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Lilla Akademiens Musikgymnasium: Student Journalism

Alex Pfeifer – a girl chorist

by Smilla Bjurbo, Gy1

There is something special about singing in a choir. You may agree, if you’ve tried it. I have been a member of Uppsala Cathedral Girls Choir for almost eight years. Of course it can be tough sometimes, but I love the choir like a family. Sometimes I ask myself: has it always been like that? Have the choir members always been “sisters”? How can one stay in a choir for many years without getting bored? My thoughts led me to Alex Pfeifer, the idol of all us choristers who stayed with the group for sixteen years and saw the choir transform into what it is today.

smilla
Alex Pfeifer. Photo: Smilla Bjurbo

by Smilla Bjurbo, Gy1

There is something special about singing in a choir. You may agree, if you’ve tried it. I have been a member of Uppsala Cathedral Girls Choir for almost eight years. Of course it can be tough sometimes, but I love the choir like a family. Sometimes I ask myself: has it always been like that? Have the choir members always been “sisters”? How can one stay in a choir for many years without getting bored? My thoughts led me to Alex Pfeifer, the idol of all us choristers who stayed with the group for sixteen years and saw the choir transform into what it is today.

Bjurbo: What was your first time in the choir like?

Pfeifer: I was eight years old (1996) when I became a chorister. One of my first impressions was how it felt walking upstairs to the rehearsal room. We didn’t practice at Domkyrkomusiken, as you do now, but at the place in Odinslund where the Villa Anna Restaurant is today. You walked up a stone staircase and through some white, thick doors. There we sat and sang “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” as a warm-up exercise.

For those who don’t know, the choir today is divided in three groups called Anna, Maria and Lilla flickkören. During that time there were no particular groups, only the girls choir. There were two other choirs called Ungdomskören and Koralkören which many of the older girls were in. They were teenagers and they never spoke to us. I remember that me and my friends were scared of them.

Bjurbo: Tell me about your memories from the first few years.

Pfeifer: I have one strong memory from a Christmas concert, I was about thirteen. We didn’t sing Handel’s Messiah on Christmas morning the way you do now, but there was a concert with a short play about Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. I was supposed to play Mary, and that day, I had my first solo. I remember how great it felt.

One other time, a couple of years later, we actually sang Handel’s Messiah. This time I also had a solo, “He shall feed his flock”. Another girl sang “Rejoice”, the one that’s so hard, and I can still recall how good she was. I really wanted to sing like her, and I was so upset that I broke down before the concert. I was really sad, but as I sang the solo I felt better, and now I see this as a positive memory. It made me understand how important the choir was –– and is –– to me.

Bjurbo: You started in the choir seven years before our current conductor, Margareta Raab. Who was the leader before her?

Pfeifer: We had lots of leaders before Maggan. First there was a woman called Maria Schildt, if I remember correctly, then had a stand-in teacher called Richard. Then we had another new director called Cecilia Martin-Löf, then a temporary teacher called Niklas, and then Maggan. I was in high school when Maggan came.

Bjurbo: What was that like?

Pfeifer: Before Maggan, we had a relaxed attitude towards the choir –– of course it was serious, but not in the same way. You could miss a rehearsal and it didn’t matter. When Maggan came, I understood quite soon that she was not strict just to be strict, she was an artistic director who wanted the choir to develop as much as possible. The choir was her instrument.

Bjurbo: As a director, was Maggan similar to the way she is now, or has she changed?

Pfeifer: I think when she began to get to know us, she could joke and make us laugh during rehearsal. In the beginning she needed to be strict and tell us what to do so we learned.

Bjurbo: How has the friendship between the girls’ and boys’ choirs changed since then?

Pfeifer: From the beginning we were separated, since we had different conductors – the boys’ choir had the organist Andrew Canning. It was later, when both choirs got Maggan, that we started to work together. Many of the girls asked why we never did anything together with the boys, and then Maggan started to arrange projects for us. First we had some small concerts. One thing led to another and after a few years, we went to The United States. Then it really felt like we belonged together.

That tour was 2010. I was twenty-two and much older than the others. Personally I was more like a friend to the boys, but I remember that the younger girls often teased them and called them “gåskören” (“goose choir” instead of “boys choir”, a play on words in Swedish). Back in the years when we practiced at Odinslund, some of my friends knew some of the boys, although we never sang together. They thought it was cool to hang around with the boys. But I didn’t.

Bjurbo: Was the boys’ choir famous than the girls’ choir, due to tradition?

Pfeifer: Yes, indeed, and for a long time they were even better than us, because they were more invested. Actually it was Maggan who gave us more popular exposure. We got badges, our colors –– green and white –– and hoodies. We changed to surplices vestments in our own colors. Earlier we’d had red surplices which we borrowed from the church, but now we had green ones with white collars. We also set up a blog, and now there’s a website and an Instagram account.

Bjurbo: You have told that there was no connection between the younger and the older girls from the beginning. How did that change?

Pfeifer: I don’t know why, but I remember when the small ones started to speak to us. Maybe that was also thanks to Maggan; it became better when she came. We understood that it was okay to hang around with the nine-year-old girls, and they were less afraid of us. Soon we grew tighter, and no one cared about age.

Bjurbo: What was it like to be the oldest chorister?

Pfeifer: It was pretty fun to be like an older sister to the younger, but sometimes I missed being a teenager, like all my friends. When the other choristers my age left, I started hanging out with the younger ones, and actually it’s those I’ve kept in touch with. But because I had grown up and they were still teenagers, we gained a different kind of friendship than we would have if I’d been like them.

Bjurbo: Did you have a stronger relationship to Maggan, since you were a grown-up?

Pfeifer: Yes, but Maggan has always been a very important person of my life. I had a tough period when I became open with the fact that I like girls. I was together with one of the choristers Alva, for three years, but my family did not accept it. Maggan supported me very much. She promised I could always come to her, she let me stay in her house during Christmas if it was too hard at home. She was a saviour in all areas. She still is. Three years ago I separated from my wife, and it felt like everything had broken down, but she was there. I was so afraid of being alone, especially at Christmas. Maggan welcomed me to her home again, but then I met Gina, my current girlfriend, so I was not in need of it. But the fact that Maggan still supported me although I was not in the choir anymore, that meant so much.

Maggan is not a cuddly kind of person, she’s authoritarian and people have great respect for her, but she beams out so much love. That is what I appreciate about her.

Bjurbo: Many of the choristers do not like that everything is so strict in the choir, what do you think?

