Episode 72

Playing Flute in a Finnish Orchestra: Lucia Hellerhoff

If you're looking for work in Finland as a musician or if you dream in general of seeking a music career in Finland, then we think that this episode will be very informative for you! This week we welcome Lucia Hellerhoff, a German flautist living in Finland, Pori, and a member of the Pori Sinfonietta.

Lucia is a professional musician. Because both of her parents are connected to music, she was exposed to it at a young age. It was her mother taking her to her orchestra rehearsals when she realised that she wanted to play the flute. Asked how come she chose this musical instrument, she replies that it was probably the “princess age” stage at that time, which might sound a bit stereotypical, as well as a song that amazed her as a child for its flute parts.

How did Lucia decide to move to Finland from Germany, a very renowned country for its music history? Well, while studying in Munich, she met her Finnish boyfriend. Back then, she was not that familiar with Finland, but once she completed her studies, Finland ended up being an option for her professional career, considering her relationship. Working as a musician in Tampere was the initial option, but due to a health issue, she didn’t make it to the audition. Soon after that, she was invited for an audition by the Pori Sinfonietta program and that’s how she eventually landed in Finland in 2017. Here's what she tells Matt about the interesting audition experience she had:

“I became second in the audition, but I had a so-called "approved audition", which is something that we don't know in Germany. Like, in Germany one person wins, that person gets the job and that's it. But apparently in Finland and also in Sweden, they have this system that they give approved audition to more than one person and sometimes I heard from Sweden that they even try different musicians for the same position after the audition and then from them they choose which one would suit them best to their orchestra [...]. It's quite a good system I have to say, because playing in an audition is so different from what you actually have to do in the orchestra work, if you click to your colleagues, if you can adapt to your colleagues, if you can follow what the conductor is asking from you. That's all things that you can't see in an audition situation, so it kind of makes sense that they try the people in the actual work situation before they decide who they take."

Life in Finland has quite a few differences from Munich and especially from Paris –where Lucia did her Erasmus exchange– according to her:

“Finland is not overcrowded as Germany and especially as Paris is [...]. I like that the ratio between nature and humans is just a little bit healthier, so people are more relaxed here because they have their own space here, they don't have to battle against having no space somehow. [...] And people are so polite here, it's incredible that they really take time for you when you go to a shop and you have a question or whatever kind of like customer service, that's not what I am used to from Germany"

She adds that Finland is a more social country. People can see in fact where tax money goes, for example to infrastructure, public facilities.

"It's good to know that ok, I pay my tax money for something and it's actually gonna be used for something good, I have that impression here in Finland.”

Lucia has been working already for 5 years for Pori Sinfonietta and shares with Matt that she really likes her job. According to her, the program is rich and varied, for example, the songs they practice and the conductors change every week, something that doesn’t make her feel bored. Although the orchestra’s repertoire consists mainly of classical songs, they do play also jazz and pop pieces. During these 5 years, Lucia has also noticed differences between the work culture in Finland and Germany and points out that the way feedback is given among colleagues in Finland is very different from the one in Germany.

"I feel that the Finnish people are very very careful to give feedback to other people and also they are not used to receiving feedback so much, as maybe in Germany. I think that in Germany musicians are more easily saying to each other "could you play a little bit louder there"? or "I think that we're a little bit dragging here”, or whatever you want to correct. And Finnish people do that, yes, but in a much more careful and not direct way, that you have to get used to first, that they are very careful about it and they play more with this mentality of "live and let live"."
Lastly, Lucia talks with Matt about “Elvis of Finland”, the friendly cockatiel bird that she owns – who even owns an Instagram profile – and also about the interesting event schedule that the Pori Sinfonietta has!

Oh, and lastly (literally “lastly” this time), here’s the piece of advice she shared with us who struggle with learning Finnish:

"You're doing great, you took on a big challenge, I want to give you a big thumbs up and I want to tell you don't give up, you can do it, it's a really nasty language!"

Instagram of “Elvis of Finland”

Pori Sinfonietta