On the eleventh of October, the guitar-fusion virtouso Al di Meola visited Uppsala, Sweden’s guitar festival for the third time –– this time not only to play a consert; he was also going to give a clinic. So I thought, why not go and ask some questions and listen to the answers?
Helenius (and others): When the three of you (Paco de Lucia, John McLaughlin and Al di Meola) recorded your Friday Night in San Francisco album, we as listeners could kind of hear bits of jokes and comments in the playing between you guys. Can you tell us a bit about it?
A: Yeah, when we recorded that –– I don’t remember how long ago, around thirty years ago I think –– we were always trying to play better solos, like if Paco played a solo I always thought: how am I ever going to top that? (laughs) But I think that’s one of the best ways to improve, to play with musicians better than yourself, because then you play better and reach higher than you normally would.
Helenius (and others): Normally flamenco players dont use plectrums, but you do. Why?
A: First of all I dont play flamenco. Secondly, I really wish that I would have started with this (playing with his fingers) from the beginning, so I’d improve that way.
Helenius (and others): What kind of electronics do you have on the floor?
A: I’m using the Roland VG-88 multi-effect pedalboard. They dont make this anymore, but I think it’s one of the best pedalboards ever made.
Helenius (and others): How do you practise?
A: At home, I only practise things I’m about to play live. And I always practise while I’m stomping the tempo with one foot, because you always want to keep time, and stomping the tempo, you always know the beat.
Helenius (and others): Could you tell us about your picking technique?
A: Yeah, I’ve always been using alternate picking. I’m really not into this ‘sweepshit’ thing. (laughs) I suppose that it sounds pretty good on an electric guitar, I’ve seen all kinds of skilled people using it wonderfully on the electric guitar, but it just doesn’t work on an acoustic guitar, the string are just too sensitive.
Helenius (and others): When you record, how many takes do you need before you’re satisfied?
A: When I recorded my first, more rock-oriented albums with Anthony Jackson and Steve Gadd, we probably only practised for around a day, and then we recorded it on the first take. Why? Because they were always booked up for as many gigs and recordings as possible, so I gave them ideas for what to play, but they always had ideas too, and those always made the songs better. And Steve didnt want to see the drum parts; no, he wanted to see the bass parts and write the comp from them. Both of them are, and were, incredible musicians!
(Most of the clinic he was playing and practising for the evening’s show, so there weren’t that many questions, but everyone could see that even the great Al di Meola can make mistakes in his playing, because at some points couldn’t manage certain chords, probably because he started his career playing steel stringed acoustic guitars, but has in later years changed to nylon strings and that’s pretty complicated because with steel strings, you may press the strings much harder, because the tone is better. But you should press much more lightly on nylon strings to get the best tone, so sometimes Al tended to press a little bit too much on his nylon-stringed guitar, which bent the tone, making certain tones sound out-of-tune.)
Rakel Simonsson is thirteen years old and plays the clarinet. Last spring she was diagnosed with ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), a neuropsychiatric disability. ADHD is a sensitivity in the nervous system and has nothing to do with intelligence. The symptoms variy, but the most common ones are difficulties in concentrating, hyperactivity and making inadvertent errors.
Rakel’s mother Anna says that when she was only a few months old, “we called her the three-second-girl.” She was very physical and did things a normal child would not do. When she was a couple of years old she was climbing up and down high trees, dancing and running away. Rakel also had major problems learning to sleep in her own bed. When she was around ten years old her mother sometimes practiced the clarinet with her. Even though she loved to play, it was difficult for her to get into the flow. All these symptoms made her mother putting the puzzle pieces together.
Following is an interview with Rakel and her mom about living with ADHD.
Simonsson: What is it like having ADHD? How is a normal day in the classroom, what happens in your head?
Rakel Simonsson: Everything that should not happen. Reading long texts makes me tired and therefore I have difficulties remembering what I have read. My biggest issue is to get started with things. If someone tells me how to start, everything is easier. Therefore it is harder for me to finish projects, when studying, than to answer specific questions.
Anna Simonsson: When she is not passionate about something, she has a hard time getting going. A small thing like folding a garment and putting it in the wardrobe, which can be hard for a normal teenager, is very demanding. Therefore structure is important. We have to start in advance. She needs time to prepare, help getting started, and she needs to take breaks.
Simonsson: There are three main types of ADHD: The predominantly hyperactive, the predominantly inattentive and the combined form. The combined form is most common. Which one do you have?
Rakel Simonsson: I have the inattentive form. Therefore I have hyperactivity on the inside, and I often have trouble going to sleep because of it. Sometimes I get to a point when everything overflows and I panic and start to cry. I think more people are diagnosed with the hyperactive or combined type because they show their eagerness to those around them. Consequently it can be hard for people to see that I have ADHD. Furthermore if you get good results in school, some teachers have a hard time seeing that you have problems.