Pfeifer: Society today does not accept that kind of strictness, but sometimes you need to work hard. I have learnt to behave, to listen and respect others –– why shouldn’t that be positive?

I also studied violin for a few years, and I had Russian teachers who told me “You don’t practice enough, you’ll never get anywhere,” and I couldn’t take it. But now, in hindsight, I understand them. You must practice. The teachers do not want to harm you, they just want you to be as good as you can. Maybe it is a little tough, but the important thing is that you have a goal, and I know that Maggan has one for the choir. As I have said, the choir is her instrument.

Bjurbo: During your last year, you played the ikon-of-peace Mahalia Jackson in the musical Good Enough which the choir produced. How was that like?

Pfeifer: That was one of the last things I ever did in the choir. It was so amazing to get that opportunity, to represent and sing the songs of Mahalia Jackson in the cathedral. I remember a few days later, I was on my way home –– I lived in Gränby –– and I passed Kvarngärdeskolan. There were some kids outside, and as I walked by they said “Wasn’t that you in Good Enough?” and I said “Yes!” and they said, “Wow, why can’t you sing a song for us?” I remember that I stood right on the bike path in front of the kids, and sang “Bä bä vita lamm” (Ba Ba Black Sheep).

In a choir you work together, but the privilege of having a solo has also sometimes been important to me.

Bjurbo: How does it feel to think about the choir in hindsight?

Pfeifer: I miss it so much. My girlfriend’s daughter Celia has joined the choir, and I often accompany her to rehearsals and concerts. Sometimes it feels a little awkward to come back, because I want to be a part of it again. But one day I’ll learn to accept that.

There is a picture in your rehearsal room –– a girl chorister, painted on a piece of cardboard. I was the one who made it, together with my grandma. It was for a game, we had some kind of open house in the cathedral, and the choir had a table. It was something like “pin the tail on the donkey” but instead “put the collar on the chorister”. My grandma who helped me died one and a half year ago. She was actually the one who led me into music, we often sang together when I was a child. When I see that picture on the wall, I think, there is the one who was the music to me, and there is also a piece of me, and that feels so amazing.

I wish people could understand, as we understand it, what a huge part of your life a choir can be. Sometimes you’re doing well and other times not, but the choir is there through thick and thin, like a family. And now, even though life goes on, the choir is inside of me, it makes me who I am. That’s crazy. The girl choir will always be a part of me.

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Trombonist Mikael Oskarsson: Have clear goals about what you want to achieve

by Viking Stjernfeldt, Gy1

I’m sitting in the brass room at Lilla Akademien, together with my teacher, Mikael Oskarsson. We’re surrounded by the sounds of someone practicing in the next room. We’re actually supposed to be having a trombone lesson right now, but I’ve decided to use our time to talk about his musical career, and his path to the job in the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, as well as a trombone teacher here at Lilla Akademien. I think Mikael Oskarsson is a great example of how one should try to be as a musician, and most importantly, as a person. Mikael is an incredibly warmhearted, kind, and humble person who’s really come a long way in his life, and I want to share the story behind this incredible musician and teacher.

Stjernfeldt:  All right then, let’s begin! Could you tell me a bit about how you came to be a musician? Was music always a part of your life, or did you develop this appreciation over time?

Oskarsson:  Well, my parents were both very musical; they both sang in the church choir, and my dad played the accordion and the piano. I was born into a sort of farmer family, both of my grandparents were farmers, and we lived way out in the countryside. I think my dad wanted to pursue a musical career, but didn’t really get the chance, though he played a lot at dances and parties, both accordion and piano. My parents always sang to me, and I guess music just became a natural part of my life that way.

Stjernfeldt: How did you decide to start playing the trombone?

Oskarsson: Actually, I decided to play the trumpet first. I remember the specific moment. We were at my uncle’s house, and he had a bugle hanging on the wall. My dad took it down and tried to play it. He didn’t get a sound out of it. And after a while he gave up, and put it on a table. And as they continued with their conversation, I grabbed the bugle and…. BAAAP!! I got a sound out of it right away! And of course my relatives turned around and looked at me with surprised on their faces. My dad tried it again, and still couldn’t manage to make a sound. I think I realized something in that moment, because I was so proud that I could do something my dad couldn’t. And when it was time to start at the municipal music school, I chose the trumpet. And after a while I noticed that I, as opposed to some of my classmates, had a pretty easy time with the trumpet. After a couple of years, when the wind band I played in had a severe shortage of trombonists, euphonium players and tenor horn players, my teacher slowly tricked me into playing those instead. And in the ninth grade, I started playing the trombone exclusively, which is pretty late in my opinion.

Mikael Oskarsson
Mikael Oskarsson. Bild: Viking Stjernfelt

Stjernfeldt: Do you remember your first trombone lesson?

Oskarsson: No, but I do remember my first ”real” trombone lesson. It was in my second year of high school, and got the chance to go to Stockholm and meet Sven-Erik Eriksson, a trombone professor who taught a lot of great musicians with jobs in orchestras all over the globe. I’ll never ever forget that lesson. I went out to his house in Tyresö, and we went down to his basement. He placed a magazine on the floor to catch all the water from the trombone. I remember the parquet floor, and the fireplace, and the harp that stood back in the corner of the room. He asked me to play, which I did for a couple of minutes, and I remember him walking around me, watching my playing from every perspective. After I played, he nodded his head in confirmation. I’ll never forget that. I left with a pile of homework from him, exercises I’d never been exposed to. Before that my homework would have been, you know, one song, or something like that. But this guy put me on a hard practice routine, things like Bordoghni etudes and Arban studies (basic trombone methods that every trombonist knows about), and I was supposed to practice for three hours a day; six half-hour sessions a day. And I knew that this was the teacher of Christian Lindberg, an incredible trombonist famous all over the world for his outstanding technique and musicality. So I just got to it, and started doing all these sessions every day.

Stjernfeldt: And after that, I assume you proceeded to study music at a university right away?

Oskarsson: Exactly. I actually did the auditions the week before I went to do my military service. The first audition was in Gothenburg. The first round happened the first day there, and the second round was the day after. I really didn’t have any idea what kind of competition I was facing, just being a kid from the countryside. I was really nervous, because i didn’t know if I was among the best players, or one of the worst; I had never met any trombonist from outside of my little town, Malmköping. So when I saw the note on the wall listing the five people that had passed the first round, and I was one of the five, I was really happy. In fact, I figured I’d misread it, because that there was another guy called Mikel Claesson who’d also auditioned. I was so nervous I had to go back and check. Anyway, the list said Oskarsson, and I went on to the next round in the morning, and won the audition. However they didn’t accept anyone that year, so I went to Stockholm to audition at the Royal Academy of Music, and got accepted there instead.

