Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Vappu Eve

Wednesday April 30th, Vappu eve. First of May (Vappu in Finnish) is a National holiday, so the evening before (today) is maybe THE biggest party in Finland (Yes, bigger than New Years Eve or Independence Day, maybe because both of them happen to be in Winter when it’s freezing in Finland…)!

Anyway, my day began at 9 AM with my final exam in score reading. I had two hours time to learn this wonderful extract from Wagners Tristan and Isolde, I really enjoyed my two hours practising for the exam! After two hours my teacher Tero Lanu came and I played my Wagner once for him. Then he gave me a sight reading task: a non tonal piece in three voices of which one was a transposing clarinet and the other was a bassoon which occasionally changed to C-clef! It was an absolutely horrible sight reading task and I thought I did awfully! But Lanu said “Oh well, it was quite a hard task, and your Wagner was very good, so you get a 5/5 anyway.” So I am very happy!

After my exam I had lunch and then headed to Pyynikkisali to listen to the TEMA-quartet play Shostakovitch. This concert was a chamber music exam of my friend and viola player Marjukka Manners. Naturally I enjoyed the performance, because I LOVE Shostakovich!

After this I went home and had to take a nap, before I headed off to Tampere Hall. Both Vappu concerts (30.4 and 1.5) are completely sold out, so I came just in time when the concert ended and stood again by the door and handed out flyers to my upcoming composition concert on the 14th of May. Today it was a lot colder than the last time I was handing out flyers, and the audience today wasn’t quite as happy to get flyers as they were last Friday…

After the audience had left I went and sat for a while with my friends from the Tampere Phil on the terrace of Tampere Hall, but when the sun was gone it was so freezing that most of us hurried to the bar & restaurant Telakka. At 1 AM I was so tired and honestly had the intention of going home, but I called Matilda, who was at a house party, which happened to be located just on my way home, so I dropped by there for a couple of hours as well.

Found this inspiring phrases at Annikas place.
"Remember: Water the flowers, do the laundry,
save the world, bring aways the rubbish. Loesje"

Monday, 28 April 2014

Accepted for Masters at Malmö!

I got an email: I WAS ACCEPTED FOR MASTERS AT MALMÖ SCHOOL OF MUSIC!!! YAAAAY!!! I have accepted the place but I’m not 100% sure yet what I will do next autumn, so I will first wait for the results from the other schools (Gothenburg, Helsinki and Berlin) before I make any definite decisions… But the fact that Malmö has FIVE different ORCHESTRAS that play the pieces of their students is simply so incredible that it makes Malmö the most attractive alternative at the moment… And also the fact that I liked the school immediately and loved the city! I think intuition is something that shouldn’t be underestimated! So happy!

Clicking online for accepting my place at Malmö School of Music!

Sunday, 27 April 2014


Three of my fellow composers stayed the night at my place and we had a really interesting discussion before falling asleep about how jealousy can destroy friendships. The discussion ignited from a quote once said by a composer who shall go unnamed: “Composers can never be friends because they are always competitors”. Personally, I find this quote ridiculous and I think it only applies to very self centred and narrow-minded people. But in some way I can also slightly understand this thought, and considering relationships I can even somewhat agree with it; I can’t imagine being together with a composer (truthfully, I can’t imagine being together with anyone at the moment, but that’s a different chapter… but especially not with a composer).

When it comes down to friendship I don’t understand how people can destroy friendships due to jealousy! Personally I feel there is enough room for all good music and if you work hard (not only with composing but also work for getting your music performed) you can always say you have done your best and gave it a shot. Only because your friend gets good opportunities doesn’t mean there are less opportunities available for you. Maybe you wouldn’t have got the same opportunities in any case!

Of course almost everyone feels jealous once in a while, but even if I think some person/piece hasn’t deserved the praise/acknowledgement it gets, it doesn’t mean I think less of the person or dislike him/her! Well, maybe I will understand this quote one day, when I’m bitter, old and gray, but I will do my best never to grow bitter (nor jealous)! Old and gray is okay with me. But for now I’m just happy to have so many great composer friends with whom I can share my thoughts about music, art and all kind of other beautiful things in life! Without composer friends for instance, these sorts of Korvat Auki concerts wouldn’t be possible to arrange, think about that!