Anna Simonsson: During the assessment, a teacher got to fill out a questionnaire. The first time she described Rakel as calm and equable. Six months later, when it was time to fill it out again, her answers were totally different. The teacher had probably observed Rakel during that half year. That is the risk with the inattentive form, you seem calm and quiet but you are stressed out within.
Simonsson: What do you think we should change in the school system to make it easier for children with ADHD?
Anna Simonsson: Today’s school system is not adjusted to different types of learning. Everybody is different. I have heard people say that children with ADHD need to learn to study in the same way as everybody else. The root to that contention is unenlightened. There are prejudices about individuals with ADHD being lazy, which is totally incorrect.
The school system needs to be better adjusted to individuals. Big classes are for instance not good for learning. It is also essential to understand the importance of structure and information. For children with ADHD, in the inattentive type, a little bit of help can go a long way. It would be better, for instance, if time on the timetable was dedicated to homework. In this way when school ends for the day, you have done the majority of the things you have to do. Everybody need to learn to be independent, but we all learn it in different ways.
Simonsson: You are often described as a creative person, especially when playing the clarinet. How do you get the right expressiveness while playing?
Rakel Simonsson: I somewhat think in landscapes, but mostly I try to only focus on myself and the way I play. That way I get into my own bubble; everything around me gets blurry and I am the only one in the room.
Simonsson: (to Anna) Have you ever understood how Rakel thinks when she plays the clarinet?
Anna Simonsson: No, because she has a hard time describing it. Everything merely happens. Some musicians may telling a story while playing, or think in more technical terms, but Rakel follows the music. It is a given for her. Even though she has a hard time getting started and focusing, she is the one of my children who music means most to, spiritually. Something wonderful happens when she plays the clarinet.
Mossop: Music has always been there for me since I’m from a musical family. Both my two older siblings and my parents were into music. My father was an organist, church musician and conductor, my mother was a pianist, and my siblings played string instruments. Therefor there was a lot of music at home and the music came naturally for me.
Peterson: Have you ever considered working with something else than music?
Mossop: Actually I have; I didn’t study music at gymnasium or my first university. At that time I was into studying law and wanted to be a lawyer. I did a bachelor of arts in my hometown Calgary, Canada. But then I took a year travelling and realized that I wanted to do music. Music ment more to me than anything else, so I completed a bachelor’s degree in music at the University of Calgary.
Peterson:How come you ended up in Sweden?
Mossop: After i did my degree in Calgary, I applied for a bunch of different grants and found one in Stockholm at Kungliga musikhögskolan. I had no relation to Sweden, except I had heard some of the opera singers from there, for example Birgitt Nilsson. I travelled a lot as a child in Europe, but never visited Sweden.
The grant would finance my studies there for one year, so I thought, why not? I studied Swedish for one week and then tried doing the audition in Swedish –– my Swedish didn’t go that well, but I got the grant. In 1976 I started at Kungliga Musikhögskolan (KMH) and that was when my life in Sweden started.
Peterson: What did you do after KMH?
Mossop: I attended KMH for six years and after that I started working at Folkoperan. I had conducted a couple of operas at KMH, with an ensemble with musicians from KMH as well as professional soloists. For example I conducted 4 helgon i två akter. It was an important experience to have, because I was very inexperienced at that point. But when I started conducting at folkoperan it was a smooth transition from studying to working.
Peterson: What have your greatest experiences with music been?
Mossop: When I still lived in Canada I sang in a big choir. There was a conductor from England and he really raised the level of the choir. He was demanding, but it helped. I still remember the concert when we sang works, Verdi’s Requiem and the Dream of Gerontius by Edward Elgar. There were some great soloists and I remember the night as very touching and beautiful. I got so touched by the music that I almost forgot how to sing. I’m very grateful to be able to experience these kind of things thanks to music, the feeling of almost not knowing your name and just floating away to a different world is amazing. That’s one of the things music can give to you.
Peterson: Have you lived in Sweden since you moved here 1976?
Mossop: Me and my wife went back to Canada for six years because I got a job as a chief at the orchestra in Thunder Bay. It was a professional orchestra with thirty musicians employed. We had some great years there and my two oldest children were born there. After six years of working in Canada, we returned to Europe at 1995 with one three year old and a two-month-old baby.
Peterson: How does it feel to stand in front of a big orchestra?
Mossop: It’s an amazing feeling to stand there and feel all the musicality. Everyone has an individual talent and as a conductor it’s my job to release music from the people playing. My vision of being a conductor is to work as copper conduit, leading electricity away from the musicians. The electricity is going to go smoothly through the conductor, and that’s when you’ve succeed.
Peterson: What does music mean to you?
