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Tuovi Martinsen

Head of International Relations, Sibelius Academy, University of the Arts Helsinki


I grew up in a peaceful residential area of Helsinki with my parents and two younger brothers. I inherited my love for music and singing from my mother and my grandmother from my father's side. As in many cases with a musical child, they say that I sang from a very early age, picking tunes from the radio and was eager to learn to play the piano. I started lessons in Eastern Helsinki Music Institute at the age of 6 and loved it! What I did not love was theory lessons. At the age of 6 I was put to the beginners' class, but for some reason the teacher decided to teach us church modes - I was totally lost and even though I had learnt to read and write at the age of 4, I had a hard time in taking notes - no wonder. Music teaching in 1970's!

Life continued with music, and I chose the schools according to the music-making possibilities. I continued piano playing, got more reasonable theory lessons, started to play the flute, joined an ambitious children choir, accompanied the Finnish folklore group and in high school started classical singing and chamber music classes. Around the age of 20 I was asked to join a choir led by famous Finnish gospel musician and then I was introduced to African choir singing tradition, which still touches me today. For me, applying to the Sibelius Academy was quite a clear decision and I was lucky to get in with the first try.

During my studies at the Sibelius Academy, I followed the curriculum of Music Education, which already then was a very versatile educational package including a lot of music-making, but also studies in the Faculty of Educational Sciences in Helsinki University. I am a qualified music teacher to teach from primary school all the way to high school. In my studies I specialized in early childhood music education and in piano pedagogy, which means that I am also a qualified early childhood and piano teacher.


In 1992, just after the birth of our first child, my husband got a job in Berlin, Germany and so we moved there. It was a very interesting time to follow all the quick changes happening in Berlin after the wall broke down in 1989. I stayed at home for four years, Sara got a little brother Henri in 1994. We moved from Berlin to Flensburg, closer to the Nordic atmosphere!

Soon it was time for us to move back to Finland and for me to think about what to do professionally. I decided to take the supplementary training course at the Helsinki University about international relations, as I did not feel that music teaching was my cup of tea after all. I however consider myself as a pedagogue and can use my skills and knowledge in the current work.

Through that course I approached the Sibelius Academy and started to work there at first advising students, planning career services courses and making surveys and reports of students' employability. In autumn 1997 I started to work in the newly built-up Arts Management Master's Program coordinating and planning its studies. The next step was a two year -period of substituting Head of Academic Affairs and since 2002 I have been fully working "only" with international relations.

At some point one of my classmates from my student years asked, if I felt that I failed with music, when I chose to work behind the scenes. I was totally shocked by the question, as I never had thought that my education was useless, or that I had failed. I just chose another kind of path in which I can benefit largely from my music education. As a person interested in so many issues from educational context to coordinating and organizing, interest in policy and decision-making, educational policy, internationalization, etc. I could not think of a better content for my work and profession!


As you can read from the previous text, my life has always been full of music and now it is full of efforts developing higher music education further in international cooperation.

If I did not have a chance to work with international relations, work would have become quite boring, I am afraid. What I appreciate in this work is the constant contact with the music academy life in other countries and other parts of the world. I love developing new things, making things possible and most importantly, looking into the future and thinking, what will be needed in the years to come.

What is very close to my heart are questions related to diversity and social responsibility. I feel privileged to have been involved in initiating and enabling the start of the Global Music education in Nordic cooperation. If I had to mention the biggest achievement in my career, I would most probably mention this, as this education contains the values important to me.

My personal passion and interest get intertwined in my work and that being a blessing can be dangerous, too. You will get sucked into the workflow and then suddenly you notice you have worked too much. When you are young, you can do it, but there will come a moment when you notice that there is a limit to how much passion you can put into the work. This is a double-sided situation; you love your work, but you have to know how to limit it. This is the lesson I am learning now and as a bit older colleague, I wish to end this text with these thoughts as an advice, if you allow me.


With Knut Myhre at Nordplusmusic meeting in Oulu, 2006.