Saturday, 26 April 2014

Korvat Soi!

Saturday April 26th. Today was the second ‘traditional’ Korvat Auki (Open Ears) concert in Tampere, but this time in Pirkanmaanmusiikkiopisto. (Read about the first one here).  What I mean by traditional is a concert where all the music is only composed by Korvat Auki members and then performed by students. The very first Korvat Auki concert in Tampere was a concert with the German new music group Neophon ensemble in September 2013. In the concert Neophon ensemble played a contemporary programme including three pieces by Korvat Auki composers, and the same programme was played in both Helsinki and Tampere (as well as in Riga, Tallinn and Rostock!). But like I said, today we had a “typical” Korvat Auki concert containing 100% new music by young Korvat Auki composers.

Cellist Aino Palosaari. © Cecilia Damström

Korvat Auki composer Lauri Supponen having a laugh with his musicians,
clarinetist Andreas Heino and violinist Heidi-Annina Nikkilä.
© Cecilia Damström

The programme of today was:

violin: Heidi-Anniina Nikkilä, cello: Taina Raittila, flute: Jenni Halonen, clarinet: Andreas Heino

Lasse Kallioniemi: Kristalli (first performance)
flute: Anu Miikkulainen, cello: Juho Nissi

Kalle Autio: Kolme laulua Santōkan teksteihin (first performance)
soprano: Piia Rytkönen, piano: Tuomas Salokangas

Saper Şahbaz: For Naima (first performance)
violin: Elias Koivisto, cello: Aino Palosaari, piano: Tuomas Salokangas


Sebastian Dumitrescu: Autoportret
electric-bass: Sebastian Dumitrescu

Matei Gheorghiu: Ihana surullinen ilta
soprano: Anna Ranki, piano: Tuomas Turriago

Dante Thelestam: Baba panda (first performance)
percussion: Henri Sakki ja Mauri Myllys
soprano: Hannele Taipale, piano: Jasper Koekoek

Pianist Tuomas Salokangas and soprano Piia Rytkönen
before the first performance of Kalle Autios three songs,
where the soprano gets to hit a gong!
© Cecilia Damström

All the musicians and composer of the Korvat Soi! -concert (part 1).
© Cecilia Damström

All the musicians and composer of the Korvat Soi! -concert (part 2).
© Cecilia Damström

We had good luck with the weather today, the building suited the occasion really well and generally everything went very well today! Everyone was in a calm but good mood. Originally I was supposed to be the concert producer, but I had to back out and luckily Matilda took over the task! In my defence I have already produced two Korvat Auki concerts in Tampere this year. Matilda was a superb concert producer! She had to coordinate 17 musicians but she was as calm as a summer breeze all the time, I admired her serenity greatly!

Musicians already feeling releaved in the intermission.
Pianist Tuomas Salokangas, violinist Elias Koivisto and flutist Jenni Halonen.
© Cecilia Damström

Korvat Auki composers Saper Shabaz, Charles van Hemelryck
and Matei Gheorghiu. © Cecilia Damström

I really enjoyed the concert today! Maybe it was because I had sufficiently ‘little’ to do considering arrangements in this concert (only flowers and sparking wine were my responsibility), so I could fully enjoy the music. Moreover I was in a really good listening mood this afternoon. I liked all the pieces in the concert but my two favourite composers of today where Supponen and Autio. Have a listen to Supponens DaCamera here! And for more pictures of the concert click here.

Concert producer and composer Matilda Seppälä and me.
© Lauri Supponen

Composer Lauri Supponen, composer Sebastian Dumitresctu
and soprano Piia Rytkönen. © Cecilia Damström

Korvat Auki composers: Me, Sebastian Dumistrescu and Charles van Hemelryck

After the concert most of us headed to the ‘Egyptian restautant’ JallaJalla (more like a Kebab-Pizzeria) for getting some food, and after we spent the rest of the evening in our stamping ground Bar K.

We were all quite exhausted, so already at 2 AM I headed home with my guests Dante, Lauri and Matei. I was very happy to hear Matei say that he thought this was the best Korvat Auki concert ever!

