I violin

Meri Englund
I Concertmaster I violin

I am an Espoo resident born and bred. I actually dreamed of getting a job in the Tapiola Sinfonietta when I was a student. I liked the chamber music vibe of this small orchestra and admired its intense and vivid approach to making music. I was finishing my studies when I heard that the Tapiola Sinfonietta was announcing a Leader vacancy, and I decided to apply. I won the audition and got my dream job.
The best thing about my job is being able to do what I love: work with inspiring top musicians and play great music. I have also had the opportunity to appear as a soloist with my own orchestra, which is always special. In addition to our concert series, we play chamber music and give special performances to audiences of all ages, from infants to senior citizens.
The finest moments are those where the music just takes off during the performance and things happen that we did not agree on beforehand. There is something magical about 40 musicians breathing together and sensing the moment together, telling a story through music.
I enjoy the social aspect of working in an orchestra, which is a wonderful balance to solitary practice. This group has been working together for a long time, and we know each other really well. When someone does a really good job with a solo in rehearsal, we may shuffle our feet on the floor in appreciation; it is a way of showing admiration and support that is not as disruptive as applause. We also show appreciation and hug each other after concerts. After all, we are all in this together!
At home, I like to cook good food and enjoy spending time with my large family and friends. At these gatherings, we usually listen to jazz, Argentinian tango or rock classics.

Janne Nisonen
I Concertmaster I violin

I was hired by the Tapiola Sinfonietta in 2007, practically straight out of school. I had studied at the Sibelius Academy and then at the Edsberg Music Institute in Stockholm. What was interesting in the recruitment process was that the post being filled was that vacated by my former teacher, Tero Latvala.

I come from a musical family: on my mother’s side there is a long string of folk musicians in Kaustinen, and being infected by the folk bug was inevitable. The Ostrobothnian Chamber Orchestra lent its own flavour to the cultural cocktail I enjoyed in childhood; I was taken to their concerts practically as soon as I was toilet-trained.

Currently I lead a dual professional life: alongside my work as Leader I am also a conductor. I have made guest appearances with quite a few Finnish and foreign orchestras over the years.

My principal mentors include violinist Endre Wolf, pianist Timo Koskinen and Professor Mats Zetterqvist. Hannu Lintu instructed me in orchestral conducting. I play a violin made by Elina Kaljunen in 2018.

At home, I am kept busy by three kids, two cats and several unfinished garden projects

Jukka Rantamäki
II Concertmaster I violin

I can remember which chair I was sitting in at home when my parents asked me whether I would like to start on the violin. I was seven years old and in first grade, and the East Helsinki Music Institute had a new violin teacher, a Hungarian named Géza Szilvay, who was taking new pupils. I remember pretending to think about it before saying yes, even though I had no idea what it meant to ‘start on the violin’.

Seven years down the line, I was in the Junior Department at the Sibelius Academy, and throughout my adolescence I was the Leader of the Helsinki Junior Strings. Then, as now, I felt that it was the orchestra that was my instrument rather than the violin.

After the matriculation examination, I spent some time thinking about what might be more interesting than playing the violin. But come May, I was at the entrance examination for the Sibelius Academy proper, wearing a blue T-shirt with yellow fluff letters that spelled out something that translates roughly as “HOW HORRIBLE!”. The jury was amused and did not count it against me.

In 1986, in the staircase of what was then the Sibelius Academy building, subsequently known as the ‘R building’, behind Parliament House, I saw a large poster that said ‘Come help create a top-class orchestra in Espoo!’ I auditioned for the Espoo City Orchestra, as it then was, and have been 2nd Leader of what is now the Tapiola Sinfonietta since August 1987 when the orchestra was first formed.

Sari Deshayes
I violin

I enjoyed singing a lot when I was a child and dreamed of being a pop singer. At the initiative of my first-grade teacher, I was sent to the entrance examinations of the Vantaa Music institute. My point scores were high, and I was asked whether I would like to play the violin instead of the piano. I had never even seen a violin, but I said yes. I fell in love with the instrument and abandoned thoughts of a career as a pop singer.

From the Music Institute, I went on to the Junior Department at the Sibelius Academy and then to the soloist degree programme there. I began to play gigs with professional orchestras in my twenties, one of them being the Tapiola Sinfonietta. When a 1st Violin vacancy was announced, I applied and was fortunate to be hired for a permanent position in my first ever professional audition!

The Tapiola Sinfonietta is a great orchestra to work with, making music with brilliant, pleasant colleagues. I have also been playing with the Vantaa Pops Orchestra and the Savonlinna Opera Festival Orchestra for quite some time. When time allows, I enjoy performing with other orchestras too, or playing pop or rock with a quartet, for instance. Music listening is also a source of inspiration, ranging from my childhood love – schlagers – to classical and everything in between!

Susanne Helasvuo
I violin

Growing up in a family of musicians means growing up in a life full of music. I never actually chose to pursue music as a career; it simply seemed the only thing to do. The key influences in my violin studies were Ari Angervo and Chaim Taub.

There are three areas of music that are particularly dear to me. The first is opera, which has stayed with me since the age of eleven when I appeared in a child role in The Red Line by Aulis Sallinen. I later joined the Orchestra of the Finnish National Opera, and have played in the Savonlinna Opera Festival Orchestra for many years.

The second is orchestral music; it was my dream even as a child to play in an orchestra. I was fortunate to be able to join the Avanti! Chamber Orchestra at an early age, as this was an excellent course of instruction in being a versatile musician. One of the most important factors in why I applied for the Tapiola Sinfonietta was that I was already familiar with many of the musicians of the newly founded orchestra.

The third area of music where I feel particularly at home is early music. I trained as a Baroque musician with the Battalia ensemble.

I am intrigued by the diversity of performing with different musical communities. It is the easiest way of ensuring that one finds refreshing new approaches. It gives me energy that I can share with my colleagues and with our wonderful audiences.

I enjoy sailing in the Archipelago Sea and traveling in Finland’s lakeland. Silence and the sounds of nature are the most meditative music there is!

Leena Ihamuotila
I violin

For whatever reason, it was clear to me from a very early age that I wanted to play the violin and that it would be my job somehow. Having five siblings who all played an instrument, this seemed only natural.

