Sibelius Academy expanded into Kuopio when the Kuopio Unit, known as the Kuopio Department today, was founded.

Helasvuo's successors were Ellen Urho (1981–1987), Tuomas Haapanen (1987–1990), Erkki Rautio (1990–1993), Lassi Rajamaa (1993–1999), Pekka Vapaavuori (1999–2004), Gustav Djupsjöbacka (2004–2012) and Tuomas Auvinen (2012–2013, thereafter Dean  until 2017). The current Dean of Sibelius Academy is Kaarlo Hildén (2017–2020).

Helsinki Music Centre, 2011

The Helsinki Music Centre is a long-time dream come true. The idea to build the Centre came from Sibelius Academy in 1992. The two other main actors in the Centre, Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra and Radio Symphony Orchestra, joined the project in 1994.

The new facilities are used for teaching music technology, jazz, music education, orchestral instruments, folk music, composition, and music theory. The smaller Sibelius Academy concert halls are a special source of joy, mainly Black Box, Camerata, Organo, and Sonore, in addition to the auditorium and studio facilities.

The Helsinki Music Centre's International Architecture Competition was won by a Turku based LPR-arkkitehdit architecture agency with their design, "a mezza voce". The concert hall acoustics were designed by Yasuhisa Toyota from Nagata Acoustics Inc. The design and construction of the Helsinki Music Centre took 20 years. The Centre is 38,600 gross square metres and 250,000 m³. The main constructor was SRV. The Centre cost 189 million Euros with equipment.

Keywords for the Music Centre are openness, encounters, and interaction. New audiences, old listeners, students, and music professionals and various genres meet each other in the Centre's concert halls and other facilities. According to its vision, the Music Centre strives to be a pioneer in live music performances, create an active and modern city image for the Helsinki Metropolitan Area, and increase its attractiveness in Finland and abroad.

University of the Arts Helsinki 2013

The Finnish Academy of Fine Arts, Sibelius Academy and Theatre Academy Helsinki merged at the beginning of 2013 into an arts university, in English called the University of the Arts Helsinki (Taideyliopisto in Finnish, Konstuniversitetet in Swedish).