Stjernfeldt: Tell me a bit about your experiences at that school.

Oskarsson: Well, there had been a really good trombone class before me; Christian Lindberg had studied there, and then there was this trombone quartet called the Lamina Quartet, with Åke Lännerholm, Jonas Bylund, Peter Rydegren and Lars Westergren, studying there at the same time as me, and they studied in the diploma program as a quartet. Later on Jonas travelled all over the world and won competitions in both Geneva and Munich. So it was an incredibly competitive environment to be in, so to speak; I practiced so incredibly much, just to survive. Or at least that was what it felt like. We motivated one another, and I got really inspired by these guys, because they were so incredibly good at playing. I really looked up to them a lot, which i think made me a better musician in every way.

Stjernfeldt: Rumour has it that you also studied in Chicago for a while, the brass capital of the world! Would you tell me a bit about that?

Oskarsson: Well, during my final year of my studies at ”Ackis”, we all went to see the Chicago Symphony on tour in Gothenburg, and we got to participate in a masterclass with the low brass section. They played some pieces, and of course it was all very impressive, and then they all talked a bit about their individual views on things. You know, Jay Friedman, Charlie Vernon, and then Michael Mulcahy, who was pretty much new at the job. I really liked his way of thinking, and the things he talked about, so I contacted him via E-mail, and asked if I could come take lessons from him. I had recently won a couple of scholarships, so there was a bit of money to work with, something like 60,000 SEK. Back in 1992, that was quite a lot of money. So I went to Chicago and spent four months there, studying with Michael Mulcahy two hours a week.
I also took a lesson with Charlie Vernon, and one with Arnold Jacobs. (One of the greatest brass instructors ever) Michael arranged for me to go see him, and it was absolutely incredible.

Stjernfeldt: Tell me more!

Oskarsson: Well, there was a specific problem I had, that Michael couldn’t really fix. So he talked to the famous Jacobs about it, and asked if he could meet up with me to see what it was about. When I got there, he brought me into the room, and said ”Oh, you’re Michael’s student!” And he patted my shoulder and said, very confidently: ”We’re gonna fix this”. He asked me to play something where this problem occurred, so that he could see what it was. I got these ”split notes”, which means that you kind of get two octaves in the same note, and they crack a bit. He just said ”All right”, and asked me to put the trombone away. We spent the next twenty minutes doing all kinds of different breathing exercises and vocal exercises, blowing in tubes and other things like that. He never told me what he was looking for; he just told me to do different things. Afterwards he told me to try the excerpt again. I played it, and noticed that the problem was literally gone with the wind. He had helped me blow my problems away. It was not until now that he explained what he had tricked me into doing. That was really cool. Then he told me that the problem would occur again, but if I did a couple of exercises that he gave me, every day for three months, it would be gone. And that was of course true.

Stjernfeldt: What was he like as a person?

Oskarsson: I had read all about him, and I knew that this guy really was a legend. So I was of course nervous as hell to play for him. My legs were really shaking when I got in that room. But he was really warm-hearted, and even though he was firm, I felt really safe with him in that room. Simply a nice person! He didn’t say anything mean, or anything like that. I felt like I could relax and be safe with him. On the other hand, there was really no space to question what he said, or have your own opinion about things; you just did what he said.

Stjernfeldt: Alright, let’s move on. Right now, you’re working in the Swedish Radio Orchestra, and as an instructor att Lilla akademien (The Junior Academy, Stockholm). These are two very different jobs. What drives you in these different tasks?

Oskarsson: Really, it’s the same thing –– to get better. To get better at what i’m doing. Improving my trombone playing, and getting better at teaching people. I try to never stop developing as a musician, pedagog or person, for that matter. Always be curious for new ideas. Never get stuck in one place, but to keep moving forward every day. That is what drives me. And I’d also like to add that I think that these two tasks are connected in many ways. I’ve noticed that ever since I started teaching, my playing has drastically improved. I’ve found a new kind of focus on myself when I’m standing in the practice room, because I’ve developed this ability to really listen for things to improve through my teaching. The brain is switched on in a different way when you’re teaching.

Stjernfeldt: How do these two jobs differ from one another?

Oskarsson: I think they differ a lot in the amount of energy that they require. For example on a day like this, or any other day when I teach students, I feel like the orchestra is a time for rest and relaxation. And then I get here, and suddenly a different kind of energy is required from me, because I constantly need to provide my students with something useful or valuable. They’re all expecting to go from the lesson a little richer than before, and that puts a lot of pressure on me because it requires absolute focus all the time. When playing trombone in a symphony orchestra, a big part of the time is just sitting and waiting, with some intense periods here and there, but it’s not this kind of consistent work.

Stjernfeldt: Would you tell me about your educational ideas?

Oskarsson: I have a philosophy that builds on the expression, ”Greatness isn’t born, it’s grown”, meaning it’s great to have talent, to be naturally gifted, to have perfect pitch and stuff like that. But if you want to become really good, it requires a lot of hard, concentrated work towards a clear goal. I want to convey that message to my students, that if you want something really bad, you can get it. But as I said, you need to be willing to apply your whole soul, and a lot of hard work. My teaching demands a lot from my students. And if you’re gonna be able to do that, you need to really want it. Otherwise you won’t achieve much, and that is fine of course. You can do music as a hobby, but if you really want to become a great musician, it’s a different thing. It’s important that students learn to be their own teacher, to always have their ears open for opportunities to improve in the practice room. They need to take responsibility for their own development. The greatest gain is obtained when you, as a young person, have very clear goals about what you want to achieve, and really go for it with your entire heart. A teacher can of course help, but it’s you who has to be the driving force.

Stjernfeldt: Wow, well spoken, I must say. I’d like to thank you for a lot of interesting thoughts and stories, it’s been a pleasure to speak with you! Do we have time for a quick duet?

Interview with organist Mathias Kjellgren: I get so much joy out of playing.

Erik by Johnsson-Arvids, Gy1

This is an interview with my organ teacher Mathias Kjellgren. He used to work as an organist at St. Maria Magdalena Church in Stockholm, and now works at Mariakyrkan Church in Sigtuna. He also teaches organ at the Royal College of Music in Stockholm, and at the music school Lilla Akademien also, in Stockholm.

