May 29, 2024

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Interview with Joona Toivanen: It’s very fascinating to see how differently people can experience the music: Video

Interview with jazz pianist Joona Toivanen. An interview by email in writing. – First, let’s start out with where you grew up, and what got you interested in music.  How exactly did your adventure take off? 

Joona Toivanen: – I grew up in a town called Jyväskylä in central Finland. My parents are not musicians but they encouraged me and my brother and sister to take lessons (my brother Tapani plays double bass and my sister Tuuli is a violinist). I started playing the piano at the age of seven. After some years I had been introduced to many styles of music. Improvisation, jazz and composition got a grip of me in my teens and I started studying at the conservatory in Jyväskylä. I also started playing in bands early.

JBN: – How has your sound evolved over time? What have you been doing to find and develop your own sound?

JT: – A teacher of mine once said to me and my fellow students that we all already have developed our sound. In a way he was right – I can still hear “my voice” in the old recordings. As a young player there was a lot of bursting energy and the music was sort of rough around the edges. My compositions were more complicated than they are now! I guess my playing has developed towards a more refined interpretation – I try to focus on the core in the music (whatever that might be). I’m more interested in making the piano and the music sound good than showing what I can technically master.

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JBN: – What routine practices or exercises have you developed to maintain and improve your current musical proficiency, in terms of both rhythm and harmony?

JT: – I have a practice routine where I do certain technical exercises to warm up. I rotate between finger independency, strength, speed, phrasing etc exercises, most often with a metronome. My main goal with practicing technique is to be able to not think about it, to be able to express myself through improvisation without the technical flaws being in the way. When it comes to harmony I often practice things in different keys, playing around with harmonies, trying to be able to play different harmonic things regardless of key. Exploring harmony often leads to new compositions – they become sort of composing etudes when practicing.

JBN: – Have you changed through the years? Any charges or overall evolution? And if so why?

JT: – It is a natural thing to change as long as you live. Musically I’m more focused now to “get in the flow” than “nailing the tunes”. Being aware of the moment, your surroundings, the fellow musicians, the vibe in the room, the sound of the band and the instrument, feels more and more important the older I grow.

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JBN: – In your opinion, what’s the balance in music between intellect and soul?

JT: – Personally, the intellectual part is more present in the planning and rehearsing stage of music making. Composition, arranging, finding out ways to express oneself. But when on stage I don’t want to think too much. That’s when the soul, feeling, being in “now” comes in. Whatever is allowed to happen, even though the intellect would have planned something else. That’s the deal.

JBN: – There’s a two-way relationship between audience and artist; are you okay with delivering people the emotion they long for?

JT: – I mostly play instrumental music. There are no lyrics to describe the music, and I often hear comments from the audience how they associated the music with different things. It’s very fascinating to see how differently people can experience the music. To answer your question, I don’t know what kind of emotion the people long for, and therefore I only can play the music. It touches people in different ways, or maybe it doesn’t at all. In my experience, when the musicians on stage are touched by the music in one way or another, that sort of pours over to the audience as well.

JBN: – How can we get young people interested in jazz when most of standard tunes are half a century old?

JT: – It doesn’t matter if you get interested in jazz through standard tunes or something else. Jazz is so many things: if people like a small branch of it that’s fine. But as a musician (and for my part also an educator) it is important to know the legacy that has brought us here. I think it is important to understand that music is an evolution and always changing. Understanding history puts things in context.

JBN: – John Coltrane once said that music was his spirit. How do you perceive the spirit and the meaning of life?

JT: – The spirit and meaning of life consist of many things. My life sometimes feels like a puzzle with parts such as family, children, friends, music, teaching, flyfishing, nature, photography, and all that sort of winds together. There are many ways for me to express myself, music is one of them.

OUR US/EU Jazz and Blues Festivals 2023

JBN: – If you could change one single thing in the musical world and that would become reality, what would that be?

JT: – To give the musicians and composers a decent fee when their music is listened to through streaming services. All these platforms are great for consumers but the musicians, even in marginal genres, have to get their share.

JBN: – Whom do you find yourself listening to these days?

JT: – I probably listen to more books than music! But when I do, I often put on a fresh record with new music. Or an old favorite, Bill Evans, Oscar Peterson, Keith Jarrett…

JBN: – Let’s take a trip with a time machine: where and why would you really want to go?

JT: – viI would like to go fly fishing in some of my favorite waters in the Nordic countries, for around 100-200 years ago!

Interview by Simon Sargsyan

Note: You can express your consent and join our association, which will give you the opportunity to perform at our Jazz and Blues festivals in Europe and Boston, naturally receiving an appropriate royalty. We cover all expenses. The objectives of the interview are: How to introduce yourself, your activities, thoughts and intellect, and make new discoveries for our US/EU Jazz & Blues Association, which organizes festivals, concerts and meetings in Boston and various European countries, why not for you too!! You can read more about the association here.

Joona Toivanen –

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