Mossop: Music means a lot to me. It’s not my whole life, but it’s a big part. It brings much joy and inspiration to me.
Peterson: What’s the most fantastic work you’ve conducted?
Mossop: It’s hard for me to choose, but if I had to choose one work, I would pick when I
conducted Madame Butterfly at Folkoperan. Every time I conducted the opera it felt like a journey, even though I conducted it at least 20 times. The music is very touching, and the story is heartbreaking.
(Note: When Glenn Mossop told me about Madame Butterfly, he almost began to cry. For me it’s very inspiring that he can experience music so deeply that after all these years, he still gets touched by an opera. For me this is the goal of music, to be able to listen, feel and take music into your heart. As Glenn Mossop told me, he sometimes flies away to another world when he conducts operas.)
Kristina Hammarström is an operasinger who performs in Europe and overseas. She often appears as male characters in different productions. I’m curious and would like to know the reason why she sings male roles and how it might affect her singing.
E. Hammarström: You have been active in the business of opera singing for as long as I know, but when exactly did you start singing?
K. Hammarström: I sang as a child and I started taking singing lessons and training my voice from the age of seventeen.
E. Hammarström: Where did you start your studies?
K. Hammarström: I started taking lessons when I was a student at Sundstagymnasiet in Karlstad. My first teacher was Mårten Engdahl and he encouraged me to pursue a career as a singer. At the time my main instrument was violin, but some years later when I was a student at the Royal College of Music in Stockholm I decided to focus on my singing.
E. Hammarström: I know that you often perform on stage playing a man and I would like to know why that is so?
K. Hammarström: When opera as an art form was “born” in Venice in the beginning of the 17th century, most of the male roles where written for castrato singers who where very populare at the time. Nowadays castration is luckily forbidden, so opera houses often use female singers instead. Since my voice is suitable for music composed during the 17th – 19th century, I’m often offered these roles. Some conductors and stage directors prefer counter tenors. A counter tenor is a male singer who sings with his falsetto voice. Their techniques have developed a lot during the last forty years or so, so today they can sing in the big opera houses.
E. Hammarström: How does acting as a man differ from actng as a woman?
K. Hammarström: I would say that the difference isn’t that big, at least that’s how I experience it. My body language kind of becomes a bit more masculine just by knowing I’m supposed to give the impression of being a man. It’s mostly convention, what we think is masculine and feminine body language. Everyone is different. I also think that the costume helps me to find the right character. You also get a lot of help from the music. Often the male characters get more powerful music to underline the fact thet they are often rulers or warriors. Yet another parameter that is helpful is how my colleagues treat me and interact with me on stage.
E. Hammarström: A follow-up question: what is more fun, to act as a man or as a woman? And why?
K. Hammarström: First of all, it is the music that decides whether a character is fun or not to sing and act. But it is generally more fun to play a man, maybe because it’s further away from who I am and therefore gives me a greater sense of freedom.
E. Hammarström: Do you perform music written for men in opera in concert form as well? If you do, how is that compared to staged opera performances?
K. Hammarström: Well, in a concert performance you don’t get the support from either the costumes or the body language. You have to rely on your voice and trust that the audience accept that you are trying to portray a male character. Usually I wear trousers just to make it easier for the listeners to remember that I am supposed to be a man.
E. Hammarström: If you were to choose another profession instead of opera singing, what would it be?
K. Hammarström: As a child, I dreamt about becoming a veterinarian, and this is still something I would like to do. I am also very interested in languages, and as a singer I get to work with different kinds of languages. I also like to imagine myself being an author focusing on novels and even poetry.
Conclusion: It was interesting to hear Kristina’s thoughts about what she thinks of acting as a man on stage. What I especially found interesting was that she doesn’t experience that the difference between men and women is so big after all. I also got to learn a lot about the background to why she ended up doing this, and the history behind the choice to let female singers with lower voices sing roles written for castratos. It’s strange to think that the cruel custom to have young boys castrated only because they wanted them to keep their high voices ended as late as in the 19th century.
Peter Bennich is a senior policy advisor at the Swedish Energy Agency. Everyday he tackles environmental problems. He was born in the city of Norrköping but now lives in Stockholm, and has had a long career dedicated to the environment.
We sat down together to talk about his journey to fighting for the environment and the importance of climate-change awareness.
Alhager: When you were a child, what did you want to become?
Bennich: I wanted to become a scientist. I remember my mother thought this was a childish statement. I was very fascinated by machines and inventions. I would often dis-assemble things to then re-assemble them into something new.
Alhager: What did you focus on in high school?
Bennich: Since I had an interest in science and technology, studying technology was the obvious choice. Though I must admit it was quite the shock –– suddenly demands were placed on me. Prior to this, school had been pretty easy and I had been very laid back. But now I actually had to work and study! Despite the pressure I was still very lazy and wasn’t very organized, so I often studied at the last minute, and had to cram the night before. My situation at home was also quite messy, so that didn’t help. But somehow I managed to pull through and graduate.
