What started as a small school tour has turned into a fairytale concept based on classical music that its founder Teemu Laasanen hopes will conquer the world.
Text and photos: Laura Iisalo
Classical music is sometimes considered abstract and even elitist. This kind of pigeonholing makes Teemu Laasanen upset, and it is also the reason behind his decision to become an advocate for it.
Laasanen has been a piano teacher at the Mikkeli Music Institute since 2003, and the Festival Manager at the Mikkeli Music Festival since 2018. Even though he took his first piano lessons at the age of six, it wasn’t until he was in his twenties and studying mathematics when classical music won him over.
– Classical music requires focusing and quieting down, and it has been left aside in a society that prefers instant gratification. For me it opened up an abundant world and made me decide to study music after all. There has been no turning back, Laasanen tells.
The joy of music is what he wants to spread to others. In 2014 and 2015 Laasanen organised a school tour funded by the Cultural Institute’s South Savo Regional Fund, where he played the piano and told a story he had written around Tchaikovsky’s Children’s Album.
– People often say that music cannot be explained but for me music is a sum of many art forms. Music transmits emotions and the storytelling side comes naturally to me, says Laasanen.
When the tour was over, Laasanen decided to record his story. He asked actor Risto Kopperi from the Mikkeli Theatre to be the reader, and together they created a readable and listenable music story illustrated by Marija Dergaeva. The team was awarded a grant worth 10 000 euros from the South Savo Regional Fund, and the book was published in August 2017.
The first edition sold out fast, and Laasanen already had plans for a new book based on Edvard Griegs’s lyrical compositions. He asked his writer-music educator wife Noora Nikka to take the project on.
Classical music has proven health benefits
Laasanen’s long-term plan is to build an international series of music fairytales, and to create new ways to make classical music available to the general public. In January 2019 Laasanen, Nikka, and Kopperi founded MusicFairyTales company together, and launched their latest innovationtitled InteractiveSatuseinä Fairytale Wallin October 2020, combining music, technology, and storytelling.
By touching the wall children can take part in the classical music fairytales through playful ways that include painting and playing a fantasy harp. The concept is created together with OiOi, a local company specialising in interactive solutions, and according to Laasonen it is suitable for music therapy and early childhood education. It could also be used in playrooms in places like hospitals, airports, or shopping centres.
So far three music fairytales have been published. The latest one is called Mary the Heart Singer, which is based on music by Sibelius and Madetoja, and created specifically for the fairytale wall. Nikka, who wrote the story, is currently working on the next story that revolves around creations by French composers Debussy and Ravel, and is funded by a six-month working grant from the Cultural Institute.
– Our main target group is children but we have had positive feedback from adults and especially from elderly people. One of our plans is in fact to create music fairytale products for nursing homes too, Laasanen tells.
In five years, if everything goes according to the plan, there will be fairytale walls in tens of locations in Finland and abroad. For Laasanen the project is more than just a business opportunity though. For him it is a way to make classical music available to many across the globe.
– Classical music has many proven health benefits; it can improve concentration and it can help dealing with all kinds of emotions. This is my way to support sustainability and perseverance through music, he concludes.
Teemu Laasanen received a 10 000 euros grant from South Savo fund in 2017 for his readable and listenable music story.