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Tuomas Juhani Turunen Trio
Tuomas Juhani Turunen - piano
Tuomas Juhani Turunen Trio is a jazz combo formed in 2008 by three young Helsinki-based musicians. The repertoire of the group ranges from original compositions to jazz standards, and selected Finnish compositions are also given a personal touch. The trio's music is a combination of the deep-rooted swing rhythmics of the American jazz tradition and the classical lyricism of European jazz.
Turunen's own compositions are inspired by his everyday life experience. "Whenever something moves me, I try to make a tune out of that event. My compositions could be read as a musical diary", says Turunen. "One reason for this is my intention of making music that the listener can approach naturally. I also feel that I have something to say - and this is the purest way to communicate my innermost feelings."
At the ensemble level, the Trio's philosophy is built on collective improvising and communication where each musician is equal as a soloist. This approach was pioneered by the early 1960s Bill Evans trio, whose more egalitarian trio concept stretched the conventional borders of the piano trio playing. Tuomas Juhani Turunen Trio builds further on this tradition, spicing it with the strong musical personalities of the three young virtuosos and the lyrical Nordic jazz heritage.
Tuomas Juhani Turunen
Tuomas Juhani Turunen is a 24-year-old pianist and composer living in Helsinki, Finland. He started playing classical piano at the age of nine, but it wasn't until his teens that he discovered jazz and decided to become a professional musician.
Tuomas began playing the piano when he was about nine years old, taking advantage of an old piano his family had in their home. He initially played classical piano, but at the age of 15 discovered the jazz piano legend Bill Evans, who became his first main musical influence.
"Evans' recordings really got me into jazz. I wanted to learn to play like him," Tuomas says. "He remains my favorite player, although nowadays I have several piano idols."
In 2005, Tuomas realized his dream when he was accepted to study in the Department of Jazz Music at the Sibelius Academy. There he has studied under several internationally celebrated jazz musicians and teachers such as Jarmo Savolainen, Jukkis Uotila, Alan Pasqua, Kasper Villaume, and Jim Beard.
Tuomas finished his bachelor's studies in spring 2009, and is now pursuing a master's degree in music at the Academy which he expects to complete in 2011. In addition to his studies, Tuomas is a freelance musician, performing and recording in settings varying from big bands to small jazz combos and solo work. He also composes music for his piano trio and for a big band.
"The best thing at the Academy is the high standard of education," Tuomas says. "I've had the privilege to study with the very best musicians on the Finnish jazz scene. I hope these studies will help me to become an accomplished player in my own right."
The late Jarmo Savolainen was Tuomas's first teacher at the Sibelius Academy. "He was a big influence and he taught me a great many valuable things," Tuomas says.
"He didn't emphasize technique, but taught me a great deal about music and piano playing in general," Tuomas adds. "His musical viewpoint and artistry was inspiring in itself and I had the greatest respect for him. He was one of the most internationally accomplished jazz players in Finland."
Tuomas wants "to do music for a living." He describes the ideal scenario as becoming a renowned player on the Finnish jazz scene. And one day he would like to play with Marc Johnson, a bassist for the late Bill Evans.
If Tuomas had to choose the most interesting thing about playing jazz, it would be probably be the communication.
"When a jazz band is playing together, they are having a musical conversation of sorts," he explains. "A jazz performance is partly a conversation between the band and the audience."
Tuomas feels that a great thing about jazz concerts is that an audience can cheer and applaud a musician during the performance, unlike classical performances.
"At some gigs, I've sensed this kind of positive energy coming from the audience and it has helped me to play even better and be more involved in music," Tuomas says. "For me, that's the best that can happen."
When performing, Tuomas prefers the music to speak for itself. "I don't like to do showman stunts that don't really have anything to do with the music," he explains.
"The musicians I've selected for my trio are extremely talented musically, and also have the kind of positive attitude towards making music together that I really like," Tuomas says. "We have been playing together quite a bit during the past semester and I think that this has brought us closer each other musically."
"Playing in a group teaches you to listen," Tuomas says. "I think it is ideal to have a permanent group, where internal communication has time to develop and mature."
