Interview with Olga Heikkilä
Musician interview 20.4.2022
Soprano Olga Heikkilä is a versatile musician, and according to one answer, the work as a professional musician is indeed very demanding and requires various skills.
Tell a bit about yourself.
Music was not present in my childhood family. My parents had musical hobbies mostly through school, but my music hobby started on a doctor’s recommendation. I was very ill as a child and had weak lungs due to asthma. To strengthen them the family doctor recommended playing the flute or singing. When I was 4, I was too young for the flute class and so I got to start singing. The singing hobby continued throughout my childhood and youth, from the Tapiola Choir to the EMO Ensemble. After ten years, I got rid of asthma medications. I believe that after the Covid pandemic, choir could have a similar health effect for many.
When did you know you were going to be a singer?
When my piano teacher Monna Kamu encouraged me to perform a song I composed at the Christmas Matinee and after hearing it, she suggested changing the major at the Espoo Music Institute. In the same school, under the supervision of Leena Sainio my path towards a career as a professional singer started twenty years ago. I think the years of the Tapiola Choir music program and the high school music program also mattered.
Could you imagine working outside of music?
The work of a professional musician is already very extensive in itself and requires constant self-development in different directions. During one working day, you will be working as a manager, lawyer, accountant, pedagogue, researcher, designer, translator or playwright. The performance itself is the tip of the iceberg, a short moment of happiness as the squirrel wheel of life stops for a moment.
You are currently doing a dissertation. Could you tell a bit more about it?
I am doing an artistic doctoral project À tour de Pierrot Lunaire at the DocMus doctoral school of the Sibelius Academy of the University of Arts Helsinki, which consists of artistic and literary components. First it includes various music productions, concerts and recordings, and then peer-reviewed articles. My research topic is the boundary between speech and song. I study how classical music combines both elements in a 20th-century speech vocal style and how that style could benefit in the music of our time.
What inspires you as a musician and in general?
Music itself is an endless source of inspiration. We are living in a really interesting time, as we have access to music from different eras and countries through digital collections. Unheard of old and new music is being recorded all the time. The combination of the new and the old, like Ville Raasakka's Steam Engine, fascinates me especially much. I am also inspired by cultural studies and language learning combined with travel.
What other art form is closest to you?
I have always danced, and a year ago my dream came true when I got to take part in the Alma!, an opera with dancelike movement, composed by Minna Leinonen and choreography by Petri Kekoni. The work is on the Teosto Award nominee list. It combines movement and singing in a unique way, but also painting. The visual arts have also always been present in my life, as my grandmother was a sculptor by profession.
Which of the four seasons is your favorite?
Hmm, each season has its own charm. I would say that as Finns we are very lucky to be able to watch the variation of the seasons: enjoy the bright and fragrant summer, the splendor of autumn colors, the white silence of winter and the singing of spring life.
What kind of learnings has Covid left?
The Covid time inspired me to compose and allowed for unique moments in the company of loved ones. At the same time, it made us think about the role of classical music in our society and the development steps necessary for future operations.
You will be singing in the concert on April 24 not only as a soloist in Händel’s arias, but also in the premiere of Ville Raasakka’s Steam Engine, which you have commissioned. What has the whole process from commissioning to preparing the concert been like?
The collaboration with Ville has been really nice and straightforward. A common ground was found right at the beginning of the project, and Ville has also involved me in the various stages of the process all the way to finishing. This has been a tremendous opportunity to take advantage of all my musicianship. I wish for a long life for Steam Engine after the premiere. As a chamber ensemble version, it is coming to my doctoral concert in the autumn of 2022 at Musiikkitalo.
Do you have any “secret” special skills?
This in itself is not a “secret” skill, but I feel like I am a very empathetic person. Because of this, I enjoy teaching immensely at the Sibelius Academy, among other places. The feeling of compassion is built into each of us and can be developed. In this global situation, I would like special skills that end conflicts around the world. Musicians have always taken a stand by peaceful means. May the feelings of compassion through music and beauty grow in each of us to proportions that overcome evil.