Text: Laura Iisalo
Photos: Robert Seger
Music is present in everybody’s life, and through the ages it has been a tool for dealing with emotions that are otherwise hard to express. Music is also a profession for Nina Erjossaari, known by artist name Neiti Ö, who is a songwriter, dramaturg, actress, and theatre director, and Valtteri Lipasti, a songwriter, singer, musician, and theatre composer.
The duo utilises music in their own expression, but also when working with young people. Erjossaari has organised songwriting camps for 12 to 18 year-olds in Kaarina in Southwest Finland for many years, and in 2014 she asked Lipasti to join.
– During the camp the youngsters get to contemplate basic human things. Music targets the emotional center, and it affects straight away. It’s easy to get the youngsters involved because music is so important for them, Erjossaari says.
The co-created songs are about feelings, past experiences, observations, and the world – subjects that resonate with all participants. When the lyrics begin to take form, Lipasti starts working on the composition, and the group then gets together to further improve it. Lipasti says that being present is required when making music, which brings answers for personal questions.
– Making music cultivates and makes us wiser. It strengthens self-esteem and the idea of a self, he says.
Self-examination helps to understand the world
Lipasti and Erjossaari work with young people because they believe those are the ones who are in danger of dropping out of society. The duo supports youngsters by creating a safe environment where they can express themselves and their feelings without a fear of being rejected, stigmatised, or bullied.
Every year there have been young people taking part in the camp that are somehow involved with the child welfare authorities. Erjossaari has witnessed that young people who have experienced a lack of presence, love, and boundaries, often excel in song making camps and workshops.
– It makes me feel good when love and trust are present, and the youngsters can say what they think and feel. Who am I and what is the world, are basic questions in art. The self is examined in order to understand other people, the world, and humanity, she says.
When Erjossaari and Lipasti noticed the great results of the songwriting camps, they wanted to take the concept to those who wouldn’t necessarily take part. Their on-going Songwriting workshops for child welfare units project began in 2020, and the aim is to publish the co-created songs, and to organise a storytelling concert ensemble.
So far dozens of young people from the child welfare units in Southwest Finland have taken part. One of them thanked Lipasti by giving him a heart-shaped rock he had found.
– It was great feedback. It is a human quest to discover what one can give to the world, and that turns real in this project. It feels very meaningful, he says.
Valtteri Lipasti was awarded an Art for Everyone grant worth 9 000 euros for the Songwriting workshops for child welfare units project. Nina Erjossaari received a grant from the Southwest Finland regional fund for a month to kickstart the project in 2020, and a working grant for a year in 2021.