The Office of International Advisement interviewed Kasperi Sarikoski for the October edition of Eye on Culture. From Helsinki, Finland, Kasperi graduated from Sibelius Academy with his Bachelor of Music and Master of Music. Kasperi began his Artist Diploma in Jazz Studies Fall 2017. Read on to learn more about Kasperi’s experience playing with Jerry Bergonzi, living in Paris, and his love for coffee.
When did you first begin to pursue music? What drew you to jazz?
I began playing the trombone at the age of eight. My dad had been a professional musician and, once I took an interest in the trombone, showed me his collection of jazz records. Also my first teacher was a jazz trombonist, so it was natural for me to pursue playing jazz.
Your Father is a musician too? How has this affected your studies and career? Was there a favorite record for you in his collection?
My father used to be a drummer, but he never intended his children to be musicians. Taking up music my own idea. However, once I started playing the trombone my dad gave me all the help and support he could. He taught me a great deal and I wouldn’t be here without him. I think my favourite record from his collection was Herbie Hancock’s Headhunters.
You received your Bachelor of Music and Master of Music at the Sibelius Academy. When you reflect on your time there which memories stand out to you?
I remember the first years of study when I was really eager to learn more. I had some good teachers and made a lot of progress. Now that I’ve returned to school after working for a few years, being at Juilliard reminds me of the youthful hunger one has when everything is still so new. I feel like I myself get something from that energy and am inspired to work harder.
What prompted you to continue your studies as an Artist Diploma (AD) student? Could you tell our readers more about this program?
I felt like I wanted a change and some new challenges. Living in New York had been a childhood dream so I thought I’d give it a shot. The Artist Diploma in Jazz Studies program is essentially about working with an ensemble for two years. We write music for the band, get together twice a week and perform both on and off campus. I consider it the ideal way of learning to play music.
During your master studies, you partook in an exchange study at the Paris Conservatory; what prompted you to go to Paris? Could you describe some differences between the Finnish and French cultures?
I had visited the Paris Conservatory before as part of a collaboration with the Sibelius Academy. I really liked the city and as I had studied French at school it seemed like a good idea to apply. I enjoyed my time in Paris. It’s such a beautiful city and there’s a lot happening musically. Concerning cultural differences, I would say the French are more outgoing than the Finnish, at least if you speak the language. They are also more laid-back, which of course has its good and bad sides. But overall I liked the people and felt welcomed over there.
Yes! I remember being excited about performing with Jerry Bergonzi. He came over to play with a group of Sibelius Academy jazz students in Helsinki and it felt grand being the only horn player next to him on the bandstand. Another highlight was performing the music of Michel Legrand with the UMO Jazz Orchestra in collaboration with the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra and the composer himself.
Can you tell us about your band, Nuance? How did you meet the band members?
Nuance is a five-piece band from Helsinki and the music we play is a blend of jazz, rock and electronic music, composed by myself. I met the lads through the Sibelius Academy and the drummer is my brother Jonatan. We’ve released an album, Essence, and performed a fair amount in Finland.
Your brother, Jonatan is also a member of Nuance? Is he a professional musician as well? What about your other family members? What do they do?
Yes, Jonatan too is following in his father’s footsteps and plays the drums. We four oldest ones are all musicians/music students while “number five” is doing his military service. My youngest two brothers and my sister are still in school.
If there was one thing you had to share about Finland, what would that be?
It would probably be the sauna, a staple of Finnish culture. We have an old saying: “First build the sauna, then the house.” That’s literally what people did back in the day. Perhaps that explains why there are more saunas than cars in Finland. The way to go is to first build up a sweat in the sauna and then jump into the lake (or the hole in the ice if it’s winter). It feels great and you get a wonderful sensation once you’re out of the water. It’s similar to having a cold shower (which I tend to do here in New York).
When you think of your hometown, what three words come to mind?
Small, sea, cold.
We noticed you came to new student orientation as an AD student even though it was not a requirement. What prompted you to attend? Why would you recommend attending orientation to other AD/DMA students?
I moved into the Residence Hall the day it opened, which gave me time to prepare for school and my new life in New York. As an international student, I thought hearing about various government and school policies twice wouldn’t be a bad idea. I also wanted to attend some of the school events and in general be a part of the buildup to a new year at Juilliard.
During your time before courses, have you been able to explore NYC? Is there anything you would like to do or see in the city or nearby?
I’ve done some sightseeing and visited various music venues around the city. I really enjoy jogging alongside the Hudson river! There still are a few things on my to do list. One of them is to attend a baseball game. Until I do I’ll feel like there’s something missing from my American experience.
What is an aspiration that you have unrelated to music?
I used to be an avid soccer fan and would play on a weekly basis. I haven’t kicked a ball yet here in New York, but I hope to do so at some point. I also enjoy cooking and the (meticulous) brewing of coffee.
Do you have a favorite soccer team? Have you visited any great cafes here in NYC yet? Do you have a recipe, or favorite meal you like to prepare?
My favourite team is Tottenham Hotspur from London. They’re an exciting team and play with style. I’ve been to a few cafes in New York and my favourite one so far is The Smile in Tribeca. I like cooking all sorts of dishes, but something I’ve been more doing lately is pizza. You can get really deep into that but I’ve just scratched the surface.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years? 20 years?
I truly don’t know! I’m just trying to live a day at a time. I hope to keep making music for years to come, but I wouldn’t mind taking up something else later on in life.
Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?
I would like to thank my father and mother for their lifelong support. I wouldn’t be here without them. I would also like to thank The Juilliard School, in particular the Jazz Department and the Office of International Advisement. Being a foreigner, I‘ve been surprised by the welcoming atmosphere and support. I hope to be able to give something to the school in return.