My journey began at the Oulu Conservatory and continued through the Sibelius Academy, the Kuhmo Violin School and the Rotterdam Conservatory. Early on, I imagined becoming a violin teacher, but three years as the Leader of the Virtuosi di Kuhmo chamber orchestra inspired me to play in an orchestra, to do things together with other people. As I neared the end of my studies, I saw an ad announcing a 1st Violin vacancy with the Tapiola Sinfonietta, and long story short, I signed my employment contract in August 1995.

I had no idea what a great workplace community I was entering! Not a day has gone by when I have not marvelled at the flexibility, competence and creativity of my colleagues, not to speak of the excellent company. All this has sustained my creative spark over the years. The work is so diverse and so variable that I have sometimes been more than pleased to be taken out of my comfort zone and to learn new things.

I have been a fan of classical music since I was little. Because of the nature of my work, I rarely listen to music in my spare time, unless it has something to do with forthcoming repertoire or the next week at work; generally, I need silence after my working day. Whenever possible, I turn to nature for tranquillity. But if I am struck by a need for music after work, I prefer to go to a concert rather than to put on a pair of headphones. A live concert, whether we are performing or listening, is always a fascinating and unique experience.

Mervi Kinnarinen
I violin

I was born in Lahti, where specialised music classes were set up at school in the mid-1960s. My mother had me apply in the 1970s, and I was able to begin violin studies at the Music Institute at the same time. Without these two institutions and a series of fine teachers, I do not think I would have become a musician.

Piano, violin, orchestra and music theory filled up my life, and I completed upper secondary school in the form of night classes in order to have more time for music. I briefly toyed with the dream of becoming an architect, but having been accepted for the Sibelius Academy I never looked back. In 1990, a 1st Violin vacancy was announced in the Tapiola Sinfonietta, and I immediately decided I wanted to apply, because having played gigs with various orchestras I had found that I enjoyed small ensembles best. And I got the job!

I developed an interest in Baroque music during my studies, as around that time the good tidings of historically informed performance were just arriving in Finland. On switch leave, I went to the Netherlands to learn more, and after returning home I eagerly played Baroque violin with a number of groups. Baroque music remains the genre dearest to me.

As a contrast to work, I exercise and do gardening. I also enjoy other branches of the arts, from visual art to theatre and literature. What I enjoy most is silence and the company of my cats Peppi and Leevi.

Aleksandra Pitkäpaasi
I violin

I began playing the violin at the age of five. There are many generations of musicians in my family, and this is a profession that I wanted for myself ever since I was a child.

I studied at the Sibelius Academy, where I completed my final examination in the violin with excellent marks and graduated with a Master of Music degree in 1999. My teachers included Anatoli Melnikov, Seppo Tukiainen, Olga Parhomenko and tuomas Haapanen.
My passion for music has deepened through participating in several violin competitions (Norrköping, Wieniawski, Montreal, Salzburg, etc.) and playing a lot of chamber music.

I played with the Orchestra of the Finnish National Opera and the Helsinki Philharmonic before joining the Tapiola Sinfonietta in 2007. I have been playing 1st Violin here since 2010. I am inspired by challenges and by making music with my skilled friends.

Kati Rantamäki
I violin

I am from Lahti. As a child, my hobbies included the violin, figure skating and gymnastics, but I particularly enjoyed knitting. I knit my first sweater at the age of nine and made a lot of them subsequently. I was thinking about crafts as a profession, but as I entered upper secondary school, the violin took the upper hand.

While still at school, I saw a newspaper article about the new City Orchestra being established in Espoo. I spent nine years studying the violin at the Sibelius Academy and in Rotterdam, and towards the end of my studies, in 1995, I got my first job with the Orchestra of the Finnish National Opera. A few years later, I was hired to play violin with the Tapiola Sinfonietta.

I enjoy playing music from various eras in diverse ensembles from the small to the very large. I am particularly partial to compelling, emotional music.

I do not know of anything better than trekking! Hiking and outdoor cooking are things my family enjoys doing together. Clean air, silence and an absence of urgency balance our busy everyday lives wonderfully.

Viola

Jussi Tuhkanen
Principal Viola

The first time that music, or sound, made an impression on me was hearing the orchestra tune up at the Savonlinna Opera Festival. This must have been in the late 1980s, and I have my grandmother to thank for the tickets.

The most important single reason for me becoming a musician was meeting my first viola teacher, Emil Langbord, at the sensitive age of 16. Up until then, I had taken the path of least resistance as far as practising for music lessons was concerned. With Langbord, I began to actually enjoy practising for the first time.

After my long and thorough studies, mostly in Finland, I was fortunate to find employment with all other orchestras in Helsinki before being hired as a Principal with the Tapiola Sinfonietta in 2018.

What I like about our orchestra is how musically omnivorous it is, what a good team spirit it has and how good the synergy is in merging working in an orchestra the size of the Tapiola Sinfonietta with playing with the Kamus Quartet, which is also important for me.

Away from work, I am also an omnivore when it comes to music or my beloved pastime of cooking.

Ulla Soinne
Principal Viola

Music has always played an important role in my life. When I was a small child, I used to sit under the table and listen to the grown-ups talking. The words ‘polyphony’ and ‘Bach’ came up again and again, and even then I realised that these were among the most important things in life. Sometimes my father, an organist, took me to church to help him tune the instrument. I would sit on the bench and hold down one key at a time as he tapped on the pipe in question. When he shouted “Next!” from within the organ, I would press down the next key.

I also recall violist Tapio Myöhänen performing with my father at an evening music recital in the organ loft at Kuopio Cathedral. The sound of the viola enchanted me, and that enchantment has never faded. I joined the Tapiola Sinfonietta in 1992, after my studies and a number of twists and turns. The members of the Sinfonietta share a love of music, and I believe that our work gives us energy. I also like to recharge my batteries by walking in the forest.

Janne Saari
Viola

I was fortunate to grow up in a home with a lot of music. I began to play the violin under the tuition of my father Risto. My mother, Liisa, played the piano. She was an accomplished amateur musician like my father and an invaluable accompanist. My first violin teacher was my uncle Ylermi ‘Ylle’ Poijärvi, in his twenties at the time, and at the age of eleven I went to study with Onni Suhonen.

I had heard the viola as a child, when my father played in a string quartet with his friends. I first tried my hand at it myself in the newly founded Kirkkonummi Chamber Orchestra at the age of 14, albeit the instrument was of a reduced size.