Alhager: What did you do after high school?
Bennich: I went to university and studied theoretical physics. But again I wasn’t very well-organized, so my first year was really tough. Also this was the first time I met people who were way smarter than me. People were so smart, way above me! That was unfamiliar. That was when I finally understood that if I wanted to get anywhere, I had to do the work myself.
When I got back (from military service) I studied logic and quantum mechanics. That was when a switch turned on inside me, and I started truly understanding what I was reading. I just wanted know more and more. Now my curiosity was absolutely piqued. How does such-and-such work? What happens if you do so-and-so, and so on. I was actually truly enjoying school, and my studies were really fun and interesting. It was around this time I my met my ex-wife and we had our first child. I also got an offer to do a PhD. They didn’t really appreciate that the first thing I did after getting the job was to go on paternity leave. It did work out though.
Alhager: What was it being a full-time working student and a dad?
Bennich: It was very tough being both a dad, and putting my best effort into my PhD. I clearly remember explaining to my colleagues that I had to go pick up my children from kindergarten. More often than not I went back to work later in the evening, and often pulled all-nighters. It was very draining. Then we got an offer from a university in the US to continue our project there. So the whole family moved over to the states. It was a very tough experience for us as a family, but we were very ambitious so we managed to pull through. We moved back to Sweden and I finished my PhD and officially became a Doctor of Philosophy in Physics. My ex-wife had become a medical doctor, and it was time for her internship, so it was her turn to choose where we were heading. That is why we moved to Östersund.
Alhager: Did you feel at home in Östersund, even though you didn’t have a permanent position?
Bennich: I enjoyed Östersund very much. Even though it isn’t a very big town, I felt at home. People were very kind and welcoming. The summer we moved in I was in charge of taking care of our three kids and fixing up the apartment while my ex-wife was working. When the semester began, I started working as a substitute teacher at a local high school.
Alhager: What do you do on your free time?
All my life I’ve taken extra classes at the university in the evening just as a hobby. That year I took a course in programming. Around Christmas there was an exam, but my ex-wife said no. ”I’m going to a Christmas smorgasbord, so tell them you can’t that day, and reschedule. This is very important to me.” So I went to the university and told them I had to take the exam another day because I had this very ”important meeting”. They weren’t happy, but I stood my ground. While I was wildly discussing this, a man walked up to me. ”Would you like to work here?” he asked. It turns out this was the vice head of academics, who was soon to quit, and was looking for a successor. So I took over his job, and became the new vice head of academics.
When my wife was finished with her internship, we left Östersund and moved to Täby, north of Stockholm. She began her specialist position, and I started working at KTH (The Royal Insitute of Technology) in Stockholm.
Alhager: Why is it that as a child, you became so invested in the environment already from childhood?
Bennich: In 1973, when I was ten years old, was the year of the Oil Crisis. It was all over the news that the world’s oil was going to run out, and that we would have to start saving energy and beciming more efficient. I still remember the pictures on TV.
Alhager: You work at the Swedish Energy Agency. What is it that you do there?
Bennich: Our goal to make society operate on sustainable energy sources. Africa is growing more wealthy, and we want to help those countries leapfrog, skipping the negative parts of the industrial evolution. Make them jump to a sustainable energy system straight away.
Alhager: How can normal people make a difference for our climate?
Bennich: You can do the classic things. Recycle, travel by public transport, eat less red meat, stop flying and so on. But the real change comes through demanding change. If we put pressure on our local stores and shops, then change will happen. Demand that we only want ecological food at a resonable price, and clothes made in fair conditions for everyone, in sustainable ways, or else we won’t buy them. Give mandates to politicians who take climate change seriously and will act now. They can support small companies with ideas, and force big companies and industries to adapt. This way we can truly make a change for our planet. Also, inspire people. Go out on social media and share and spread awareness about climate change and what we can do to stop it. An example is Greta Thunberg who is on social media, and spreads awareness and makes politicians truly turn their words into actions.
Alhager: Can you give me an example or anectdote about why it is important that everyone cooperates to stop climate change?
Bennich: Last spring we had a meeting with the Swedish Opera House about their need to change their stagelights to energy-saving bulbs. Most people listened and understood. But there was one man who refused. He argued that if we changed the lights, the soul of the Opera would be hurt, the feeling and look could never be the same.
Alhager: What do you want to do in the future?
Bennich: I would like to work part-time and spend more time on my hobbies. I would like to be able to spend more time composing music. My dream is to compose a symphony. I also would like to paint more and develop my creative side. But I don’t have a choice. My work is my duty and I can’t walk away from it. I need to be here to guide your generation to save the planet.
