When I was about to finish my violoncello studies in Helsinki I made a trip to St Petersburg, Russia, and met professor Leonid Korchmar there. Our coincidental meeting resulted in nearly four incredible years of intensive study of symphonic and operatic conducting at the St Petersburg "Rimsky-Korsakov" State Conservatory. Before that cello had still been my main interest, but professor Korchmar persuaded me to concentrate on conducting instead. This started a completely new phase both in my life and in my studies.

Professor Korchmar was a student and assistant of late Ilya Musin and his starting point to teaching conducting is Musin's highly developed, tried and tested methodology. Musin's disciples include such names as Valery Gergiev, Yuri Temirkanov and Semyon Bychkov whose styles are seemingly different, but under the surface all of them utilise the basic principles of the Musin school.

During Korchmar's lessons all aspects of conducting were studied at once - technique, interpretation, psychology of the orchestra, instrumentation, rehearsing... Teaching the technique by conducting two skilled pianists is the standard in Russian conservatories, and it is absolutely the fastest and most cost-effective way to learn. The conservatory of course has also an orchestra just for the conducting students to test their skills. During those years I also had a free pass to the rehearsals in the Mariinsky Theatre and the Shostakovich Philharmonic so that I could observe the best Russian masters in rehearsal.

In recent years professor Korchmar has started giving masterclasses also outside his native Russia, namely in the United States and Finland. He is a wonderful pedagogue with lots to give to beginners and professionals alike!