The Helsinki Strings is a world-renowned string orchestra consisting of about fifty students from the East Helsinki Music Institute and the Sibelius Academy, their ages varying between ten and twenty. The orchestra was founded in 1972 by its conductors Csaba and Géza Szilvay, who both retired in 2010. The orchestra was conducted by Pirkko Simojoki in 2010 – 2011, and since the autumn of 2011 the conductor of the orchestra is Jukka Rantamäki.
The Helsinki Strings is the most advanced of three youth orchestras representing musical education based on the Colourstrings method, developed in the East Helsinki Music Institute: The young musicians of the Helsinki Strings have gradually advanced through the "younger sibling" orchestras, the Little Rascals (conductor Yvonne Frye) and the Helsinki Children's Strings (conductor Jukka Rantamäki).
The Helsinki Strings have released forty internationally acclaimed albums for the labels Finlandia Records and Warner Classics. The orchestra has also appeared in more than seventy television programmes, of which the two popular series "Minifiddlers in Musicland", broadcast in the seventies and the eighties, marked a new era in music education in Finland.
A substantial number of today’s active professional Finnish musicians – soloists, chamber and orchestral musicians, leaders, conductors, string pedagogues and other music professionals – have played as members of the Helsinki Strings over the years, and several have achieved international fame.
Besides Finland, the orchestra has given concerts in Hungary, Sweden, Denmark, The Faroe Islands, Norway, Estonia, Latvia, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, United Kingdom, Ireland, Belgium, The Netherlands, France, Italy, Russia, The United States, Canada, Japan, Korea, China, Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan and The Czech Republic.
Throughout their existence, the Helsinki Strings have demonstrated how a profound music education and high-level artistry can be combined. Through concert tours and demonstrations the orchestra has made Finland, Finnish music and string pedagogy known all over the world.
The Helsinki Strings wish to thank the Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture, Finnish foundations and funds, companies, other organizations and private persons for their continuous support. The Ministry of Education and Culture has appointed the Helsinki Strings as Young Cultural Ambassadors of Finland.
Conductor of The Helsinki Strings
Jukka Rantamäki began his violin studies under Géza Szilvay's tuition and continued his studies with Jouko Ignatius, Kaija Saarikettu and Alexander Vinnitsky at the Sibelius Academy. In his childhood, Rantamäki was the concertmaster in the Helsinki Junior Strings (at present called 'The Helsinki Strings') and he has been the Associate Concertmaster at the Tapiola Sinfonietta since the orchestra was founded in 1987. He also plays regularly in Avanti! Chamber Orchestra.
The work started by the Helsinki Strings in the development of string pedagogy and the cultural development through youth orchestras is known and appreciated practically world-wide. The teachers of the young artists believe that a child musician can create real art open to assessment according to absolute artistic standards. The outcome of the concerts and demonstrations by the Helsinki Strings has been that youth orchestras of many countries, which had earlier mainly enriched programmes of school celebrations, are being invited to appear in concert halls as a new class of performers.
Through providing their own interpretation of music appropriate for their maturity and performance level, especially of national works, children can become active participants in the cultural life. For this pioneering work the orchestra welcomes the contributions of contemporary composers and music authorities.
One of the orchestra’s main purposes is to act as a source of inspiration for Finnish children. The orchestra wants to convince parents, educators and the authorities of the importance of children playing instruments in a group. Forming and training groups like these is the most important duty of music pedagogy, not only from a professional but also from a national and international point of view.
Only as individuals brought up in a community can children develop into artists who can not only express themselves but are also able to make an artistic contribution to society and thus help realise the function of art. Zoltán Kodály has said:
”Talent is not solely the possession of the one who has it; others can claim on it as well. But a talented person may discover that the gift does not decrease however generously it is shared. On the contrary, it will thereby multiply.”