The Helsinki Strings is a world-renowned string orchestra consisting of about 35 students from the East Helsinki Music Institute and the Sibelius Academy youth department, 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, Jukka Rantamäki in 2011 – 2022 and since the autumn of 2022 the conductor of the orchestra is Kasmir Uusitupa.
Kasmir Uusitupa (b.1995) began playing the violin at the age of three under the pedagogical guidance of Henriette Rantalaiho at the Sibelius Academy as a pupil of Antti Tikkanen. At the age of six, he transferred to the East Helsinki Music Institute and by the age of 11 he had completed the basic examinations in violin as a pupil of Lauri Untamala. Since 2008, he has studied violin at the Youth Department of the Sibelius Academy under Professor Kaija Saarikettu. Kasmir Uusitupa has also regularly participated in many summer and masterclasses taught by Hagai Shaham, Serguei Azizian, Aaron Rosand, Olivier Charlier and Pavel Vernikov, among others.
When he was younger, Kasmir Uusitupa also played a great deal of folk music at numerous Finnish festivals. In 2004 and 2005, he was awarded the Martti Pokela Award as a young folk musician from Uusimaa. In 2009, he received the best performer award at the Kuressaare Music Festival in Estonia and played as a soloist at the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra’s concert for young soloists at Finlandia Hall. He has subsequently performed as a soloist for a number of orchestras. for example, at Temppeliaukio Church, Carelia Hall, Martinus Hall and in Åland.
Between 2007 and 2011, he has performed as a soloist, concertmaster and first violinist with the Helsinki Strings conducted by Geza Szilvay in Finland and on many tours in Europe. He also plays under the guidance of Paavo Pohjola along with Tami Pohjola, Riina Piirilä and Senja Rummukainen in the Borea Quartet founded in 2011. Borea has performed at numerous festivals in Finland. In 2010, Kasmir Uusitupa made it to the semifinals of the Louis Spohr Competition for Young Violinists in Weimar, Germany, and in the summer of 2012, as the youngest participant, he reached the second round of the international Carl Nielsen Violin Competition in Odense, Denmark. In the spring of 2013, he received one of five main awards of equal value in the Sibelius Academy’s Anja Ignatius Violin Competition. He also received a recognition award. In the spring of 2015, he was awarded as a finalist in the Kuopio National Violin Competition, and he was chosen as the soloist for the Sibelius Academy Symphony Orchestra. Year 2022 he was a semifinalist in International Sibelius Violin Competition in Helsinki. Kasmir Uusitupa is a conductor of The Helsinki Strings in The East Helsinki Music institute since August 2022.
Founders Csaba ja Géza Szilvay
The founders of the Helsinki Junior Strings (at present the Helsinki Strings), in 1972, are the world-renowned music pedagogues Géza Szilvay and Csaba Szilvay. They conducted the Helsinki Strings until their retirement in 2010.
Prof. Géza Szilvay was born in Budapest in 1943. He studied the violin at the Béla Bartók Conservatory and violin pedagogics at the Budapest Music Academy, where he graduated in 1966. He also studied law and political science at the ELTE University in Budapest and took his doctor's degree in 1970. Since 1971 he taught the violin at the East Helsinki Music Institute and since 1978 at the Sibelius Academy as well. In 1984 he was appointed Principal of the East Helsinki Music Institute.
Csaba Szilvay was born in Budapest, Hungary in 1941. He studied the cello at the Béla Bartók Conservatory and the Budapest Music Academy as a student of Professor Antal Friss. After having received his diploma in Budapest in 1970, he studied at the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki with Professor Erkki Rautio. From 1971 to 1976 he taught the cello at the Jyväskylä Conservatory in Finland. Since 1976 he was a teacher at the East Helsinki Music Institute and since 1978 also at the Sibelius Academy.
The Szilvay brothers have gained international recognition both as string pedagogues and as conductors and educators of children's and youth orchestras. In recognition of their work for youth culture they were awarded the Knight Order of the Finnish Lion in 1981, The Culture Prize of Finland in 1983, The Hungarian State Award for Cultural Activity in 1990, the Culture Prize of Helsinki in 1995, the “Pro Musica” Award in 1999, “Accent” Prize of the Association of Finnish Music Schools 2005 and International Kodály Prize 2007.
The Colourstrings approach, developed by the Szilvay brothers, has gained an international reputation and is now taught all over the world. A number of special Colourstrings institutions – schools, centres and societies – have been established in several European countries in order to realise and further this child-centred teaching concept.