The challenge for Tuomas as a bandleader is not to think too much about what the band should sound like. "As an example, when I bring in my own tunes to the rehearsals, I strive to be open to new ideas and conceptions to playing them," he explains. "My music is at its best when all of us bring together our own personalities."
Finnish critics have written about some of Tuomas's performances, complementing his pianism (the art of playing the piano) and technique.
"Of course, positive feedback makes you feel good, but I try not to pay too much attention to them," Tuomas says. "Pleasing the critics is a nice by-product, but not the point of my music. The main thing is to make music in a way that you think is right. I think that every successful concert is a reason to be proud."
For Tuomas, listening and practicing music is a good way to discover and embrace the beauty of living. "Music has become a major part of my life. It affects my whole being every day, almost every moment. Of course, this beauty may be discovered through other artistic media as well - but music is my pathway to this beauty."
In his free time, Tuomas likes jogging, swimming, biking, practicing yoga, and skiing. He also enjoys reading, lately mostly musical literature, but he also enjoys novels. Watching movies is also on his list as an enjoyable pastime.
Tuomas has never been - let alone performed - outside Europe. "Performing in the U.S. is a real treat for me. I applied for this festival because I wanted to find new concert opportunities for my trio. I'm sure it'll be great fun. I've always had a desire to visit the U.S. and I feel that seeing other cultures and new places is always an enriching experience."
William Tarvainen started playing and studying classical piano at a young age. But after his family moved back to Finland from Austria when he was a teenager, William's new piano teacher wouldn't allow him to play rhythm music, so he defiantly quit that music school.
It wasn't long, though, before he found it unbearable to be away from active musical studies. When a student vacancy opened with a double bass teacher at a local music school, William applied although he didn't have any prior interest in the double bass.
"I soon found that the double bass was a particularly versatile instrument, equally at home in classical orchestras and jazz groups," William says. "At high school, I was seriously considering the career of a classical double bassist. However, I felt I could express myself through jazz so much more naturally that I decided to become a jazz bassist."
William, now age 26, completed a bachelor of music degree at the Sibelius Academy, Helsinki, Finland, in 2009, with a maximum 5.00 average grade. He also has a bachelor's degree in business. He began master's degree studies this fall.
From an international background, William has witnessed the stellar reputation of the Sibelius Academy throughout the international world of art music.
"My three years in London, Europe's largest city, taught me to appreciate the level of Sibelius Academy's jazz department," he says. "Many of the musicians performing at London's leading jazz clubs were clearly below the level of graduating students from our jazz department!"
Students in the Sibelius Academy Jazz Department are expected to be technically fluent when entering the department, William says. As a result, personal studies can focus more on the music itself.
"I think it is fantastic to be able to focus on deeper musical expression, without spending all of the university years on technical rudiments," William notes.
"Although I am a double bassist, I have studied under Professor Jukkis Uotila, who is a drummer-pianist," William says. "This has been truly inspiring, as I have gained deeper insight into how other players see my instrument."
Professor Uotila's musical CV reads like a who's who in modern jazz music, William says, including Bennie Goodman, Freddie Hubbard, Toots Thielemans, McCoy Tyner, Chet Baker, and Randy Brecker, among many others.
William has also studied under American double bassist Ron McClure and European double bassists Anders Jormin and Jesper Lundgaard.
He is still unsure if he will pursue a post-graduate music degree, but for now William is working on a master of philosophy degree in Innovation, Strategy and Organization at Britain's University of Cambridge.
"Unlike others from my class, I do not wish to be a full-time performing musician," William says. "Rather, I wish to utilize my intellectual and musical potential in pursuing a research and consulting career, bridging the worlds of jazz music and business management."
"Ultimately, I wish to do a Ph.D. in this area, fusing the wisdom of jazz music with management practices," William adds.
However, William plans to remain an active jazz musician. "I know I couldn't escape from music even if I tried," he says. "Music has always been an irresistible magnet, drawing me to it. I find it hard not to constantly think about music."
