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Jessica Horsley (UK/Switzerland) - photo by J. Kaarakainen

My 2nd international conducting masterclass gathered in Mikkeli students coming from six different countries just as last year, and they came literally from the "four corners of the earth" representing Europe, Africa, Asia and the Americas. Last year I wrote quite extensively about my ideas in organizing masterclasses, and this year I followed pretty much the same concept as last year. The biggest change probably was limiting the repertoire in advance, which the players of my orchestra St. Michel Strings seemed to appreciate.

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Eveliina Aijasaho (Finland) conducting, Leonard Kwon (South Korea/Netherlands) playing - photo by J. Kaarakainen

One other positive change came about when I asked if any of the students would like to perform as a soloist. Leonard Kwon volunteered, and everyone was simply in awe of his virtuosity and natural musicianship when he performed Vivaldi's recorder concerto "La Notte" in the masterclass concert together with Eveliina Aijasaho. Even though only one conductor got to work on this piece it was a valuable lesson for everyone to learn something about time management and communication when dealing with a solo piece. The rest of the repertoire consisted of almost everything Sibelius has ever written for a string orchestra, plus some other classics from Elgar, Tchaikovsky, Britten and Nielsen.

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Mark Edwards (UK/Scotland) - photo by J. Kaarakainen

I promised my students an "intense masterclass experience" and I think I made a good effort towards that goal. We had two sessions daily, one with orchestra and one with a pianist (this time a local talent Antti Manninen played the piano), plus we had several lunches and dinners together where we could discuss various topics. I have no idea when the students had time to study on their own, but everyone made clear progress during the week and hopefully left Mikkeli and Finland with a couple of new tools in their conducting toolbag. After the concert we relaxed together in a proper Finnish way by going to sauna (!) and we of course could not skip the Mikkeli night life (which is mainly centered around the sole nightclub in town) - but that's another story!

P.S. If any of my students has the group photo please send it to me and I will add it here!

P.P.S. This year I am going to teach two more masterclasses, in Pärnu, Estonia in May 18 - 24 and again in Mikkeli during the Gergiev Festival in June 27 - July 2. More info on my masterclass website soon!