An American in…. Helsinki?

”Why Finland?” As a foreigner (especially as one from another continent), this is a question I get asked a lot. I arrived almost 5 years ago, before Finland became popular in the U.S. for its education system and America’s new health care reform was compared to the Nordic welfare state model. Many of my American friends didn’t know where Finland was on a map, and my new Finnish friends wondered what would possess me to settle in a dark, cold country with an impossible language.

After pursuing studies in baroque violin privately for many years with Risa Browder, I knew that I wanted to formally dive into the discipline through a Master’s program. While several programs for baroque violin exist in the U.S., I saw the work prospects in Europe as exciting, and the generally positive attitude towards the arts as inviting. Admittedly, I was not very familiar with the European programs, and I relied greatly on the advice of my friends. One if these friends, David Searle (who was also my professor for a year), encouraged me to consider Finland. His rationale: the freelance culture was active and open, baroque music was enjoying increasing popularity, and the Sibelius Academy would allow me to continue to play modern violin and explore other passions, such as folk music. After considering my options, I decided to go for it. The weather was actually quite similar to my home of Rochester, NY, everyone spoke fantastic English, and there was always the ERASMUS program which would help me explore other parts of Europe.

Thanks to the support of my colleagues and teachers, as well as the open-mindedness of the Finnish freelance music scene, I quickly dove into the new waters. I immediately forged partnerships with my classmates, creating ensembles ”Puussa-kvartetti” and ”Corde Sonore” and a duo with harpsichordist Laura Ollberg. I also continued playing modern violin in the Marini Quintet (the name wasn’t my idea, I promise!). At the Academy I found opportunities to expand my passion for folk music by studying nyckelharpa and Finnish folk violin, as well as later studying viola da gamba. My professional life also began to take shape as I played concerts with FiBO (and FiBO’s STORIA orchestra) as well as HEBO.

Now that I have finished my Master’s (and completed my ERASMUS exchange in Paris), I have begun to search for my professional identity. And as I approach my 5-year ”finniversary”, I find it fitting to look back on how my life has changed. I have built an incredible network of supportive friends, learned to speak Finnish, and even found love in my inspiring and talented Liis Joamets. I have discovered both the joy of rantasauna in the summer and the beauty of the brief sunlight on a crisp winter’s day. And for those colder, darker days, I know I can always find refuge with my friends in the home of St. Urho.

Anthony Marini

About the author: A native of the part of New York farthest from New York City, Anthony Marini (an American baroque violinist of Italian-Irish-German-Dutch-Lithuanian descent) decided in 2010 to move to one of the few places where he didn’t have any roots: Finland. He since has become an active freelancer in Finland and abroad, performing in orchestras, chamber music ensembles, and in solo recitals. In addition to his professional work, he is a recovering computer nerd and a passionate fan of all things related to folk music, and also enjoys learning about the arts of lutherie and archeterie.