Isadora Galindo Hohn is a sixteen-year-old girl currently studying her first year in the Technology program at NTI, Stockholm. She lives in Södertälje, and has roots in Colombia and Germany. She has a lot of interests, including playing the trombone, working as a swimming instructor, and playing video games. She is one of four girls in her class of 33 students, and I was interested in learning what it’s like heading into a field so dominated by the opposite gender.
Godner: You obviously have a lot of interests. How did you end up choosing the technology program?
Galindo Hohn: Throughout my life I’ve always wanted to do what’s best for people, and I find that technology has so much potential. Part of my education is preparing me to become a civil engineer and that that would open a door for me to go to South America, for example, and help develop products for water treatment, or efficient ventilation systems, or to otherwise help the infrastructure in a lot of developing countries.
Godner: How did your family and friends react to your choice of schools?
Galindo Hohn: Though it was mostly positive, there are a lot of prejudices regarding technology, which worried my mother. Initially, she thought I was limiting myself to only a few different jobs, and she’d read a lot of biased articles about how women get abused working in the world of tech. Other than that it was positive, though the reactions were mostly regarding me being a girl choosing the program, which says a lot about not only how women are perceived but also how tech is perceived.
Godner: Did your family and friends have an impact on your choice?
Galindo Hohn: I’ve always been encouraged to do whatever I want. Also to do things that aren’t expected of me. Everyone expected me to choose Natural Sciences or Music, which made me think that Technology might be for me. Obviously, I did it for myself and no one else, but had I not been encouraged to broaden my horizons, I might not have considered this program.
Godner: When growing up, what was your dream job?
Galindo Hohn: I’ve wanted to be a doctor, astronomer, astronaut, musician, criminologist, and now, game developer.
Godner: You’ve been ambitious with your dreams and what you’ve done. Who’s been your biggest inspiration and why?
Galindo Hohn: My great grandmother, oddly. I never met her, I’ve just heard all these stories about her. She was born in 1902 and had many talents, but mainly, she was very intelligent, especially when it came to math. She was so good at math that her teacher said he’d give her a scholarship to a university, had she been a boy. That always stuck with me, that society has been like that; that she was forbidden from pursuing a dream solely because of her gender. So I’ve always wanted to do all the things she and so many other women could have done but were told they weren’t allowed to.
Godner: So, let’s talk about your school. First of all, tell me a bit about it.
Galindo Hohn: It’s a privately owned school in central Stockholm focusing a lot on technology. The main specializations you can study are either engineering och game developing.
Godner: There are only four girls in your class, and 16% girls at the entire school. What do you think this type of underrepresentation does to the school’s environment?
Galindo Hohn: It does a lot, definitely. There’s a different mood, I guess? It’s not that I’m necessarily treated differently, but I find it difficult and tiresome to be the only girl in the discussions we have at the school. I also find there not to be as many perspectives as there should be in discussions and lessons.
Godner: Would you like there to be more girls in your class?
Galindo Hohn: Definitely! I’ve realized I don’t really have any female friends at my school, and I’d love to have one.
Godner: Do you think, as the minority, you get a general different experience?
Galindo Hohn: I do. I don’t think the girls get noticed as much. If a girl was sick one day I doubt most of the guys would notice, while we (the girls) would notice whether a girl wasn’t there.
Godner: Do you think the guys notice they’re in the majority?
Galindo Hohn: The school talks about it a lot, so it’s hard to miss. Our first assignment was about gender norms in video games, and we discuss it regularly with our mentors. All our projects must include a discussion about women in technology. You’d have to be living under a rock to escape the fact that there’s a huge difference. Though I think they probably see us girls as a minority more than they do themselves as a majority.
Godner: How do you feel about the school taking all these measures?
Galindo Hohn: At this point, it just feels as if they’re overcompensating. It’s a nice gesture, but the whole discussion has become worn out and is hard to take seriously anymore. But I’m torn, because I prefer this to the alternative, which I guess is not talking about it at all. It is important to talk about, after all. But I’ve become tired of this notion that all us girls must stand up for ourselves and tell our sob stories as girls in the technology field. It’s 2018, you know?
Godner: What’s your preferred way of dealing with the dilemna?
Galindo Hohn: Indisputable facts. Present it as it is: we’re the minority, and they’re the majority. That’s how it is now, and we’d like to change that. It’s funny, because this was one of our first projects: how to open the technology field for women. Everyone in the class failed. And that’s how deeply rooted it is.
Godner: How, exactly, does it feel to be one of so few girls?
Galindo Hohn: Honestly? It feels weird. On the first day, I was a total black sheep. It felt as if every guy was staring me down until I started talking to my friend, Carl, who was also there. Only then was I left alone. But being a girl at this school seemed to be something exotic. I also feel, sadly, that I’ve had to earn my friendship and my equality with my (male) classmates.