In 1976, I was lent Ylle’s celebrated Cervus viola, and this completely changed my perception of the instrument. It was a magnificent, soulful instrument, and I was grateful to have it at my disposal up until 1989. Other major milestones in my career include playing with the Vantaa Orchestra, music camps at the Kuhmo Chamber Music Festival, and particularly the viola playing of Gerard Causse. I also fondly remember instrument maker Gerriet Groth, who made my own viola with the dimensions of the Cervus.

My wife Tuula and I studied with Daniel Benyamin in Israel in 1985–1986, conveniently just before the auditions for the Tapiola Sinfonietta. I was attracted from the first by the idea of playing in a smaller orchestra, and looking back I view my time here with great gratitude.

Nature and the sea have been dear to me since childhood, as well as any music that has heart in it. Our allotment garden and our old summer cottage are also wonderful sources of energy alongside our terrific workplace community

Tuula Saari
Viola

I began playing the violin at the Espoo Music Institute at the age of eight. It was at the suggestion of my teacher, Paavo Pohjola, that I took up the viola. I went on to study with Veikko Kosonen, Jouko Mansnerus and Matti Hirvikangas at the Sibelius Academy and graduated with a M.Mus. degree. I have also studied privately with Daniel Benyamin in Finland and in Tel Aviv. I have been with the Tapiola Sinfonietta since it was established.

Ilona Rechardt
Viola

I was born into a family keen on sports and music in Helsinki. I began my violin studies at the age of 11, inspired by the violin inherited from my grandmother. Having left school, I applied to the Sibelius Academy to study the violin and to the University of Helsinki to study medicine. The violin, and later the viola, turned out to be my profession, while medicine remained an amateur interest. I spent a year studying in the USA and was introduced to violin and viola pedagogy under Professor Mimi Zweig.

Having graduated from the Sibelius Academy, I spent two inspiring years with the Lahti City Orchestra [Sinfonia Lahti], where my violist career got off to a good start. I then auditioned for the new orchestra being set up in Espoo in 1987 and was delighted to be accepted. Since then, I have been enjoying the excellent team spirit, powerful desire for improvement and diverse range of activities that we have here. I am also pleased to be able to influence the content of my work. It is truly a privilege to be in the sphere of wonderful performing artists and interesting people in the shared pursuit of music.

I mainly enjoy classical music and opera, Bach and Schubert being among my favourite composers. My work and my family give me energy from one day to the next, and I also enjoy outdoor recreation and my visual arts pastime.

Pasi Kauppinen
Viola

My musical career began at the moment when I borrowed my grandfather’s violin. I began my studies at the Lappeenranta Music Institute, where I later switched to the viola at the suggestion of Leader Kalevi Tarvainen. I was enchanted with the lovely dark sound of the viola, and gradually my choice of career became clear.

I went on to study with Eija Hirvonen, Jouko Mansnerus and Atso Lehto at the Sibelius Academy and later with Daniel Benyamin in Israel. The Tapiola Sinfonietta seemed like an interesting orchestra and also a challenging job, which is what I was looking for. I felt I could learn new things there. I have played viola with the Tapiola Sinfonietta since 1988.

My free time includes outdoor recreation, volunteering for a missionary charity and playing chess and frisbee golf with my friends. My summers include cottage stays and hiking, for instance in Lapland. These and my faith give me strength in life.

What I enjoy the most at work is the sense of contributing to a common goal and doing things together. The Tapiola Sinfonietta has an abundance of this. The combination of skills and passion is very rewarding.

II violin

Päivi Rissanen
Principal II violin

I am told that as a child I was an exhausting dancing and singing dynamo performing sensible melodies with incomprehensible lyrics. To the relief of my immediate environment, outlets for my singing and dancing needs was found in the Tapiola Choir and ballet school, respectively. Why I was given the violin to play has yet to be explained.

My violin playing got off to a start at the Espoo Music Institute and picked up speed at the Sibelius Academy and at the Musichochschule in Vienna. However, my most valuable professional tuition has come from my dear colleagues and other top musicians in orchestras with which I have had the joy and privilege of performing both at home and abroad. I landed my dream job amidst the chamber music vibe of the Tapiola Sinfonietta when I was hired as 1st Violin in 2001. I have been Principal 2nd Violin since 2014.

With age, my values have shifted from personal professional ambition to communal wellbeing. Positive interaction between colleagues in all areas of work is a major source of energy for me. Creating art at a high level and wellbeing go hand in hand.

An orchestra is an excellent social laboratory. My insatiable interest in this aspect of the work led me to undertake studies in social psychology at the University of Helsinki, and I completed a M.Pol.Sc. degree in 2019.

Maarit Kyllönen
II violin

I was born in Sweden, which is where I started school and started playing the violin. After we moved to Finland, I studied the violin at the Espoo Music Institute, which is where I am still enrolled, though as a teacher for nearly 30 years now.

Having finished school, I went off to study at the Tchaikovsky Conservatory in Moscow, where I completed my Master’s degree. It was also in Moscow that I met a wonderful Dutch pianist boy.

In 1987, a top-quality orchestra was being set up in Espoo. I applied and was accepted, but I was still thinking of the Netherlands. I decided to go there to study for two more years, and the aforementioned pianist came to Finland with me when I returned. We have three children, who now perform under the name Trio Roozeman. The pianist and I have been journeying together for nearly 30 years.

The best things about my job are my wonderful colleagues and the constantly changing visiting conductors and soloists. Playing new repertoire every week is also an agreeable challenge. With music as with food, I am omnivorous. I live on the edge of a large forest where I like to go walking and biking to restore my energy.

Timo Holopainen
II violin

I took up the violin at the Mikkeli Music Institute at the age of 10 – quite late by modern standards. However, music had had a presence in my life from early childhood, being an active hobby for both my parents and my siblings, whether on instruments or singing. Also, the weekly military guard band parades past our house impressed me hugely as a child.

We moved to Espoo in the late 1960s, and this improved my study opportunities, yet it was not until I gained entry into the Junior Department of the Sibelius Academy and later into its adult degree programme that my path towards a career in music began to coalesce. Another formative experience was playing with the Espoo Chamber Orchestra, the predecessor of the Tapiola Sinfonietta, which was quite a professionally organised outfit and which taught me many useful things about playing with a professional orchestra.