Johnsson-Arvids: Why did you start playing organ, and where did you study?

Kjellgren: The organ was the most interesting instrument to me because of the excitement of varying its sound. When I began at age eleven, it was mostly all the different buttons you could press that made it fun. I started to play at my local church. Then I attended music college, and I continued my education in France, and later in Barcelona where Montserra Torent was my teacher.

Johnsson-Arvids: Was your family musical?

Kjellgren: Both my parents were musicans, and my father’s grandma was also a musican. She worked as a concert pianist, and also worked as a cinema organist at Röda Kvarn. In the past it was actually very common to play music during films, often with a piano and an orchestra, but at Röda Kvarn it was usually with an organ. So music has always been a part of my life.

Johnsson-Arvids: Do you compose music?

Kjellgren: When I was younger I composed for the piano, choir and organ. I don’t compose anymore, but I improvise a lot. I call myself a lazy composer since I don’t write my improvisations down.

Johnsson-Arvids: You said you also played piano. Have you played other instruments?

Kjellgren: Yes, I actually started playing violin, and it was my main instrument until I was eighteen. Then I had  to choose. I continued to play violin occasionally until I was around 25 or thirty years old. I stopped because it was hard to do such completely different things and maintain a high quality –– my violin playing became worse since I didn’t have time to practise, so it wasn’t fun anymore. The piano has always been with me as well, and I played all three instruments in school. So I did a bit of everything except being diligent in school, unfortunately. School went fine, but could have gone much better because I just wanted to practise my instruments. Nowadays I encourage my students to also focus on their other subjects in school.

Johnsson-Arvids: What is advice for an aspiring organist today?

Kjellgren: First and foremost I would like to congratulate you for playing such a fun and diverse instrument –– the organ –– that has a rich repertoire from so many different time periods. The advice I give to my students is to play many different styles, try multiple possibilities with the repertoire, play modern music, and also to play a lot of Bach. I also encourage them to play piano along  with the organ, as both instruments enrich each other a lot. Later as a professional, be picky! There are lot of jobs for organists, and it seems there will be for at least the next twenty years.

Johnsson-Arvids: What would you say is the best thing about playing the organ?

Kjellgren: For me the best thing is that there’s such a huge repertoire from so many different eras. One day I might play on an old instrument with music from the 16th or 17th centuries, and a week later I might play on a different organ with music from the 19th century or from our time. Then of course there’s the joy of teaching organ and passing that joy on to others, which is tremendously fun.

Johnsson-Arvids: Who is your favorite composer?

Kjellgren: My favorite composer is of course Bach; he’s always a companion, because there’s so much fantastic music written by him. Then I like to play a lot of French music. I play a lot of Ceasar Franck and also Louis Vierne, who mostly wrote music for the organ. You could call him the Ravel of the organist. They actually both died on the same year  ––1937.

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Mathias Kjellgren

Johnsson-Arvids: How come you started working at Lilla Akademien, and why did you become a teacher?

Kjellgren: I became a teacher because I really like to share what I’ve learned, and also the joy of seeing students develop. How I started to work at Lilla Akademien was pure chance. Unlike today, seven or eight years ago there weren’t many students at the school playing organ. But suddenly there were two students who wanted to play. Since I had taught at several other music schools, I the school contacted me and I got the job.

Johnsson-Arvids: What do you like to do when you don’t play music?

Kjellgren: I get so much joy out of playing, so mostly what I do is just play music. I do however try to take a break for two weeks every summer, and do something else. Which I failed at last summer, it only lasted about one week. However when I’m not playing music, my hobbies are nature and boats. I am also interested in motors, and own of a few classic cars. I’m also interested in culture. I like to travel around and look at old castles and churches, and sometimes I combine that interest with music, if I find a fun old piano or an organ.

Johnsson-Arvids: What does a typical day at work look like for you, including your practise routine?

Kjellgren: On a normal day I practice from eight o’clock until eleven o’clock in the morning. After that, it varies. Sometimes I have students to teach. It can also be called on to play at funerals, or to practise chamber music with other musicians.

Peter Pontvik: Music is a bridge from our time to other epochs

by: Adrian Pontvik Zvejnieks, Gy1

Adrian Pontvik Zvejnieks: ​​Where does your passion for music come from?

Peter Pontvik: ​​My interest in music started during my early childhood. My father was from Germany and my mother is Swedish, but I was born in Denmark. After my birth me and my parents emigrated to Uruguay where I grew up and lived for 23 years. Because we lived in the countryside with no electricity, it was actually very difficult to get access classical music. A few times I remember I went with my father to the opera house Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires. I have a special memory from when I was five years old. I saw the ballet Swan Lake by Tchaikovsky.

It was certainly at that moment I decided I’d like to work with music. I also got input  from the radio, listening to classical music concerts. Sometimes I stayed up all night, so I wouldn’t miss a program, because they were so special. I tried to find ways to use my creativity, but I was limited by the rather poor conditions we lived in. We had no phone or toys, so my siblings and I were obliged to be inventive. Thus I started to write and perform “operas” at home, improvising the melodies and lyrics. I even “forced” my siblings to act in my stage works, haha.

Adrian Pontvik Zvejnieks: ​​What were your dreams and hopes, as a child in Uruguay?

Peter Pontvik: ​​I’m pretty sure I wanted to become a composer. What I absolutely didn’t want was to be was a pianist. I really hated the piano. I actually dreamed of playing the violin, but there was only a piano teacher, so I had no choice.

Adrian Pontvik Zvejnieks: ​​What made you leave Uruguay and move to Sweden?

Peter Pontvik: ​​I had a natural connection to Sweden through my mother, so for me it was obvious and logical to go there first. Thanks to retroactive child-support, some of my brothers and I got the opportunity to buy airline tickets to Stockholm. At this point I’d already studied composition, musicology, and choir-conducting for three years in Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay, but I felt that it was time to move to another place, partly because of a lack of infrastructure for artistic activities, and in part because of the poor level at the university. But the main reason to leave was that people didn’t consider musicians or artists professionals. A dialogue could sound like this:

“Hi, what’s your profession?”
“I’m a musician.”
“Great, and what do you work with?”
Of course I couldn’t accept that! It was quite different in Europe, where people respected the arts and music as normal professions.

Adrian Pontvik Zvejnieks: ​​Where did you study, and how did your education help you start working in your current field?