Godner: What do you mean?
Galindo Hohn: Me and the other girls in my class, in the beginning, were treated only as possible girlfriends. The guys gave us a lot of attention and tried to one-up each other in impressing us. When it turned out that three of the girls, that is, everyone except me, either had boyfriends or was gay, they were completely ignored by all of the guys. No one talked to them for a while. Myself, not falling into either category, I’ve had to fight to be viewed as an actual friend. I would like there to be a balance between friend and potential girlfriend, but there you are.
Godner: What do you think has caused this imbalance?
Galindo Hohn: I blame society, this very heteronormative society. From media, parents, everyone, we’re told girls and boys can’t be friends. And add to that the general oppression of women, and hence, girls are viewed solely as potential girlfriends rather than equals. Though I would like to mention that of course, this doesn’t apply to every guy. This is merely a broad generalization.
Godner: What does this do to society?
Galindo Hohn: I believe there will always be a gap, a bit of miscommunication between the male and female sides.
Godner: Your old school, your old class, was way more equal in numbers. How was that different?
Galindo Hohn: Very different, very. In social gatherings, there will always be rules, and the rules at my old school versus NTI are completely flipped. At my old school, showing emotion was accepted and supported by girls and boys equally. I haven’t experienced the same thing here. Feminized traits are more demonized and joked about here. The macho culture has kind of won.
Godner: Do you believe it’s potentially as dangerous for guys to be overrepresented as it is for girls to be underrepresented (or vice versa)?
Galindo Hohn: I really do. As mentioned, we all think very differently. I truly believe equality brings out the best in people. And it hurts everyone if that balance disappears.
Godner: If we get away from the school, the whole field of technology is dominated by men. How does this affect a field, to be so numerically unequal?
Galindo Hohn: The field lacks breadth, it has a bit of tunnel-vision. Men and women think very differently, and there’s a discussion that gets lost when only one of the voices gets represented. It also narrows the potential market. If no girls are on a panel, the product won’t be properly aimed at women.
Godner: And what is your plan for changing this?
Galindo Hohn: Talk about it, of course, but mostly normalize it. We’re just people in tech. We do the same job, you know? But in the end, I don’t have a solution, and I don’t know if anyone does. Which is exactly why it is important to change in the first place.
Godner: Do you like it at your school, and would you recommend it to other girls wanting to, for example, become a game developer or civil engineer?
Galindo Hohn: Absolutely. Though it can feel tiresome to be singled out, the school has the best intentions and wants us to feel comfortable. The education is great, my friends are great, and you know, no matter whether I feel as if they try to hard, they have succeeded in making me feel comfortable, something I don’t think all schools like to prioritize. There will always be room for improvement, which I suppose is what this interview is for, but had I been given the choice again I still would have chosen this school.
Godner: Is there anything else you’d like to add on to this topic?
Galindo Hohn: I think a lot of people are scared of venturing into a field thatâ€™s depicted like the field of technology. A lot of what’s said is probably true, but you shouldn’t be daunted by it.
Godner: And lastly, what is something you would like to say to all the boys, girls, and others home right now, dreaming about heading into a field in which they aren’t necessarily represented?
Galindo Hohn: Don’t let yourself be scared of other people’s opinions or stories. Being afraid of your own dreams isn’t going to get you anywhere. So just do what you feel like, no matter what, and who knows? You might rewrite history. You might change the world.
I have chosen to interview a close friend to my family, Madeleine Mortensen. She is a very warm, curious and interesting person with a long career whom I was curious to get to know more.
Strand: Tell me a little bit about yourself!
Mortensen: Hello! My name is Madeleine Mortensen and I’m 52 years old. I live on Lidingö with my husband, my son and my dog. I have my roots in Lebanon, France and Sweden as my father is half Libanese, half French; and my mother is Swedish. Though I grew up in Sweden I traveled a lot as a kid and I also chose a career in which I’ve traveled a lot.
If I would describe myself I would say that I´m a high intensive person with a lot of energy. I am very restless, and is constantly moving towards something as well as developing myself and others. I want to change and improve. I like to think outside the box.
Strand: Tell me about your career! What have you worked with in your life? And what do you work with now?
Mortensen: When I was 15 years old I told my parents that we should have a little talk. I told my parents it was time for me to leave. I knew what I wanted to work with and I was ready to move away from home. I told them that I would like to work with design, photography and fashion. And that became my reality! Except the part where I was planning to move. I stayed with my parents a little bit longer, thank god.
Before I started upper secondary school I took a break and worked for a year as an assistant to a fashion brand. Alongside my work, I took classes in textiles and coloring. I think that was a good and safe start. I started building my career from there.
