Just back from another mid-winter trip to Finland, feeling, yet again, so inspired by the education system there, and the resulting standard of musicians and human beings! I spent a week teaching improvisation at one of the major music schools, both with students and with teachers and it was such a joyful experience. Particularly with the teachers – some of the improvising together was just magical – high quality music-making by any standard. There are only a couple of things you need to know about Finnish education. Firstly, they come near the top of the PISA tests worldwide each time the test is done (they have dropped a bit in the last couple of tests, but are still a long way above the UK), and secondly, they don’t start school until they 7 years old. They have a proper good childhood first – and when they do go to school they learn to read in a few weeks and overtake all the other kids in other countries who have been in school for several years already. And they are really nice people too. (Every single one of them.) Then at the end of the week I spent an evening at the top music school in the country where the standard is really amazing, with the Helsinki Strings an internationally renowned string ensemble with whom I’m playing a programme of my arrangements of Brazilian jazz in May. We just read through a couple of pieces and talked about rhythm and style and they make such a good sound I’m very happy and excited. It will be a fantastic project – and I think will all be filmed and recorded so I should be able to share some of that around on this internetty thing.
Music is the language that permits me to converse with the beyond.