Peter Pontvik: ​​I studied composition at the Royal Academy of Music in Stockholm. Unlike the music school in Uruguay, the Swedish system had (in my opinion) more effective pedagogical approaches. In Uruguay they follow the so-called solfeggio method, a French-based tradition. You read the notes without connecting them to any pitch, which I experienced as problematic. In Sweden you’re more anchored in sound. I was also able to develop my composition skills and techniques. Later I completed my composition studies with a masters degree in Germany.

In Stockholm, my criticism of the school was they didn’t prepare you enough for real life. You were in a bubble, but I already had professional experience and wanted to continue working that way. I’ve spoken with current students, and it seems not much has changed.

Adrian Pontvik Zvejnieks: ​​After your years of studying composition, what did you do next?

Peter Pontvik: ​​I realised that I am in fact a social person, and as a composer you often work by yourself. You work with a piece of paper, or a computer, far from the audience.
I needed a clearer connection to the public, so I started to work as a conductor and

singer. That’s when I got into early music.

Adrian Pontvik Zvejnieks: ​​What made you start your yearly event Stockholm Early Music Festival?

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Peter Pontvik.

Peter Pontvik: ​​I felt that I needed to create a platform where professional early music players could meet each other and perform. Also I wanted to bring foreign musicians from other countries to Sweden, who otherwise never would have played here. And finally, I wanted to create a forum for early music with high quality concerts. Early music needs a space in Sweden.

Adrian Pontvik Zvejnieks: ​​Is there anything musical you’d like to do in the future?

Peter Pontvik: ​​I usually have to many ideas, and too little time to implement them –– but one vision I have is to form a national scene for early music and dance in Sweden. It’s something we’re missing here in Sweden, and there are such stages in England, Germany, France and Spain. When I created the Stockholm Early Music Festival I had to recreate the relationship between the Swedish audience and the early music. A national stage would push that process forward. At the opera, people can listen to opera; and jazz audiences can go to the jazz club Fasching in Stockholm. So why can’t we have a permanent stage for early music and dance?

Adrian Pontvik Zvejnieks: ​​What advice would you give a student striving to become a musician?

Peter Pontvik: ​​Be devoted to your ideas and not compromise with society. Culture is something we experience every day, and something we’re a part of. People who put years of their lives into becoming fantastic violinists, composers, or singers should be aware of their skills. I myself have never compromised with these things, I’ve never taken another job even when times were hard. Because I believe it’s worth fighting for the things you want to do.

Adrian Pontvik Zvejnieks: ​​What is music to you?

Peter Pontvik: ​​Music is a life decision. It’s all about creativity, and we need more creative people. Music is also a bridge from our time to creative people who lived in other epochs; ​it’s their heritage.

Sven Hirdman: Interview with a retired diplomat

by Noah Künstlicher, Gy1

Sven Hirdman is a retired diplomat with a lot to say about his professional career. I called him up and asked to interview him. He sounded delighted, so we sat down together and discussed my questions. 

Künstlicher: Can you tell me about how you decided to become a diplomat?

HirdmanWhen I was around fifteen, I became interested in foreign policy. In fact, my whole family was interested in foreign policy, and we talked a lot about it at home. My mother was a communist from Germany and had fled to Sweden just before the Second World War. Surprisingly, she lived in Moscow in the Thirties, and I have often thought afterwards that that might have contributed to my interest in Russia. I liked to read in the newspaper about other countries’ foreign policies and history. After I finished high school, I underwent military service, but instead of becoming a soldier I joined the army’s interpreter school, which was created 1958. There I studied Russian, which led to my interest in Russia. 

Künstlicher: What is required to become a diplomat?

Hirdman: To apply to the Ministry for Foreign Affairs you need to have an academic degree, speak at least two European languages, and have had an internship for six months abroad. Then you have to pass examinations at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs –– ten people were chosen, and I had the best results. Most of those who applied were men. 

Künstlicher: What did you do as a diplomat?

Hirdman: After I began at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, I provisionally became an attaché. Later on I was summoned by the staff manager at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, and was sent to Moscow for two years. This wasn’t voluntary, you had to go where they requested. Another person was being sent to Kongo, there was a civil war in Kongo. He didn’t want to go, but you had to do what they told you, so he quit. 

After two years I was sent to London, but I wanted to go to Beirut. When a new ambassador was appointed in London, I was sent home. When I got home they didn’t have any interesting things for me to do, so I started to write analysis papers about foreign policy. 

Künstlicher: What did you do when you were not stationed abroad?

HirdmanCelebrating the centennial of the end of Sweden’s union with Norway, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institution (S.I.P.R.I.) was created in order to handle weapon export and disarmament issues, and work for peace throughout the whole world. The director of SIPRI was international, but the assistant director was supposed to be a Swedish civil servant with good experience, so they asked me if I could go to SIPRI from the Ministry for Foreign Affairs. There I made sure that the administration worked, the employees and the budget. That was one part of my work, the other part was to write research-reports about disarmament. Then after three years I went back to the Ministry for Foreign Affairs because I still belonged there, and it was time to be sent out again. However this time you were allowed to request countries you wanted to be sent to. I wrote Paris and Peking, and because I was the only one who wrote Peking –– and as it was well-known that Peking had a very angry ambassador and was undergoing a cultural revolution as well –– the administration was happily surprised that I had made Peking  my second request, so they sent me there. 

Künstlicher: What was it like in China at that time?

Hirdman: My wife and I were a little worried because we had three children, and in Peking there were no Western schools. It was quite primitive. China was a very closed society, so we used to say: ”We don’t know what will happen today, what we are trying to figure out is what happened yesterday”.

I was in China for four years, and what I learned was the importance of  having a long perspective. In China you live more collectively, the family is much more important and you are not as stressed. An important task as a diplomat is to know what’s happening in the country you’re stationed in. For example, journalists write about things that happened today or this week, and historians write about things that happened a hundred years ago, or fifty years in the future. Diplomats on the other hand have a perspective of six months, and when I wrote my analysis I tried to make an assessment that would stay relevant for a couple of months. 

Künstlicher: What did you do after China?

Hirdman: I was sent back to the Ministry for Foreign Affairs and later to Tel Aviv as an ambassador.

After Tel Aviv I was appointed to Warsaw. After one month in Warsaw I met the Swedish Minister of Commerce and Ministry for Foreign Affairs and both wanted me to become Sweden’s military equipment inspector, to deal with weapons-export problems. This was a high-pressure job. Several times, I had to go to parliament and explain what we were doing. Actually it was a very useful education; I know several great and experienced ambassadors that aren’t good speakers and can’t handle journalists, which I do pretty well. I thought that I would work with this job for about three years, but the government considered this very important, so I had to stay for seven years. 

