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This January I taught my traditional winter masterclass in Mikkeli for the fourth time, and had altogether eight participants - four from Finland, four from the United States. Two participants took part in my masterclass in Texas last year, but the rest were first timers. As I usually like to do it on my masterclasses, we had orchestra rehearsals at the daytime, and in the evening we worked with my favorite masterclass pianist Taru, trying to get the technical details and basics of conducting exactly right. This way we don't need to waste valuable orchestra time in solving elementary problems, and can concentrate on communication, rehearsing, and simply looking professional when we are in front of the orchestra. The masterclass culminated in two concerts where everyone could perform some masterpieces of the string orchestra repertoire.

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For people who come from warmer countries Finnish winter can be exotic, or even extreme. This winter I wanted to give a little bonus to my American students, and decided to take everyone ice swimming before the second concert. Next to the concert hall there is a little pond which of course is frozen since the temperatures get under -20 Celsius, but there is an ice hole for the local ice swimming club. Luckily our principal cello is a member, so we could all go and take a little dip in the icy water. I was very proud of my American guests who bravely followed the Finns into the water!