Brass Chamber Music

Saturday April 26th. Today my trumpetist friend (and my former flatmate) Mari Pakarinen had her chamber music exam at 12 PM in the Finlayson church.

Colored windows and shadows at the Finlayson church. © Cecilia Damström

The programme was:

Joseph Horovitz: Music Hall Suite

Soubrette song
Soft shoe suffle
Les girls

Luis Pasquet: Suite for brass quintet


Witold Lutoslawski: Mini Overture


Sauli Saarinen, trumpet
Eero Kiukkonen, trumpet
Ilona Keltti, horn
Ulla Ahonen, trombone
Tiia Luoma, tuba

Oskar Böhme: Brass Sextett in E flat minor, op. 30

Knitted Mitten brass sextet

Mari Pakarinen, cornet
Hannu Raijas, trumpet
Antero Suvilaakso, trumpet
Ansku Jämsä, horn
Heikki Niskakangas, trombone
Sanna Sorvo, euphonium

Knitted Mitten brass sextet @ Cecilia Damström
I was very positively surprised by the piece Maris sextet played by the German composer Oskar Böhme! I have never before heard such well sounding and well orchestrated brass music! Usually brass music is for me something more like “out door music for parties”, but the oktet was very different from that kind of music and I really enjoyed it! Mari of course got full points for her exam (5/5).

Eero Kiukkonen, Sauli Saarinen and Mari Pakarinen.
Three happy trumpetists who all just passed their chamber music exam
with full points! Congratulations! © Cecilia Damström

I was planning on composing this afternoon, but somehow I didn’t manage to compose at all… Instead I once again tried to clean up a bit, because tonight three composers are staying at my place: Dante Thelestam, Lauri Supponen and Matei Ghiorghiu. I also had to go and buy the roses and sparkling wine for the concert and at 17 o’clock Niilo Tarnanen and Lauri already picked me up for the Korvat Soi -concert at 18 o'clock.

Me and my dear friend Mari after her exam. © Tuomo Sukanen

Friday, 25 April 2014

Photos of Sunset in Tampere

Railways of Tampere at sunset © Cecilia Damström
The Cathedral of Tampere at the end of a bridge at sunset © Cecilia Damström
Ihanakatu = Wonderful street © Cecilia Damström
Cathedral of Tampere at sunset © Cecilia Damström

"This was Hannibal. Now we are closed because you (yes you!)
didn't drink enough." © Cecilia Damström

Train from the North-West coming in to Tampere. © Cecilia Damström

Näsijärvi behind the trees at sunset.  © Cecilia Damström

Flyers and a Birthday Party

Friday April 25th.
Tonight, as usual, I went to listen to the Tampere Phil. The programme was:

Eugene Tzigane, conductor

Debussy: Images

After the concert I at once hurried out so that I would be outside in time to hand out flyers for my concert while people were leaving the Tampere Hall. The conductor unexpectedly did an extra number (which isn’t too common to do with a whole orchestra), which I ended up missing, but at least I was at the door in time.

I managed (with a little help from some friends) to hand out around 300 flyers tonight! I was pleasantly surprised about how positive the attitude of the audience was towards flyers! My hands were quite through frozen (it was about 8 degrees Celsius outside) so I sometimes had a hard time separating the flyers from each other and people would stop and wait so that they got their own flyer! Some would read aloud in a surprised voice name of the concert, which is in Swedish ‘Landet som icke är’, translated to ‘The Land Which Is Not’, and some turned back and asked me “So what is this?” and I would reply “This is my own composition concert coming up in May, with an orchestra, a choir and ensembles and it’s completely free!” on which people usually reacted “Oh your own concert? That is so nice! Thanks for the invitation!” After the audience had stopped flowing out I went to Tampere Hall’s café and said hello to my friends from the Tampere Phil and also gave them an invitation. I also had the very inconvenient task of trying to persuade a few viola players to come and play in my orchestra, for free, because we don’t have enough viola players in our school… I’m not quite sure if I managed yet, we will see.