(The years in Moscow) After this, both the government and I though I should go to a bigger embassy in the ranking of Embassies. I wanted to go to Washington, Paris or Moscow, but because so many wanted to go to Washington and Paris I was sent to Moscow. Normally you’re in a country for four to five years. But I stayed in Moscow for ten years, because I knew the country very well and the government thought it was useful to have me in Moscow. It takes time to get to know a country and its language, and establish yourself. It also takes time for a country to get to know you, so I think that an ambassador should stay about six years in every place. In my case I was in Moscow for ten years and that meant that I really knew Russia, could give good assessments to the government and handle questions directly with a Foreign minister or Prime minister, which was pretty unique. The retirement age at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs was 65, so they said: now that you’re 65, you have to leave the Swedish Embassy in Moscow, but you can come home and work for two years at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs. But I wasn’t interested in blithering around in the corridors, or doing investigations, so I took my hat and walked out.

Künstlicher: Were there any advantages and disadvantages to working at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs?

Hirdman: The advantage is its stable framework. For example an administrator at the statistic central office sits there with statistics their whole life, while at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs you’re sometimes working with politics, other times trade –– or else you’re sent to different parts of the world. You change areas, and are still flexible within this frame. 

The disadvantage of working as a diplomat is that if you have a family, it can be strenuous because you travel around the world a lot, working everyday. If you have children they have to change schools and leave their friends. Another disadvantage is that the Ministry for Foreign Affairs is a big organisation, and hierarchical. Everyone can’t be ambassadors or secretaries. The world isn’t always fair.

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Sven Hirdman

 

Künstlicher: Would you recommend others become diplomats?

Hirdman: If you are interested in foreign policy, it’s a very useful job. Foreign policy is also domestic policy, and it gives you an opportunity to have some influence. If you are skilled and have strong areas of knowledge, you can influence policy via your reports from other countries. But as I said before, it is a very demanding job. Things can happen anytime, and you have to be ready. The most important thing is that you’re interested in foreign policy and that you are interested in other countries. Then it can be very fun and stimulating. Also if you want to become a diplomat, it’s good to prepare early. Start studying languages at high school, or choose the right program at your university. 

(There was not much room for me to ask my grandpa questions, as he was so eager to tell me about his career. And here I have only recounted fragments of our interview. For me it was inspiring to hear my grandpa telling me about his long life, and the demands of working as a diplomat. When listening to my grandpa, I started thinking that our careers start taking shape earlier than we realize.

Parvaneh Sharafi: Most people actually really enjoy living in Fittja

av Klara Nilsson, Gy1

Nilsson: Tell me a little about yourself.

Sharafi: My name is Parvaneh Shafari and I am a “district developer” here in Fittja (a suburb of Stockholm). Essentially I’m a social worker. But when they were looking for a district developer here, I took this job. I have worked with similar projects in Stockholm before and really enjoyed it.

Nilsson: Do you enjoy this job, as well?

Sharafi: Yes, I really do. I work closely with people, and many of our projects involve getting to know the people here, and that really fits me. One of my favorite parts of this job is when I get to organize events, meetings and things like that, because that’s when I truly get to know people.

Nilsson: Do you see any obstacles to integration for people who have newly arrived in Sweden?

Sharafi: I think there always have been, and always will be, hard-to-accept things that can be looked on as different. For example being Black has been considered “different” in America. There are obstacles in every society, that work against everyone feeling included. This is not only a problem for refugees. We should work towards a society where everyone feels included. And to change that we need to eliminate ‘we’ and ‘them’, it should be ‘us’, all of us.

Nilsson: Do you see differences for women versus men?

Sharafi: We should be very proud of our gender equality here in Sweden. But there are still differences. We have to be aware that gender is still an obstacle. Girls usually have to work harder.

When you come to Sweden from a different society, I believe women usually have an easier time fitting in. And that’s because men have already had a role in society where they came from. Women are often used to managing the home and the kids. Here they get the opportunity to begin having a more public role. If a man comes here as a doctor for example, unfortunately, people don’t really see you as a doctor here. You will have to build up that persona again, which can be hard for some people. But with women that won’t really be a problem.

Although on the other hand, if a women comes here with family, that may take up her time. She is usually the one taking care of the children and the house, while the father is out searching for work and therefore integrating. So there are many different ways to look at it; I can’t decide if it’s easier for women or men.

Nilsson: How about young boys and girls?

Sharafi: For young people, it’s more likely for a girl to be held back by the family than boys –– sometimes we see that girls don’t show up to after-school activities. But here in Sweden girls usually can “escape” through their education. It’s a huge opportunity for girls to get a proper education, and to be honest, they’re the ones that really appreciate and take advantage of it.

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Parvaneh Sharafi. Photo: Klara Nilsson

Nilsson: What do you do to help?

Sharafi: We look at gender equality in kids’ activities: are there a similar numbers of boys and girls?, we ask ourselves. And if not, what can we do to help?

We have two different after-school centers, one for older kids and one for younger ones. We found that some parents had a hard time accepting that their daughters were at the center at the same time as boys, so we now run and afternoon a week with only girls. We also try to have female staff there to hopefully make parents, and girls, feel more safe.

Nilsson: Is there anything you’ve done to help people integrate here?

Sharafi: We’ve had problems with people selling drugs in Fittja’s shopping district. So now we spend every other Tuesday there. We offer coffee, tea, and cookies. We also organize activities, and we try to make women come. We want them to feel safe in public spaces. We try to have role models working here, strong women.

Nilsson: What are some projects and activities you’ve organized for women?

Sharafi: One project we worked on was “Kvinna i Botkyrka” (Woman in Botkyrka), for women who’d had a hard time finding jobs –– they got to work part-time cleaning, and also studied Swedish part-time to help with their integration. Now those ten women are employed.

We also had a project we called “Mamma i Botkyrka”. Moms got together once a week and made a piece of art together with an artist. It took them six months, and then on Mother’s Day the painting was displayed in Fittja. We invited people to celebrate the occasion –– we offered coffee, tea, and so on, and organized activities. We did a similar thing with the womens’ and teenager’s paintings. Now they are all on display in the same spot in Fittja centrum.

Nilsson: Do you find that people show up to these different events and activities?

Sharafi: They actually do. With the after-school center, we found that some parents didn’t really let their children go there, but now that it’s located in the same building as the school, more children show up. And many people usually come to our events. For example, the other week we had henna painting in Fittja’s shopping district, and there was a long line of people.