I was among the first to apply for the Tapiola Sinfonietta in 1987. Over the past 30+ years, I have been in multiple roles within the orchestra: first playing 1st Violin, then as Principal 2nd Violin and finally as a rank-and-file 2nd Violin. As a member of the Artistic Board for many years, I have been able to contribute to artistic decisions and repertoire planning. The orchestra has improved hugely during all this time, and I am still in awe of the passion that its members feel for their work.

It is often said of musicians that their job and their hobby coincide. This is certainly true for me. I do not listen to as much music these days as before, probably because my days are full enough of music as it is, but if I do slip a CD into my car stereo, it is most likely by Sting.

Tiina Paananen
II violin

I have been shacked up with a violin ever since I was five years old. It was tedious scraping at first, but when I got a bit better, I had the chance to make music with others, and that was great fun! Over the years, the violin and me have travelled from the East Helsinki Music Institute to the Sibelius Academy and to the Rotterdam Conservatory for three years.

With a M.Mus. degree under our belts, we began to look for a job. We found one in a newly founded chamber orchestra named the Tapiola Sinfonietta in Espoo. We have been here for nearly 30 years, and could not have wished for a better place to grow as a musician and to learn about ensemble playing and group dynamics in their many forms.

Recently, we have taken an interest in country and folk music and dared to venture into unfamiliar territory and even to sing. When my violin has a day off, I can be found dancing to swing music, with or without a partner.

Jukka Mertanen
II violin

I was born in Finland but spent my childhood and youth up until the age of 17 in North America, specifically in Canada for four years and then in Los Angeles in the USA, which is where I began my violin and piano studies.

I thought I would become a scientist, a microbiologist, and I actually began studies in the field when I relocated to Finland in the 1970s. After a couple of years in the Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences at the University of Helsinki, my love of music prevailed, and I applied to and was accepted for the Sibelius Academy.

In Los Angeles, I had studied the violin with Olga Blasyna and Eunice Wennermark-Price; my teachers in Finland included Anja Ignatius and Paavo Pohjola. I completed my violin diploma in 1982 and was a founding member of the Hämeenlinna Quartet, with which I played until 1987. When I heard that a new orchestra was being set up, the Tapiola Sinfonietta, I auditioned and have been a member of this dear orchestra ever since. I have held several elected posts in the orchestra and in the Musicians’ Union, particularly its Helsinki chapter.

I have been recording the concerts of the Tapiola Sinfonietta through the mastering studio of my recording studio company since 2006. I am now finding inspiration in studying composition, particularly for film and video music. This is in support of a multiple-year video project that I have. I have also enjoyed photography as a hobby for a considerable time.

Salla Mertsalo
II violin

I have been playing with the Tapiola Sinfonietta ever since it was established in 1987. Having lived on the southern shore of Espoo for all my life, it was a special thing to be accepted for this orchestra in particular. I had previously played with various Finnish municipal orchestras on a temporary basis and was employed at the National Theatre for a few years. I began my violin studies at the Espoo Music Institute at the age of six and have now been teaching the violin there for about 30 years.

I did a lot of session work from 1982 with artists including the Hurriganes, T.T. Oksala, Pekka Pohjola, Pave Maijanen, Aki Sirkesalo, Kari Tapio, Kirka, Tapani Kansa, Yö, Tommi Läntinen… the list goes on. It was a particularly memorable experience to record an album with T.T. Oksala with real sound professionals at the U2 studio in Dublin.

But all work and no play… these days, I spend my spare time in gardening, boating, gourmet cooking and appreciating architecture.

Leena Tuomisto-Saarikoski
II violin

I probably wanted to begin playing the violin because my father, who was an amateur musician, played multiple instruments, including the violin. Summer music camps prompted the idea of choosing music as a career.

I was born in Helsinki but lived in a detached house in Espoo since I was a small child. I enjoyed the forest near our home and felt safe there. I recall walking there alone from a very early age. I have vivid memories of what the forest environment felt like, and I feel that there is a connection between my solitary experiences of nature and my musicianship.

I progressed from private lessons to the Sibelius Academy and also briefly abroad. I had just completed my diploma when the Espoo City Orchestra was established, so it seemed only natural to apply for a job there.

I like to play and listen to many kinds of music. In one year, I focused on Japanese music on original instruments. In my spare time, I engage in Pilates and walking and enjoy the natural environment. Hanko has become an important place for me over the past ten years. What I particularly enjoy about my work is the music and the connection I have with other musicians, making music together and sharing experiences.

Cello

Riitta Pesola
Principal (Solo Cello) Cello

My cello career began with studies at the Kotka Music Institute, continuing at the Sibelius Academy and at the Juilliard School of Music in New York. I found my professional home with the Tapiola Sinfonietta in its very first auditions in autumn 1986. The orchestra has had a huge impact on my music-making personality. Apart from playing orchestral music, I have been able to perform a lot of chamber music in various ensembles at home and abroad.

Family life and growth with my children has been almost as demanding as my growth as a musician. Now that our children have gone their separate ways, I have more time for two of my favourite pastimes: riding and cooking. Both have parallels with my work as a cellist: being strong yet relaxed and having a sense of rhythm are great benefits when communicating with a horse, and good cooking depends on instants of creativity. Like a successful concert, good food also disappears fast, but the positive feeling it gives lingers for a long time.

Mikko Pitkäpaasi
Cello

I began to engage with music and to study the cello in Lahti. My father played viola with the Lahti City Orchestra for many years. This was also the first professional orchestra that I came into contact with, on a two-week work experience period while at school. I remember it as an inspiring encounter.

Subsequently, I progressed to the Junior Department of the Sibelius Academy, the Edsberg Music Institute in Stockholm and the Tapiola Sinfonietta. My cello teachers have variously included Hannu Kiiski, Frans Helmerson, Alexander Rudin and Heikki Rautasalo, who coached my diploma examination at the Sibelius Academy in 1995. By that time, I had already been playing with the Tapiola Sinfonietta for several years – a huge masterclass for a young musician.

Today, I very much enjoy the music made by my many skilled colleagues. I have found visits to other orchestras to be refreshing and professionally inspiring. For me, the best thing about this job is the first rehearsal of the week when we begin work on new repertoire leading up to a concert. And of course there are the special moments in a concert where everything just comes together and the music takes on a life of its own. Musicians spend their career reaching for the ‘spheres’. As a contrast, in my free time I lead an ordinary life with my family, with outdoor recreation in the forest and on the water, and getting busy in the kitchen.

