Olivia Holladay is getting closer to her heritage through student exchange

This fall the Sibelius Academy of the University of the Arts Helsinki welcomed 68 new exchange students of 35 different nationalities. One of them is Olivia Holladay, a 19-year-old violinist originally from Atlanta, Georgia. She is in her second year in the Cleveland Institute of Music, and will study in SibA for the whole academic year.

The Sibelius Academy was an obvious choice for Olivia’s exchange year, because her mother is Finnish and she has visited Finland every year. She has played in Finnish music festivals, concerts and collaborated with Finnish musicians a lot, and now decided she wants to study here for a bit, too. She loves the snow and the sauna, speaks completely fluent Finnish, and is into Finnish composers: “The first symphony I ever played was Sibelius’ first symphony!” Being half Finnish is not the only reason she wanted to study here, though: also the fact that Finland produces so many great composers and conductors played a part in her choice of an exchange school.

When asked what she thinks she will take away from her experience in Finland, her answer is quite exhaustive: “Meeting people from all over the world, learning about music in a different way, and getting a lot closer to my Finnish heritage.”


Text: Elsi Vertanen