William counts among his foremost public accomplishment an appearance as the featured soloist at the 2004 UMO Young Soloists concert in Finland. He notes that international press feedback has been invariably positive, ranging from "swinging" to "tasteful," with the occasional "phenomenal."
He describes his musical style as clear and expressive, and drawing heavily on the bebop tradition. He adds that he is often the musical leader in jazz groups, despite his rather non-soloistic instrument.
"In jazz, I best like the live performances where an intimate bond between the musicians and the audience can form," William says. "The feeling of energy and the spontaneity of musical exploration on the stage can lead to a rapturous, ecstatic state, like being on the doorstep of a boundless, beautiful musical reality ready to be explored."
Collective playing is what drew William into jazz in the first place. "Jazz is at its best when the communication between the band members is intimate, spontaneous and inspired," William explains. "A great musical connection requires spontaneity and inspiration, as one weak link can jam the whole group's communication."
While personal practicing is learning to talk musically, William believes that ensemble practicing is more about learning to listen musically. He feels that the ensemble setting presents to him a great challenge to develop as a listener.
"I see music the same way as I see visual arts, poetry, fashion, or even great wines - as an effort to create, understand and communicate one's perception of the beauty and vigor of life," William says.
"I think that humans have an inherent need to express themselves on a deep, abstract, spiritual level," he adds. "In this quest, conventional forms of formal communication often fall short."
That humans have built such elaborate art forms expressed through a wealth of artistic media and idioms, is testament to human ingenuity, William says, adding that it restores his faith in mankind.
As a chronic perfectionist, William says he tends to take his interests as far as he possibly can. He holds a professional degree in wines and spirits, and has studied visual arts in addition to music and business.
"For me, there is no polarized distinction between professional work and personal hobbies," William explains. "I believe they all stem from the same underlying mission for greater understanding."
The Sibelius Festival will be William's first performance in the U.S. "For any jazz musician, the U.S. has a special meaning," William notes. "I look forward to playing the quintessentially American music in its homeland."
William says he is intrigued to discover how American culture in Michigan has been influenced by its Finnish heritage and the significant historic links Finland shares with Michigan as the destination of many Finnish emigrants.
"I feel that experiencing new cultures is a privilege, and I am already look forward to experiencing Michigan first-hand!" William says.
Drummer Mikko Arlin, from Jyväskylä, Finland, is a 25-year-old Sibelius Academy student living in Helsinki, Finland. He began his studies at the Sibelius Academy in 2008 following several years of study in his hometown. He has been a performing musician for more than seven years.
It was a gut feeling at age twelve that led Mikko to choose drums as his instrument. "I had feeling that drums might just be the perfect instrument for me," he says.
"I have been involved with music all of my life, so becoming a professional musician was quite an easy choice for me," Mikko said.
Mikko looks forward to graduating in 2012. I think that Sibelius Academy deserves its reputation as a great university. It feels good to be there.
Mikko counts himself fortunate to have studied with the great teachers at the Sibelius Academy. He notes that their spirit and attitude have really him throughout his education at the Academy.
"In the sphere of music, I like live performing the most," Mikko says. "I also teach, but there is huge difference in mentality between playing and teaching. After all, I was initially drawn to playing music rather than teaching it. My inspiration stems from playing. I have had some great performing experiences, and count myself lucky for having played with so many talented people."
"The universal language of music is there for all of us," Mikko says. "It connects people around the world. I couldn't possibly think of doing anything other than music with my life."
When Mikko is not playing, practicing, or studying, he loves to spend time with his girlfriend. His only serious hobby is motor boating, but he says the all-too-short and cold summers of Finland mean that he can't do that as much as he'd like to.
Mikko says he and his bandmates applied to perform as a trio at the Sibelius Academy Music Festival because they are eager to perform together more.
"I have never performed in the U.S., so this will be a novel experience," Mikko says. "I look forward to that, and I am convinced that this trip will be one to remember."
"The place of the jazz drummer is in the rhythm section of the group," Mikko says, adding that there are very few drummer soloists. "As a drummer, I enjoy accompanying the soloists and supporting them. This is always a new challenge. My quest is to make the others sound as good as they possibly can - and I love it!"