I started Upper secondary school and studied an Economics program because I wanted to gain knowledge about how to build my own business. That part of my career has helped me a lot because when you understand the money side, as well the creative part, you can successfully build your own business.
I have worked with many things in my life. After upper secondary school I went back to being an assistant to a fashion designer. After that I came up with the idea of working with interior design and furnishing. I started to work in the reception of a furniture company and later on, that led me to work as a sales assistant –– and later on to an architect’s assistant. Around that time, I started doing my own bathroom designing; even though I was only 21 years, old, I was starting to get bored with the furnishing industry.
I looked for other opportunities and got a job in the reception area of an advertising company, and from there I developed into an assistant, and then into a project manager. I started to study at an advertising school and took a course to become a project-leader myself. But I got tired of that too!
By 23 years of age I started my own company as a stylist and designer, etc. The company is called Mad Creative Consulting. I still run that company today.
From when I was 25 and a few years onwards, I tried a number of different jobs, for instance I opened a night club, and I worked as an assistant to varies people –– fashion stylists and party planners like Mikael Bindefeld.
After a number of jobs as an assistant, I got asked by a very successful stylist-agent in Sweden to become a stylist myself. I moved to Paris and there I started working at a fashion magazine that was very popular at the time called Glamour. After a few years in Paris I moved back to Stockholm and continued to work as a stylist, working many years for Diesel and also for celebrities like Mary J. Blige, The Cardigans, Roxette, Monica Zetterlund, Robyn, The Spice Girls and many more!
In total worked as a stylist for seventeen years. It was a really fun and exciting job and I travelled a lot and experienced so much!
After many years of stormy work I wanted to take things more slowly, and start a family. I had a son named Douglas and after that it was difficult to be a good mother and continue travelling in my work, so I looked for a job where I didn’t have to travel.
I got back to interior design and did a lot of home decoration for the interior design store Nordiska Galleriet, as well as various companies and private persons.
After that I started to educate companies about retail and exposure. I did PR-concepts for a number of banks and companies, for example Absolut Vodka.
The French home furnishing brand called Habitat opened up stores in Stockholm and I was given the opportunity to work for them and to manage their stores, the design etc. and I was also involved in creating their webpage and building their brand in Sweden.
I am currently working a lot with my husband, who is a photographer. I help with the strategic part of the work as well as the visual concept for companies and the brands he is working with. You can say I am the project leader on our team. On the side, I also do my own interior design work for various projects, like people’s homes, etc. I am also a mentor, and I also have plans to create my own brand within the interior design industry.
Strand: Do you have any advice career-wise?
Mortensen: I think it’s important to work with something you’re passionate about and are good at. Because you don’t want to dedicate your life to something you don’t find interesting. I also think it’s important to believe that nothing is impossible. If you never take chances you will never reach your dream. Trust your intuition!
Strand: What are you most proud of in your career?
Mortensen: I am actually proud of that I have done so much, tried so many different things. But one thing I am in particular proud of is when I was in Bangkok as a guest on a movie shoot. An American woman who was involved in volunteer work and I started a charity fund. It was to help kids who were sold as sex slaves, and help them to get their lives back. We did it with help from the American and English actors for the movie –– as celebrities, they meant good public relations for the fund.
Strand: Is there anything you would like to add?
Mortensen: I have a saying, that has been with me since I was twelve years old. It goes like this: “‘If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, Infinite.” – William Blake .
It describes me and my way of thinking. For me things are infinite, there is no end to things because all I want to do is develop and achieve.
Marcus Wiander is a drummer currently studying at Lilla Akademien “The Junior Academy” in Stockholm, a school for talented musicians to develop and prepare for a professional musical life. It is recognized as being among the best schools in Sweden specializing in classical music. It also offers a specialization in jazz.
Marcus is sixteen and in his first year of the gymnasium and I (Anastasia, violinist) am his classmate. I decided to interview him because I find him very talented and think he will go far in the music industry. Some day we might call him “that world-class drummer, Marcus Wiander….”
Allgulin: How did it all start? Why did you become a drummer?
Wiander: It happened pretty quickly. When I was two or three years old I just started hitting things. My parents assumed there was musicality in the family; my dad is fairly good at the guitar and my sister has gone to Lilla Akademien. At the age of four I got my first drum set. It was a bad one, but I didn’t know that at the time. I really liked to play and there was absolutely no pressure. There still isn’t.
Allgulin: Have you ever wanted to quit?
Wiander: When I was nine or ten I started thinking about my future working life – I thought that being a purchaser might be a better choice than music. But at thirteen I started to take drumming seriously, and from that day on, I have never doubted my choice.
Allgulin: What’s your greatest performance memory?