Jukka Kaukola
Cello

My involvement with music began quite by accident. We moved to Lapinlahti when I was 10 years old, and at school I was assigned to the class of the teacher who also ran all things musical in the community. One of my classmates had just given up playing the cello, and my teacher offered me the now unused instrument. Being a nice kid, I did not know how to say no, and soon I was travelling to Kuopio every Saturday for cello lessons.

For a couple of years, I just went through the motions, but then a friend of mine who played the piano managed to infect me with his enthusiasm for classical music. After upper secondary school, I went on to study at the Sibelius Academy, and I gained experience playing for a while with the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra and the Savonlinna Opera Festival Orchestra.

I joined the Tapiola Sinfonietta in1991. The audition came at exactly the right time for me, as I had just finished my studies at the Sibelius Academy and was dreaming of finding a job with one of the orchestras in the Helsinki area. I have many wonderful memories from the years I have spent in this orchestra, which as a chamber orchestra is just the right size for me.

A few years ago I found an opportunity to pursue in-depth studies in Baroque music in Pietarsaari. The cello repertoire of the 18th century is an unending source of inspiration and motivation for me.

My principal leisure pursuits are football and outdoor recreation, particularly fishing.

Janne Aalto
Cello

I have had the joy and privilege of growing up in a family where culture and particularly music are regarded as highly important. Turku is a city of culture with a wide range of arts to enjoy. I was also fortunate to have Timo Hanhinen as my cello teacher. He became an influential mentor and a lifelong friend.

In my youth, I discovered that my circle of friends consisted mainly of music students. They were hugely inspiring and encouraging company. My choice of career thus largely suggested itself.

Around the time when the Tapiola Sinfonietta was set up, many of my fellow students decided to try out for it, and I joined them. As Fate would have it, I was accepted, and I am thus one of the orchestra’s founding members. I listen to music as the mood dictates, from all over the spectrum, although classical music is dearest to me.

My wife is a violinist, and our three children are also involved in music, so our family is very much an artistic one. Music brings joy, passion, challenges, some stress and even some anxiety, but above all it yields energy and experiences and gives meaning to life.

Double Bass

Panu Pärssinen
Principal Double Bass

Life often seems like a logical path staked out by the choices we make. It is far more difficult to perceive the chance occurrences where a tiny change in what happened would have made the rest of our life very different.

The main reason for my career can be traced back to my grandmother’s childhood in Karelia. She and her sister had a kind of sibling rivalry going on, as you do. As they each started a family, the measure of this competitiveness – which was never acknowledged out loud – was first the number of children they each had and then the artistic talents of those children. They handed down a tradition of singing that led to the emergence of several musicians in both branches of the family. It was just as well, because hardly any of us could have made a living playing Karelian skittles.

The next significant chance occurrence came when my teacher in sixth grade asked whether anyone had long enough fingers to start learning the double bass at the music institute. I was the only one to put up my hand, and subsequently my lacklustre piano playing faded into the background.

My double bass teacher Jukka Räikkönen taught me that playing bass is fun. He propelled me into attending music camps and later encouraged me to apply to the Sibelius Academy. I never made a conscious choice to pursue a career in music: all other plans just dissolved. I was accepted in the audition for the Espoo City Orchestra at the age of 20, and I have never looked back.

So what I have to thank for my career are my grandmother’s sisterly competitiveness; my music teacher Pirjo-Liisa Hiltula; and Jukka Räikkönen, who deserves special thanks for the chocolate he always gave me at the end of the lesson.

Mikko Kujanpää
Double Bass

I caught the orchestral music bug in my teens, playing with the Seinäjoki Town Orchestra in the early 1990s. Playing numerous concerts ranging from the ‘Tango Market’ to opera pit band at the same desk with my teacher Mikko Rantalainen gave me a literal front-row seat to what the life of a professional musician is like. Experiences gained at summer camps and in youth orchestras weighed much in the balance when career choice time came around in upper secondary school.

Having entered the Sibelius Academy, I engaged in a lot of jazz studies on the side and explored period instruments too: I even studied the violone, the predecessor of the double bass, for a while.

My history with the Tapiola Sinfonietta began with a one-year locum post at the turn of the millennium. Five years down the line, I was fortunate to ace an audition for a permanent appointment.

In the past few years, my role in the workplace community has expanded. Electing me as a member of the Artistic Board is the orchestra’s way of saying that they trust my ability to maintain diversity in repertoire and to keep the continuing development of the orchestra in mind. It is also important to ensure that the music we perform reaches out to as many of the residents of Espoo as possible, whatever their background may be.

My leisure interests seem to shift periodically, but chess and astronomical photography are constants. I commute by bicycle, and through this I have discovered running as a leisure activity, and I have progressed up to running marathons.

Matti Tegelman
Double Bass

My father Heikki Tegelman is an architect who has always been a music enthusiast, and my three brothers have also created careers in music. It was only natural that I took up the piano and singing. Our family moved to Tanzania in 1979. Bob Smith, the energetic music teacher at the International School in Dar es Salaam, had written out Paul McCartney’s bass parts for a Beatles musical. My motivation to learn to read music suddenly increased, and I discovered the bass!

Once we had returned to Finland, I applied to the Kuopio Music Institute to study the double bass on the advice of my brother Pekka. A new musical world opened up through the Music Institute symphony orchestra.

After upper secondary school, I decided on the suggestion of a friend to apply to the Sibelius Academy. My first attempt went nowhere, but I was motivated enough to continue, and for the following year I travelled regularly by train to Helsinki for lessons with Juha Pesonen. The effort paid off: I entered the Sibelius Academy in 1986. Thanks, Juha!

I enjoyed the intense teaching of Jussi Javas in particular, and periods with the string orchestra of the Sibelius Academy and particularly under the coaching of Paavo Pohjola were also memorable. When I was approaching my diploma examination, Teemu Hauta-aho came to my aid in lending me one of his instruments. Thanks, ‘Graveyard’!

On the orchestral front, playing with the Orchestra of the Finnish National Opera as a temp was a great experience. I also occasionally had gigs with the newly established Espoo City Orchestra. I became intimately familiar with the bus network of Espoo as I lugged my double bass around the city. I auditioned for a permanent post in 1989 and took up the permanent appointment as Double Bass with the Tapiola Sinfonietta in 1990. Thanks, Jussi!