Tonight I was invited to two parties. I started off with my pianist friend Lotta Penttilä’s birthday party. By the time I was going to go to my composer friend Henri Sokka’s moving out party, they had already gone to a bar, so I joined them. We went to Ruby & Fellas, which is at a very pretty location down by the river in Tampere city centre. It’s quite large, and they have one part for live music and a more regular and quiet room (with a billiard table) but most peculiar (and funny) of all: a small karaoke room in glass with a door that you can close so you don’t hear anything out from the room. I thought this was very practical, as the people who enjoy singing karaoke can occasionally drop in to the room, while people who don’t like karaoke can happily sit outside without suffering.

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Composition Class

Thursday April 24th.

I have received an invitation for the entrance exams for masters at the Sibelius-Academy, which will take place on the 5-9 of May. With the invitation we also got two tasks, which have to be handed in on the first day of the entrance exams. Both tasks were one page of music, and we are supposed to compose a second page (about 10 bars) in the same style as the given task. The one piece is for oboe and piano in an impressionistic French style, so that isn’t a very difficult task. The second task is a song with piano accompaniment in a modern style with complicated rhythms, and I tried for 30 min to sight read that one page but didn’t manage! So I have no idea how I will be able to compose the second page! (By the way, the tasks change every year, so that is why I dare describe the tasks online.)

Today I had composition class. I had so many questions to my teacher Hannu Pohjannoro about non-compositional random stuff: if he thinks I can apply for the grant from our school and if he can write me a recommendation letter, questions about the old and new study plan in composition (in other words questions for my thesis) and also I wanted to discuss the up-coming entrance exams for masters at the Sibelius-Academy.

I have been working for quite a while on my orchestra piece “Unborn” (all together I have had the idea of the piece for three years!), but every time I bring it to class it feels like I have done (almost) nothing and that the piece is just as unready and at it’s beginning as the previous lesson… I guess every student writing a large (orchestra) piece has that feeling…? Well, I anyway had a long lesson as I had so much questions and Hannu managed once again to make good remarks and give good ideas what I could do with my orchestra piece.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Perfect Composer Wednesday

Wednesday April 23rd. What a long day it has been!

The day began with piano class at 9 with Risto Kyrö. But my right  hand was feeling quite sore once again (due to RSI), so we had a “left hand class”. I’m at the moment practising Moskovskys etude in g-minor, so there is anyway quite enough to do woth the left hand as well.

After that I had my last lesson of score reading before my final exam. My teacher Tero Lanu had copied an extract from Strauss opera “Der Rosekavalier”. This was about as difficult but much more boring than the Wagner extracts I have previously been given by Lanu.

At 13 o’clock we had a feedback session about the music theatre project Bus Number13. We were divided into groups (composers, musicians and actors) and each group was asked to make a list of what they had liked/learnt from the project and what could be improved. Mainly organization issues were requested to be improved, but everyone was very happy about the project in general.

Jarkko Pajunen (composer), Heidi-Annina Nikkilä (violin),
Andreas Heino (clarinet), Tiitus Ylipää (barytone) and
Alina Lehti (alto) at the feedback session of Bus Number 13. © Cecilia Damström
Auvo Vihro (director), Hannu Pohjannoro (coordinating professor),
Anna-Maija Ihander (producer) and Matilda Seppälä (composer)
at the feedback session of Bus Number 13. © Cecilia Damström

This was followed by a lunch break and then had just enough time to listen once through to Lutoslawskis 3rd Symphony from youtube.

At 16 o’clock we had the second part of the percussion seminar held by percussion professor  Harri Lehtinen. During this seminar he mainly talked about the marimba and the vibraphone. I discovered that the marimba has a very nice sound when you play it with your fingers (so with no mallets), but it’s a very quiet sound and can possibly only be used in solo or chamber music (in occasions where the music is performed in small venues).

There after I rushed to listen to the choir Näsin Ääni practise my songs for my upcoming concert. After choir practise (at 20 o’clock) I headed of the composition studio for composing my orchestral piece which should be finished by the end of this year, because it is required for graduation! At about 23.30 Matilda came to the composition studio (because the main building of the conservatory had closed) and together we listened to Lutoslawskis third symphony, with which I have now totally fallen in love! After that I let over the studio to Matilda (who has an urging deadline for the composition summer course “Sävellyspaja”) and went home for getting some well deserved sleep after this 15 hour day at school.

