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Duo Räisänen & Parko, with violinist Viola Räisänen and pianist Maija Parko, will perform three concerts for the 11th annual Finlandia University Sibelius Academy Music Festival: September 23 in Ishpeming, Mich., and September 25 in Calumet, Mich. They will also present a concert September 21 at Our Savior's Lutheran Church in Naperville, Ill.
The Sibelius Festival takes place this year from September 21 to September 25, in Hancock, Ishpeming, Calumet, and Naperville, Ill. Please visit www.finlandia.edu or call 906-487-7348 for additional information.
Viola Räisäinen: Born with music in her ears
One could say that Viola Räisäinen was born with music in her ears! Her mother is a choir conductor and her two sisters are professional musicians, so as very young child she was surrounded by the sounds of piano, violin, and singing.
"My sister played violin and I was enchanted by the instrument," Viola says. "I was begging to have the instrument in my hands and to make a sound from it! I still remember the day I was allowed to do that. I was only one and half a years old then."
Viola started violin lessons at the age of five, and in 2010 she will graduate as a Master of Music from the Sibelius Academy in 2010.
Viola and her pianist, Maija Parko, have performed many times in Finland but never abroad. Her trip to the Upper Peninsula will be her first visit to the U.S. She says she is looking forward to playing "on the other side of the world" and expects to "have many inspirations and new ideas!"
She considers herself very lucky to study at the Sibelius Academy. "I think the Sibelius Academy has given me lots of opportunities to grow as a versatile musician. I am interested in a lot of different ways of doing music and at the Academy I have been able to fulfill my interests."
Viola's aspiration in music is to be a very versatile and open-minded artist. "My dream is to be able to interpret music thoroughly, find the soul of the work of art, and understand the composer's thoughts," she says.
Viola's teachers have been very important in her development as a musician. "They are life changing mentors!" she explains.
When she was 11 years old, Viola began taking a violin class with a Russian teacher who saw Viola's potential and encouraged her to take violin playing seriously. "She changed my life!" Viola says of that teacher. "From that time violin was my number one priority."
Viola loves performing. "I enjoy the sparkle I get from this moment," she explains. "And the feeling that I am now in the middle of this amazing music and an audience, and my purpose is to tell a story with music - the way I feel and understand it"
Viola adds that the best moments after performing are when she talks with someone who expresses the same things that Viola feels in that piece of music, or when the music she has played has made someone think about something crucial in his/her life.
"Maybe my strength is that I feel very strongly some aspects of art and music," she says. "My aim is to consider every performance important."
"I think music is one part of being human," Viola says. "We are all able to sing, we all have a voice. And when we sing or make music it will give us a good feeling, mentally and physically."
Viola is very happy that music will be her lifelong profession "Music is lots of things and different things to everyone," she says. "For me it's a way of thinking and communicating, a world to escape to and enjoy. Music is interpreting my thoughts, and a fascinating world to dive into. I would like to play it as much as possible during my lifetime!"
When she's not making music, Viola enjoys movies, sports, literature, cooking, picnics with her friends, and being outdoors, to mention just a few activities she is interested in. "I think I have a slight problem in that I don't have time enough for all those things," she says. "So, sometimes I enjoy greatly the luxurious moments of being just bored!"
Photos of Duo Räisänen & Parko by Hayden Lloyd Photography
Maija Parko - Chamber music is close to her heart
Maija Parko began playing the piano when she was six years old. Both her parents are musical and interested in all kinds of music. "My father plays the guitar pretty well and my mother loves to sing," Viola says. "My older sister plays the violin."
Maija's first piano teachers were Hungarian and she says she learned a lot from their deep enthusiasm for music, and all her teachers have been a great influence and inspiration for her.
In her professional music studies, Maija says her two most important teachers have been Professor Matti Raekallio, one of Finland's foremost concert pianists who now teaches at the Juilliard School, New York City, and Hannover Academy of Music, Denmark, and Mr. Ilmo Ranta, who has performed in some of the world's most prestigious concert halls with stars such as soprano Karita Mattila.
"They are both unique professionals and have a deep, yet open-minded relationship with piano music," Maija says of these two teachers. "I am very grateful having had the opportunity to intensively work with them during my student years at Sibelius Academy."
Maija earned her master's of music at the Sibelius Academy in spring 2008, and she is now enrolled in post-graduate studies at the Academy.
"At the moment I am very much interested in French music. Composers like Ravel and Debussy have special stylistic and interpretative qualities I'm keen on right now," Maija says. "I've also discovered a composer from the same era, Déodat de Séverac, who composed a great amount of fine piano music."
Maija performs actively in Finland as both a soloist and a chamber musician. She has also been teaching piano for many years and says she really enjoys working with young musicians.
"My dream would be to keep on performing and giving concerts, as well as to give piano lessons in a conservatory or music school," she says. "I believe it's possible to combine these two professions and to enjoy music-making in different kinds of environments and situations."
Maija has performed in Hungary, Wales, Denmark, Norway, and Belgium. In 2005 she and duo partner Maija Väisänen received the second prize and the audience prize at a piano duo competition in Norway.
"The gala concert for the finalists was a wonderful and exciting performance, and I'm very proud of it" she says.
Chamber music is very close to Maija's heart, she says. She has been playing with violinist Viola Räisänen for many years. "I think we form together a dynamic yet sensitive piano-violin duo," Maija says.
Maija recommends playing in an ensemble for everyone studying music, at all levels. "It feels almost like having a dialogue with your good friend and demands good co-operative skills and a sensitive ear," she notes.
Although Maija is a classical musician, she also enjoys listening to pop music, rock, and jazz. She says she especially respects good jazz musicians and enjoys their improvisation skills.
To relax, Maija does yoga and often goes jogging or to a gym. She feels it's important for professional musicians to keep themselves in good physical condition. She also reads a lot and enjoys good films and traveling.
Maija has been to New York twice, but she is looking forward to performing in Chicago and Hancock. "It will be a memorable, fantastic experience for our duo," she says. "I really look forward to meeting students from Finlandia University, as well as the school field trip concert in Ishpeming. I hope our performances will encourage young people to play themselves and to raise enthusiasm for classical music in general."
Photos of Duo Räisänen & Parko by Hayden Lloyd Photography