Nilsson: Do you think that the media portray a relevant picture of Fittja? Because what we usually see are these extreme cases about drugs, rape, and other crimes –– is that the reality?

Sharafi: I believe that some people give Fittja a poor reputation. The thing that bothers me the most is that if something happens here in Fittja, a drug deal, for example, it would be Fittja’s fault, and somehow the public’s conclusion is that everyone here is bad. But if the same thing were to happen in central Stockholm –– and it does –– it’s the individuals’ fault. But to be clear, not all media outlets contribute to this negative view of Fittja.

Nilsson: What’s your view of Fittja?

Sharafi: Most people actually really enjoy living here. People here are very generous, warm and open. That’s the picture I have, and that’s the one I would like the media to spread.

What is neurotypical, weird, or unique? An interview with Rasmus Waldna

by Casper Waldna, Gy1

“Autism is a lifelong developmental disability that affects how people perceive the world and interact with others. Autistic people see, hear and feel the world differently to other people”.
//Rasmus Waldna

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Rasmus Waldna. Photo: Casper Waldna

Casper Waldna: All right, there’s a lot of people reading this. What do they need to know about you?

Rasmus Waldna: It’s not easy being autistic.

Casper Waldna: What would you say to somebody who’s thinking: “But he doesn’t look like he has autism…?”

Rasmus Waldna: Aspies are very neurotypical. However they still have struggles that some people with autism have.

Casper Waldna: What are some of your struggles?

Rasmus Waldna: Social awkwardness is one of them.

Casper Waldna: What would you say is your biggest hope for the future?

Rasmus Waldna: That I may end up living a normal, or at least mostly normal, life.

Casper Waldna: What do you consider a normal life?

Rasmus Waldna: Being able to interact with people and not really seem all that strange.

Casper Waldna: What’s your biggest fear in life?

Rasmus Waldna: Being perceived as strange or not really fitting in. Because sometimes sitting with the crowd is nice. And you don’t really have to worry about people making fun of you.

Casper Waldna: What’s the most important thing for the world to understand about autism?

Rasmus Waldna: That even though people are Autistic and they might not understand some things, they’re still people. They’re still need attention and they’re still human beings. Just like you and pretty much everybody else out there.

Casper Waldna: What confuses you most about people?

Rasmus Waldna: Why we’re so worried about different things that don’t really even matter, such as what we look like.

Casper Waldna: Why doesn’t that matter?

Rasmus Waldna: Because it’s what’s on the inside that matters. It’s not really what’s on the outside.

Casper waldna: A part of the struggle is, one, when you have that diagnosis people around you doesn’t understand it. I didn’t understand it for quite a while. You’d say something and you’re speaking one language. I’m hearing a different language. And there’s just this total disconnect.

Rasmus Waldna: Well, it’s kind of weird because you’re sitting here, and then all of a sudden you’re just not even here anymore. You’re off in the clouds. It’s like your mind has left your head.

Casper Waldna: How do you differentiate being weird and being unique?

Rasmus Waldna: Unique is where you’re special, being weird is what makes people not want to hang out with you.

Casper Waldna: Is it good to be unique?

Rasmus Waldna: It is good to be unique.

Casper Waldna: Is it good to be weird?

Rasmus Waldna: No.

Casper Waldna: Do you enjoy having the opportunity to express your thoughts and opinions?

Rasmus Waldna: It’s kind of weird but it’s nice to be able to express them.

Casper Waldna: How do you feel as you express yourself?

Rasmus Waldna: Like there’s this weight on my shoulders. I’m telling people how I feel.

Casper Waldna: Do you enjoy escaping from reality?

Rasmus Waldna: Yes, because it’s a whole different world I can immerse myself in. And have fun in a way that I couldn’t in real life.

Casper Waldna: How do you feel when you spend time with me?

Rasmus Waldna: I feel at peace in a lot of ways.

Casper Waldna: Why is that?

Rasmus Waldna: Casper just has this way of calming people down, making people happy. It’s hard to explain but he does it very well.

Casper Waldna: If you had a choice would you change anything about who you are?

Rasmus Waldna: Sometimes I wish I was neurotypical. Because it would make it easier for me to interact with others and understand things.

Casper Waldna: You mentioned that you hope that others do not perceive you as weird. Not once during this conversation have I perceived you as weird. But I have perceived you as unique, you have unique qualities. I appreciate them and I think they make you who you are and that’s amazing! Is there anything else you’d like to say?

Rasmus Waldna: I’m an Aspie and I’m proud to be one.

Björn Olsson, French horn player: Every new generation a little bit better than the older one

Interview by Isak Malinowsky, Gy1
This is an interview with Björn Olsson, a French horn player with the Stockholm Opera. I interviewed him because he is a good musician and also a good teacher.
Malinowsky: Why did you start playing the french horn?
Olsson: I don’t come from a family where everyone plays music for a living. The only one who played an instrument was my grandfather who played the violin. He tried to get me to start playing the violin but I didn’t like it, he even got me a homemade violin, but I still didn’t start playing it. Later I went to a music school and tried out new instruments, and pretty fast I could play the C-major scale on the French horn. I started playing the french horn –– at the time it was because my brother also played horn and I wanted to become better than him.
Malinowsky: What was your musical education like? What was it like when you where studying?
Olsson: From the beginning I didn’t have a real French horn teacher, just a music teacher at the local music school where I lived. But when I was in ninth-grade I got in touch with a real French horn player. He played in the Gothenburg Opera, and he almost became an extra father to me because every Sunday I took a long trip from Trollhättan, where I, lived to Gothenburg to have a three-hour long lesson. I had lots of talent, but didn’t have any musical education. My teacher helped me a lot in understanding how to practice and how to improve as a musician.
Malinowsky: What was it like when you were studying?
Olsson: I went to a normal high school and studied that natural sciences. It was not until college I started studying music. There was nothing like Lilla Akademien (the music school The Junior Academy, Stockholm) then; if you chose to study music, you wouldn’t study all the other subjects needed for a science degree, in case you wanted to change directions later in life. Today you can study extra subjects if you want. After high school I went to College in Oslo, Norway.
Malinowsky: What inspired you to the music, do you have any certain memory? Do you have any goal with your playing?