Chamber choir Näsin Ääni practicing my pieces, conducted by Markus Yli-Jokipii.
© Cecilia Damström

Monday, 21 April 2014

The hidden curriculum

As we all know the elementary school (as well as high school) is a very old and slowly changing institution. You can often put into question whether it’s changing too slowly when considering the rapid development of our times. The school system is built upon old established attitudes (attitudes of both the schools and teachers), norms and approaches. These attitudes, norms and approaches have a lot of hidden significances as well, where for you could talk about a hidden curriculum.  It is possible to partly observe “the hidden curriculum”, but it’s hard to see all of what it will influence in general, and for some reason it is a topic that will not be subject to debate.

So what are examples could we mention of what we have learnt by the hidden curriculum?


Learning social behaviour in general and rituals is important, especially considering future jobs. That is: how to greet people (which varies in different cultures), taking other people into consideration, knowing if you should take your shoes off when entering a home (like you do in Finland) or not (like in Spain) and many other rituals.


We learn about social hierarchy. How to behave and whom to be friends with if you want to rise in the hierarchy, and what you shouldn’t do and whom you shouldn’t socialise with. The knowledge of hierarchy also influences our general social behaviour. Also learning your own social status in the hierarchy is considered important.

Nowadays though, hierarchy at schools has been thrown upside down, at least in Finland. Teachers have a hard time earning the respect of their pupils and pupils know very well their rights and are ready to file complaints against their teachers for any reason. We have come a long way from the “dictator teacher” who told pupils who didn’t behave to pull down their pants in front of class so that they could be whipped, a long way from teacher who hit pupils who didn’t know their homework with a ruler over their knuckles. Nowadays we have diagnoses such as Dyslexia, ADHD and many more that didn’t exist 50 years ago. In those days people learnt to respect authority blindly, but not anymore. If this is a good or bad thing, anyone can ask himself.  But this picture below I think says a lot about how the word “hierarchy” has changed in the hidden curriculum over the past 50 years.


We learn that girls are good at handicraft and boys are good at woodwork, so that is the reason why they have separate classes. Because girls are weaker, girls and boys also have separate gymnastic classes. Boys are good at maths and girls are good at languages. Boys are wild and girls are supposed to be quiet, kind and unnoticeable. Both the teachers’ as well as classmates’ perception of role models is brought on through the “hidden curriculum”, and also the media play an important role. It should be mentioned that at times children and young people can have more conservative opinions considering sexism than “old” teachers.

Identity in society

According to the official curriculum we should be taught individualism and the illusion of freedom and developing our personality. The official curriculum wants to make us into creative and critically thinking “super-personalities”. The hidden curriculum actually aims at the opposite.

The hidden curriculum brings you down to earth and teaches you first of all where you stand; it won’t praise you to be the most intelligent person in the world, but through comparing yourself to others you might notice that you are just an average person with average capacity. This will help you to build up your forthcoming identity in society. It also shows the reality of “basic jobs” such as cleaners and plumbers, which don’t seem to fit into the picture of the official curriculum of super-personalities, because how many people can use their creative and critical thinking when cleaning up an office?


Bullying is often connected with the hidden curriculum. You can ask if the hidden curriculum supports “watching from the side without interfering”. Bullying once again strengthens the hierarchy and how not to behave or whom not to associate with for avoiding being bullied. The hidden curriculum teaches us something similar to Darwin’s natural selection. If a person manages to stand up against their bullies this is also considered a good thing according to the hidden curriculum. Increasing social activities and social engagement for the group are though proven to increase openness and decrease bullying.

The good citizen

The most important thing that the hidden curriculum will teach us, when considering all of the mentioned factors; is how to become a good citizen. A good citizen, who goes to work, pays taxes, behaves well, knows his place in the hierarchy and society, and minds his own business. As much as the official curriculum emphases creativity, critical thinking and individual development, these are all just illusions which the hidden curriculum wants to make sure you will never try to actually fulfil. You are not supposed to be a critical thinker but a good common worker who does his or her boring job without muttering and without creating problems. There isn’t enough space for everyone to enfold their artistic ideas and talents, so people should believe they are not needed and keep working with their regular work for being able to pay off their mortgage. The hidden curriculum teaches us that we should have a good job, be married (men to a pretty woman and woman to a rich and successful man), have children, have a nice car and a big mortgage before we turn 30, and this you will need for happiness. Yes, the hidden curriculum also tells us what happiness is, how handy isn’t that now?