I have later come to understand what a unique opportunity it was to get in on the ground floor in a new orchestra. We were able to evolve a workplace culture without historical baggage. A small orchestra is flexible and quick in its reactions, almost like a rock band! I have been able to do audience outreach work, be involved in culture for kids, perform jazz and prog rock and pursue my own projects. In recent years I have begun to write music again, just for myself but perhaps for the enjoyment of others too. Even after 30 years, it is difficult to talk about music as a job, because it is still the hobby I love best.

Flute

Hanna Juutilainen
Principal Flute

Varkaus, my home town in childhood and youth, offered an excellent infrastructure for musical pursuits in the 1970s. The musical scene was abundant relative to the population of the town. There were several orchestras and choirs giving regular concerts and inspiring professionals, amateurs and young people of all ages to do things together. This sense of community is what I most miss today.

My studies took me via the Kuopio Conservatory to the Sibelius Academy, where after twists and turns I graduated in 1991. At that time, you could study at your own pace and get sidetracked at will. Apart from the flute, I undertook basic studies in the piano, voice, rhythm instruments and composition, to name but a few. All this has benefited me in my present position playing flute with the Tapiola Sinfonietta.

I was fortunate in that I was successful in my first audition and in that I have been able to play with the same orchestra for my entire professional career. Teaching and constantly studying new things have augmented my profile as a musician. Contemporary music and working with composers is very important. I also have an interest in period instruments and have sometimes found time to play them. I own a growing score library, and I once conducted an actual orchestra in public. I have yet to make good on my talk of starting to play the drums again, but it is not forgotten. There is not a lot of time left over after all this, but what time there is I like to use for cooking.

Heljä Räty
Flute

I took up music as a hobby playing the recorder at the Jyväskylä Conservatory until Juho Alvas took me on as a flute student. I also followed my father to wind band rehearsals – first to mind the door and to pass out the sheet music, but later to play the 2nd oboe part on my flute. Because of these early experiences, ensemble playing and orchestral music have always been the most important for me. I also learned some of the key skills of a professional musician at an early age: listening to great stories and waiting patiently.

I spent my summers at music camps in the 1970s and 1980s like almost all budding professional musicians do. I have known many of my current colleagues since those days. After upper secondary school, I went to study with Herbert Weissberg in Vienna and then returned to study with Mikael Helasvuo at the Sibelius Academy. I was swept up in the newly founded Avanti! Chamber Orchestra in Helsinki. I had the occasional gig playing with the Tapiola Sinfonietta in its early days, and later I obtained a permanent appointment here.

As an orchestral musician, you find yourself doing all sorts of things: every week and every year is different from the previous one. You never know what kind of programme and which concert will be the best. Ensemble playing, orchestral sound and group dynamics are a magic cauldron where everyone plays a vital part, but there is no single correct way of being a musician. Multiple spices give the soup real flavour.

Oboe

Anni Haapaniemi
Principal Oboe

I come from Toholampi, a tiny rural municipality in Central Ostrobothnia where as recently as in the 1980s there were more cows than people. I was a farm girl, and in my childhood I knew about as much about oboe solos as a pig knows about a windmill.

Toholampi has a robust musical tradition. I began singing in a choir and playing the piano when I was barely knee-high. The community has had an active wind band for more than 40 years; it has fostered some 30 professional musicians and countless music enthusiasts in the course of its history. At the age of eleven, I was so keen to join the wind band that I started learning the oboe at the suggestion of the band conductor.

The hobby started to morph into a career; I was still in middle school when I had the opportunity to perform with the Ostrobothnian Chamber Orchestra alongside my teacher Regina Hamarikivi. I have retained a close and meaningful relationship with the orchestra ever since.

After attending the music upper secondary school at Kaustinen, I went on to study at the Sibelius Academy and then in Gothenburg, Geneva and Paris. In 2003, I got my first orchestral job with the Tampere Philharmonic. I then played with the Helsinki Philharmonic before landing my dream job with the Tapiola Sinfonietta. Orchestral repertoire contains a wealth of oboe solos, some soaring over a string background and others bubbling along as part of a woodwind texture. I enjoy both.

Chamber music is also important to me, and I particularly enjoy playing Baroque and Classical oboe. In my free time, I can be found spending time with my children or otherwise being busy at home with handicrafts or unread books. There is time enough to carve mouthpiece reeds at night.

Marja Talka
Oboe

I began playing the oboe at the Lappeenranta Music Institute at the age of nine, in 1981, inspired by Timo Lehtonen. The music classes at school engaged in a fruitful collaboration with the Music Institute, and there were plenty of opportunities in Lappeenranta to play with wind bands and chamber ensembles.

I entered the Junior Department of the Sibelius Academy in 1987 and continued to the music performance degree programme, which I completed in 2001. My teachers included Sven-Erik Paananen, Jorma Valjakka, Jouko Teikari and Aale Lindgren, who encouraged me to apply for the Tapiola Sinfonietta. I was accepted in 1994.

I am happy to have been a part of the Tapiola Sinfonietta for 25 years. Over this period, I have learned to know my colleagues well and have acquired in-depth musical experiences. I find it exciting that we have such a varied repertoire. I enjoy playing Bach, Schumann and Mozart. My job includes playing the cor anglais and the oboe d’amore. I particularly like the cor anglais, perhaps because of its low range. I also enjoy crossovers with other branches of the arts and feel that audience outreach work is particularly meaningful.

I gain energy from my family, from everyday things and from exercise. In addition to classical music, I listen to popular music for instance when running. I also enjoy gardening, because you see the results of your work immediately.

Clarinet

Olli Leppäniemi
Principal Clarinet

I began playing the clarinet at the Lappeenranta Music Institute at the age of nine. I chose the clarinet after listening to records at home and finding myself liking the sound of the instrument. I am still very fond of the sound and pay a lot of attention to sound quality when I play. I aim for a singing, soft, dark sound and seek to change my tone according to the character of the music. It may be hard to believe that as a child I wanted to grow up to be a farmer. That pursuit was pretty much doomed because of the tiny garden we had in our terraced house…

I began to think of studying the clarinet professionally in upper secondary school, having played with the Vivo Youth Symphony Orchestra and having attended a masterclass at the Crusell Week. I put in many hours of practice to get into the Sibelius Academy after my first attempt had failed. I have found since then that small adversities can provide motivation for trying harder.