Wiander: The performance I’m most proud of is my solo at the Nobel Prize Dinner. First I played a drumroll as everyone came walking in. Then, I played after the dinner on an electric hand drum that sounded like birds since the theme for the party was forests. I played four times, at half an hour each. The first time was at ten p.m. and the party officially ended at two-three a.m. which was the last time I played. When I think about my performances I mostly focus on the bad ones.
Allgulin: Tell me more.
Wiander: One of my worst performance experiences took place in Sturegallerian, two years ago. It was time for us to play, so I started; meanwhile the guitarist hadn’t plugged in the guitar to the speaker. I thought: “Shit, they will not want us back. We’re getting paid for this fiasco.” Ouch, that was an awful experience!
Allgulin: What’s your plan for the future?
Wiander: I’m getting a fantastic education now. It’s really a splendid musical education, also thanks to the fantastic opportunities and the contacts we get: it could be a teacher’s teacher, or people who see us at concerts.Some of us for example get to play for the King.
Obviously the opportunities we get are up to us, so to speak: the amount we practice, if we’re on time and so on – if we are good, motivated students. After gymnasium my plan is to study at The Drummers Collective in New York. This summer was my fifth summer there, and I actually took a test to see if I could get in. And I did!
Allgulin: Do you want to be famous?
Wiander: You can be famous in very different ways. I don’t want to be famous in the sense of being a “thing” people want so they can get money out of you. I would really like to get famous, though, in the sense of that musicians know who you are and recommend you to other musicians. Yeah, I want to be known as a real musician, a really good musician that you can count on.
Allgulin: What’s your dream?
Wiander: My one big dream is to combine a professional drummer’s career with creating perfumes. I am very interested in perfumes. To prepare myself I’ve thought about working at a company, preferably a perfume company. It started three years ago when I began reading about it in a serious way. You can say it is an odd interest.
It’s also a big dream of mine to create a perfume collection, all about music. So my plan is I`m going to have seven different smells with different styles and characters and have a musical piece for every perfume that is supposed to represent that certain smell. My friends at The Drummers Collective all say it’s a fantastic idea.
Allgulin: Are you going to compose the music?
Wiander: I don’t know … Maybe I’ll get help from someone, or I’ll just do it on my own.
Allgulin: How much do you practise?
Wiander: I spend at least one and a half to two hours a day practising. The thing is I have so many concerts, approximately four times a week and half of them are outside of school, so I don’t practise as much as I want to, really.
Allgulin: What’s your practise routine?
Wiander: I usually start with two beats with both hands, then doubling the tempo with the other hand, then I do a six/eight with accents on different notes – I have a whole page with those kinds of exercises. I repeat each bar ten to twenty times and try to feel the music as if it were in my bloodstream. It’s very important in jazz to feel the rhythm and be in touch with those you’re playing with. Then I get on with playing the real pieces.
Allgulin: What’s your motto in life? Something you deeply believe in and and follow?
Wiander: That must be discipline.
I have a great example for you. It’s a scene from Whiplash. Have you seen the movie?
There is one drummer, regarded as “the great drummer” and another drummer who’s there beside him to turn the pages for him. He’s performing a concert and suddenly he loses track of where he is, and the drummer sitting next to him knows this piece by heart, so he smoothly takes over and saves the concert. So now he is “the great drummer.” If one wants to be a musician, one must be talented but one must also have discipline. Both are equally important.
Allgulin: What’s your pet peeve?
Wiander: A thing that annoys me is when people don’t take responsibility: do their homework or come on time for example.
Like, our school has adopted this new rule, that if you’re one to ten minutes late, you’re ten minutes late; if you’re more than ten minutes late you officially have missed thirty minutes of the lesson, and some people were nagging about it at the class council meeting we had today. I’m just like: Don’t come late, then! And if you actually have a legitimate reason for it, like there is a problem in the traffic, then you can just text the teacher, so they don’t enter your absence in the web! But they obviously thought this was way too much of an effort. By texting your teacher, by the way, you get in touch better with that teacher and that’s always a good thing. I come to school at seven o’clock every day because I have repetitions starting at eight. Don’t nag.
Allgulin: Don’t you think that’s really annoying, waking up so early? How do you manage living like that?
Wiander: I’ve gotten used to it. It’s not annoying anymore, at all. It even feels refreshing walking amidst the few people on their way to work that morning.
Allgulin: What are your best characteristics, if one would ask your loved ones?
Wiander: Probably that I’m confident and very good at keeping track of time.
Allgulin: What would someone who doesn’t like you say about you?
Wiander: “You play too loud!” I’m fidgety and move around a lot. I talk pretty fast sometimes, so people can’t understand me. And I sometimes expect too much of a situation; concerts are a common example, when I’m really looking forward to one and someone cancels in the last minute – so I’ve learned that I shouldn’t expect too much. You should just live in the moment.