Olsson: I think I felt it was pretty easy for me to learn and improve as a musician, and that’s why I’ve continued playing. If you feel you’re good at something, often you like to do that thing. When I was little, most people played an instrument, so it was a social think to play an instrument, it did not cost much either. If you practiced you where able to join the band and orchestras. It was fun because we went to Italy, Hungary, and Latvia, for instance,  playing with my band. I also went to Linköping every year for a competition –– it was times lie these that made playing so much fun. It was very social and it was also fun to get better at my instrument and play more advanced pieces.

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Björn Olsson
Malinowsky: Do you have any goals for your playing?
Olsson: I did not have a goal as a kid but now as an adult I think I have kind of goal. I think it’s important to have music and culture in a society. Otherwise life would be pretty weird, just living to earn money? It would be too material. That’s why I like to play at the opera, because on a normal day, playing some opera makes people cry, it’s so beautiful and that’s a nice feeling. I don’t think I’m so important, someone else could have played if I hadn’t been there; its the music itself that is important.
Malinowsky: What role do you have in the opera as a French horn player ? How long are the days as a musician?
Olsson: You stand out in comparison to other players, like the violins. They most often have a unison melody all the time, but the horn players have completely different parts and play lots of different things. Horn players also have lots to do in various types of music, especially because horns are often used in opera compositions. Sometimes it can be difficult if you aren’t in good shape ––  it’s not fun to go to work feeling that you can’t play well. Sometimes you can get away with it, but it’s hard if you’re playing your own melody.
     The length of the days can variate a lot from day to day –– they’re often very long. If the repertoire is hard you need to practice a lot, but sometimes it’s not, and than you don’t need to practice as much. For example some orchestral works have eight horn players, and than you need to play a lot, but other works don’t even have horns, and that  means you have free time. At the opera we work six days a week, so we have lots to do, but we also get three weeks of extra summer break as compensation. Sunday often becomes a practice day, to learn to play all the hard things.
Malinowsky: What do you think is going to happened to classical music in the future?
Olsson: In the ’70s people predicted classical music would die out, because the audience consisted of nothing but old people, and when they died, many thought there would be no more audiences at the concerts. Nowadays things have changed some, but there are usually lots of old people. The conclusion is that young people get older. I think audiences consist of people who have the time to go to concerts, music students and older people. I’m pretty positive about the future, there are fewer people studying music but the musical level is always getting higher. Every new generation is always a little bit better than the older one. They get taught by the previous one, but also learns new things that the previous generation didn’t learn. For instance I’ve drawn my own conclusions, and learned new things, all by myself.

Theodor Sink: You become happy choosing a profession you like

by Elise vats Jonsson, Gy1

Theodor Sink is a 26 year-old musician from Estonia. He is in great demand as a soloist, a chamber musician, and as a bandsman, having been awarded laureate titles in Estonia as well as abroad. His work encompasses mostly classical, contemporary, baroque, and (much more seldom) rock music. As a soloist, Theodor has collaborated extensively with the Tallinn Chamber Orchestra, the Pärnu City Orchestra, and with the UvA-orchestra Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck (The Sweelinck Orchestra) at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, Holland.

Life as a musician taken him to countries such as Russia, the Netherlands, Austria, Sweden, Finland, Germany, America, Slovakia, Hungary, and Japan.

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Theodor Sink

Vats Jonsson: What inspired you to start playing the cello?

Sink: At first it was my mother. I loved to sing when I was little and used to imitate playing the cello, using a cardboard box and a pencil, so she decided to sign me up for a music school. The first few years were pretty dull for a young boy like me, though later on (I think it was in 8th grade) I started to enjoy practicing. I liked how the cello sounded when I had put some work into it. I think my main inspiration at the time was André Navarra, the famous French cellist, who I heard from a CD playing the Schumann Cello Concerto, which became my favorite cello concerto later on.
As I grew older the need for idols disappeared and was substituted by my own vision of myself in the future. At one point I realised I couldn’t strive to be as good as anyone else, so decided I’d be better off putting effort into being the best I can be. I’m definitely not perfect or complete as a person, but I’m sure I’m moving in the right direction.

Vats Jonsson: What made you choose this career?

Sink: I had studied music for twelve years when I finished high school. After that was the only time I doubted (albeit for a brief moment) if I was making the right decision in continuing. But seeing many of my non-musician friends struggling to find something in life to fulfill them, and at the same time feeling depressed and a bit lost, I felt in my heart that I was lucky to have a lifelong profession, a certain mission in life that made it all worthwhile. I have never doubted again.

Vats Jonsson: What kind of music where you surrounded by during your childhood?

Sink: My first memory of music is hearing Nirvana’s album Nevermind from a cassette at the age of five. My older sister had been a big fan, so I became one too. I still love the album.
I mostly listened to old-school rock (Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Pink Floyd), classical music, metal and later on electronic music. My favorite popular bands at the time were Estonian folk-rock group Ultima Thule (no relation to the Swedish band of the same name) and Metsatöll. All the other ones I really did not want to listen to. The most popular composer was, of course, Arvo Pärt.
For me it was impossible to only listen to classical music, as my schoolmates did. I think any kind of music style has something to offer to any kind of musician and it is necessary for personal growth as a professional musician. My view on music has widened a lot, due to various influences from both my profession and listening to music in my spare time. Now I feel I can understand, make (up to a certain level, of course) and enjoy any kind of music.

Vats Jonsson: What is music to you, and how has it affected your life?

Sink: Music means everything to me. It is through music I see the world and the people in it. I would hope it has made me a better and more caring person, because making music with other people puts you into a situation where you have to understand and empathize with one another, otherwise there is no music. Every person I meet and every place encounter adds something to the music I play. However I think for me, it is often even the other way around: music illustrates the environment around me, so the two are actually intertwined and inseparable.
Music has helped me understand other people more intimately, to know what they feel. Making music is all about sharing your emotions with the audience. To do that, you have to be able to let go of common misconceptions, beliefs and ego. It helps to practice it through talking to people first.
I think everybody sees something different in everything. That’s why we like different people, different music, different experiences. I try to see and feel connections with music, using everything in my heart to do so, so naturally I see things very differently –– a reflection, perhaps, of myself.

Vats Jonsson: How’s life as a musician?

Sink: It is surreal to be doing something that is one of the oldest professions. It is a huge blessing to do something that I love and can share with other people. There is a saying in Estonia: “Tööga rikkaks ei saa”, which directly translates to: “You cannot get rich by working”. Of course that isn’t one hundred percent true, but the point remains. If you cannot get rich by working, you could at least “get” happy from choosing a profession you like. Because in the end you don’t feel happy about remembering how much money you had, but how you lived your life.

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