The teacher’s role

Now this is a very important subject! The teacher is an important key to the hidden curriculum. That is why it is extremely important as a pedagogue to question your own perceptions of and attitudes to everything, and also to live according to your own ideals. As a teacher you have to both try to start thinking outside the box, as well as helping others to do it, for getting rid of stereotypes and similar discriminating thinking. You have to try to identify the hidden curriculum and to be in an open dialogue with it, for being able to change things.

My opinion

When I was reading the chapter “Hidden curriculum” (“piilo-opetussuunnitelma”) in the book Kasvatussosiologia (Sociology of education, written by A.Antikainen, R.Rinne and L.Koski, WSOY 2006) I got more and more depressed for every line I read. All of my life I have found that this is exactly what society is teaching us, but then the ideologist in me has told me “hush now, don’t think such negative thoughts, society still supports culture and it allowed you to become a composer, no need to be so concerned and grumpy”. And now the book is rubbing it in my face “Yes, everything you ever feared is true. Society doesn’t care a damn about you nor about your ideals or dreams. What society really cares about is money, hierarchy and power. It is not a coincidence that you are taught that you need a mortgage, children, a car and a job for being happy. It is all part of the plan, teaching you how you should be so that society will work.” I sometimes feel like the world is just full of squirrel-brains; and that people just like squirrels, keep on with their rituals (hiding food for the winter, then trying to find the places where they hid it for ages) without asking them selves the question “What is the meaning with all of this?”. Well, the book just proved it to me; you are not supposed to ask this question, or any question at all as a matter of fact. You are supposed to be a squirrel-brain that keeps to it rituals so that the economy will keep on running.

I often ask my self; who came up with this weird system of our economy, where people’s imagination determines the price of our raw materials such as food and oil? Because that is exactly what the stock market is about; nothing else than imaginary numbers, everything is worth as much as you think it is worth. How can our food and oil supplies be depending on these imaginary numbers? It’s simply because people in general will not put it into question. And if they do think about it even for three seconds, they will shrug their shoulders and think “nothing I can do about it”. How come there is nothing you can do about it? If this ridiculous system was made up by people, there must be people who could change it as well! I have often wondered why people won’t try to change it, or anything that is wrong in this world. And the book Sociology of education gives me an answer to this question; because you are raised to be a squirrel-brain who won’t think nor change things.

Now this makes me wonder; where did the hidden curriculum go wrong with me, and with other artists and with all the other idealists who are trying to change the world? Which part of the hidden curriculum failed to affect us?  Well, I’m happy something went wrong with the hidden curriculum in my case, because I can assure you that being a female composer certainly goes against the grain.

Cecilia Damström

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Happy Easter!

Easter Sunday, 20th of April. Last night I went to the Easter Vigil (Midnight mass), which is my favorite mass of the whole year and which also is the most important mass of the whole year, the night when Jesus resurrected. I like the Gregorian chants we sing in the mass. Most of all I love the wonderful candle light happening. The lights are all turned off and then the entire flame spreads from candle to candle to the whole parish and so the whole room gets lit up by all the candles! Before we used to stand in the candle lit church for a very long time, but for some reason (maybe safety reasons?) we nowadays just stand a little while in darkness before the electrical lights are all switched on (which is a pitty).

The Easter Vigil 2014 at Saint Marys church in Helsinki. © C.Damström

The Easter Vigil 2014 at Saint Marys church in Helsinki. © C.Damström

This morning I also went to the main mass and after that we had dinner with my mother and father and it was really nice. Due to childhood traditions my mother had hid easter eggs around the living room, this time real (boilt) eggs though. Although I’m 25 I still enjoy the easter egg hunt! The rest of the day was less interesting, writing my thesis once again.

Writing my thesis in the sun on the balcony at my parents place