I joined the Tapiola Sinfonietta as Principal Clarinet at the start of 2019. Before that, I had played with the Turku Philharmonic, the Lahti Sinfonia, the Bergen Philharmonic and the Danish Radio Symphony Orchestra.

There is practically nothing about my job in the Tapiola Sinfonietta that I do not enjoy. My coworkers are incredibly great people, and the concert programmes are inventive and well designed. I also like that we play chamber music in smaller ensembles. This chamber music aspect translates into our performances as a full orchestra, which is also excellent.

My favourite musical works are the masterpieces for clarinet written by Mozart, Brahms and Weber. They show that the composers had great confidence in and appreciation for the musicians for whom they wrote those works.

I spend my free time mostly with my wife and my three children. I like to work in the garden, because I like seeing the results of my work. In music, practising does not yield similarly concrete results.

Asko Heiskanen
Clarinet

I am from Kuopio, a city with a lively tradition of wind bands. As a child, I envisioned myself playing trombone with a local wind band, Rajalan Puhaltajat. On the threshold, I switched my ambition from trombone to clarinet and was pleased as anything to begin practising on this wonderful instrument. Thanks to good, encouraging and inspiring teachers, I went on to study at the Sibelius Academy, at the Geneva Conservatory and at the Music Academy in Barcelona.

Alongside my studies I was fortunate to spend some time playing with professional orchestras, and one day I found myself in the Tapiola Sinfonietta. I still remember how impressed I was with the high quality and ensemble playing of its members. A few years later, the orchestra established a second clarinet post, and I was fortunate enough to be appointed to it. No one was happier than me on that day.

In addition to modern clarinets, I take an interest in historical instruments. I own a number of clarinets from across the centuries, beginning with an 18th-century chalumeau and including late Romantic instruments. It makes a nice change to play music on these old instruments, because the experience feeds back into how I play my modern instrument.

Bassoon

Jaakko Luoma
Principal Bassoon

I began playing the bassoon at the age of 11, having previously taken private piano lessons. For the first eight years, I studied with Matti Tossavainen at the Lohja Music Institute, and I remain profoundly grateful to him for the start that he gave to my career as a bassoon player. After upper secondary school, I went on to study with László Hara and later Jussi Särkkä at the Sibelius Academy.

In 1993, after one year at the Sibelius Academy, I signed up for an audition for the Tapiola Sinfonietta. For some reason, I was convinced that this was an orchestra that I really wanted to get into. Despite the immense pressure I had thus placed on myself, the audition went well and I was hired. Since then, I have landed engagements with two symphony orchestras abroad, but in both cases I gave up the post to return to Finland and to the Tapiola Sinfonietta.

Classical and Romantic repertoire is what I most enjoy playing with the Tapiola Sinfonietta. I am also increasingly interested in performing Baroque music on historical instruments in projects with the Finnish Baroque Orchestra and Espoo Baroque. These days, I also enjoy improvisation and cross-genre performances on amplified bassoon.

What I like most about my job are the times when something spontaneous happens in a concert because of non-verbal communication and going with the flow.

 

Bridget Allaire-Mäki
Bassoon

Music became part of my life in Cincinnati, Ohio. My dad had the habit of playing classical music at a loud volume in our wood-panelled station wagon. I felt privileged to be able to play flute in a beginners’ ensemble at the age of 11; I discovered the bassoon at the age of 17.

Having completed a professional qualification in Cincinnati, I was admitted to the Geneva Conservatory in 1986. It was there that I met my husband, Harri Mäki. He convinced me that Finland would be a nicer place to live a life together than Switzerland, and in 1987 we both decided to audition for the Tapiola Sinfonietta. At that time, the ensemble consisted only of strings and a wind quintet. It feels so very long ago!

Today, I also paint, and my days are full to bursting, but both kinds of art feed energy into each other. What I appreciate most about my work in the orchestra are the moments when we are able to share something unique in concert, a united concept of the flow of time.

French Horn

Tero Toivonen
Principal French Horn

In March 1995, I had the most enormous stroke of luck in that I auditioned successfully for the orchestra of my dreams, the Tapiola Sinfonietta. I have also played Principal Horn in other, periodically operating orchestras, such as the Avanti! Chamber Orchestra and the Vantaa Pops Orchestra.

I completed a doctorate in music at the DocMus unit of the Sibelius Academy of Uniarts Helsinki in 2014. Its artistic component was titled Kaanonin laitamilta [From the fringes of the canon], and the written thesis, Pitkä matka lähelle [A long journey to very close by], discusses the role of an orchestral musician in audience outreach activities. I have been Lecturer in Horn at the Sibelius Academy alongside my orchestra post since 2016.

Playing with orchestras and teaching have taken me all around the globe. I have travelled halfway around the world with the Tapiola Sinfonietta, and I have given masterclasses in numerous institutions, such as the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts, the Manhattan School of Music, the Royal Danish School of Music and Tokyo University of the Arts GEIDAI.

Youth work is one of the most important components of my work as a musician. As a key person in the audience outreach work of the Tapiola Sinfonietta, I have been able to develop a solo project built around a character named ‘Doc-T’. In recent years, I have given some 100 Doc-T recitals around Finland, with a combined audience of nearly 10,000 young people

Ilkka Hongisto
French Horn

I grew up in a family of musicians in Järvenpää. Most of my parents’ friends were musicians too, so there were plenty of role models around for me to choose a career in music. Mind you, it was not an easy road. In my youth, I played several instruments interchangeably without getting to know any of them properly. As a teenager, I finally settled on the horn as my main instrument.

I ended up studying to be a musician at the Sibelius Academy of Uniarts Helsinki after first trying my hand at environmental engineering at Lahti University of Applied Sciences. Music eventually proved stronger. At the Sibelius Academy, I first studied with Kalervo Kulmala and then with Tapiola Sinfonietta’s own Tero Toivonen, who to my delight is now my colleague with whom I make music on a daily basis.

I started in the Tapiola Sinfonietta at New Year 2018, when I was finishing my studies. Outside work (and sometimes at work), I play guitar and piano and write music, and I am now learning to play bluegrass banjo. Sometimes I find myself playing football or reading something about the sustainable economy.

Pasi Pihlaja
Community Musician, French horn French Horn

It was 11 May 1960, a beautiful May morning. The sun shone and the birds sang. At 07.30, there was a terrible scream in room 3 at the maternity department at Central Finland Central Hospital. It was me, having decided to take a look at what the world was like.

That was when life began. Then came the year 1969, which was important for the world and for myself personally: Apollo 11 flew to the moon, and I picked up the trumpet. After only three months of practice, I could play the theme song from Pippi Longstocking (or so I thought), and I did not hesitate to let the neighbours know about this. I used to practise in the garden, you see.

Soon I had my first gig. Our local priest asked me to play a fanfare at an evening youth meeting. As far as I recall, the fanfare consisted of four open notes, with an accuracy of about 50%. Well, at least the audience was entertained.

My interest in music grew. I went to my first symphony concert at the age of 10, and that may well have been the initial impulse for becoming a professional musician. In the following year, I entered the Jyväskylä Music Institute and soon became enchanted with the horn, a magically aloof and lucid-sounding instrument. I switched to the horn class to study with Torsten Lindfors. In 1977, I was accepted for the Military Music School. Memorable experiences from that time include an Independence Day reception held by President Kekkonen and a Defence Forces music competition where our group won first prize.

In 1979, I was appointed to play Horn with the Jyväskylä Orchestra. In 1981, I decided to audition for the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra. I was accepted for the FRSO and also for the horn class of Kalervo Kulmala at the Sibelius Academy. In 1986, I tested my wings with an engagement in Germany but soon returned to Finland to join the Helsinki Philharmonic. In the meantime, I had started a family and was now a father of two.

In 1987, I successfully auditioned for the newly established Espoo City Orchestra. Chamber music has always been dear to me, so the Tapiola Sinfonietta was an excellent fit. I have liked it here very and have also trained for a specialist qualification as a community musician, working interactively with special needs groups. Years have gone by, I have visited numerous countries and learned a lot about life and world cultures, and I have made many friends at home and abroad.

At the moment, my principal occupation in the orchestra is as a community musician. The best part of this job is direct interaction with the audience, or should I say fellow humans. Working at hospitals and nursing homes and with children and disabled persons has added a new leaf to my musicianship. I continue to do well.

 

Trumpet

Antti Räty
Principal Trumpet

I began playing the trumpet at the age of about seven, somewhat reluctantly. My father had attempted to get me to play the piano earlier. At rehearsals of the village wind band, I was more interested in playing football during the breaks. In primary school and even early on in secondary school, I dreamed of becoming a farmer or a forester, but I eventually came around to realising that music might be the career for me.

By way of the Turku Folk Conservatory, the Turku Conservatory and various summer courses, I ended up studying at the Hochschule der Künste Berlin. I had planned on staying in Berlin for one or two years, but I realised that it would take longer for me to learn the German style of playing. So I went to the Karajan Academy for another year, during which almost by accident I won an audition for Principal Trumpet with the Rhine Philharmonic at Koblenz. In the event, one year in Rhineland was enough for me, and indeed for the Rhinelanders. I soon found a similar position in my favourite city, with the Berlin Symphonic Orchestra, later renamed the Berlin Symphony. Having enjoyed the sound of Berlin for a while, I returned to Finland, partly for family reasons. I spent a couple of winters with the Guards Band, after which I joined the Tapiola Sinfonietta. Some things have not changed: I still enjoy breaks the most, and trumpet players have plenty of rests.

Although it is said that there is plenty of room for noise in the world, I have not had very much to do with music in my leisure time over the past 30 years. Farming, forestry and noise of that sort are particularly pleasant, though. I am also empowered by deer casserole, ice cream and mämmi [a traditional Finnish malted rye pudding], the latter particularly at Easter. Smoke sauna and swimming, especially in the cold, warm my mind and body.

 

Janne Ovaskainen
Trumpet

I grew up with music. My father was a music teacher and conducted a wind band in my native town of Rovaniemi. When I was six years old, we spent a year on the coast of the Arctic Ocean in Norway. I heard a local wind band there and was inspired to try the trumpet. My parents promised me that I could begin learning the alto horn if I could get a sound from that instrument – and I did. I swapped the alto horn for trumpet at the age of eight when I entered the Lapland Music Institute and joined the Rovaniemi Rural Parish Wind Band. At this point, the piano was still my main instrument. After upper secondary school, I was accepted for the Department of Music Education at the Sibelius Academy; I completed my M.Mus. degree in 2001.

I was meant to become a music teacher, but instead I became an orchestra musician. A vacancy opened up in the Tapiola Sinfonietta in 2000, just as I was finishing my studies, and I was very happy to get the job. I have played here for my entire career as an orchestra musician except for my very first year in the profession, when I was with the Orchestra of the Finnish National Opera.

What I enjoy particularly about my job is playing music. I like playing music that is beautiful and melodic. Rhythm music is also important to me, and in my free time I enjoy listening to Latin, jazz or groove music. I also play ice hockey, enjoy working with wood at the summer cottage and doing things with my family. I also have a pastime that is rather more serious than a hobby: buying, selling and above all cleaning used cars.

Timpani

Antti Rislakki
Principal Timpani

At the age of six, I announced that I wanted to play drums and xylophone. I have no idea how I came up with that notion, because in Valkeakoski in the 1970s there were no role models for this sort of thing. It was not until studying in Tampere and in Toronto that I finally decided that music would be a career for me. The main impulse towards orchestral music came from the Vivo Youth Symphony Orchestra. The first orchestral work in which I played was Sibelius’s First Symphony. Suddenly everything became clear!

Towards the end of my studies, I auditioned for several orchestras around Finland. In 2000, the Tapiola Sinfonietta created a post for a timpani player, and I recall thinking that that would be the ideal place for me. Despite this self-induced pressure, I auditioned successfully and was appointed the Tapiola Sinfonietta’s first-ever permanent percussionist.

I like to play and listen to all kinds of music. For me, all music is equal, just as percussion instruments from all cultures are equal in value and equally interesting. I also keep fit with beach volley, skiing, walking and ice swimming. I also like to cook!

Learning new things and teaching new things are inspiring. Teaching at the Sibelius Academy is a natural extension of my work as a musician. What I enjoy most about my work is the wordless cooperation and instantaneous responses that are extremely hard to describe in words.