Fiddlershop’s “Music is for Everyone” Series: Osmo Hakosalo

Back to School with Osmo

Fiddlershop’s "Music is for Everyone" blog series features interviews with professional, amateur, and student musicians who inspire through their unique musical stories. Their example proves that music truly is for everyone, and we hope after reading, you’re motivated to begin and/or continue your musical journey.

By Jasmine Reese -  We often follow a traditional path in life. Many go to school or start a career, have a family, and then retire at some point. While it's true that learning is constant, very few are willing to place themselves back into the student or beginner role after a certain age. Even fewer possess the courage to go back to university and pursue a new career, especially in the field of arts or music. However, Osmo serves as an inspiration to us all. Not only is there nothing to fear when choosing to head off to school again, but pursuing what you want brings about a wonderful reward -- happiness.

Osmo, now 44, started to play the fiddle at 39 years old. He wasn't shy about his goals. He wanted to achieve a high level in violin, allowing him to teach, jam with others, and play in a band. Flash forward to present day, he is well on his way to accomplishing each objective. He plays in two bands: Spelarit (traditional Finnish folk music) and Uncle Ruby (old-time and bluegrass tunes). Watch Uncle Ruby's video below.

Spelarit released a CD in June 2017. "We had a very nice CD release gig at the Kaustinen Music Festival here in Finland; that is the main event in Finnish folk music scene annually here," Osmo explained. "I am super proud of the CD!"

On top of all that, he was accepted into a music school at his local university of applied sciences as a Finnish Folk Fiddle and Music Pedagogue Major. As a current sophomore, he's come far in a short amount of time with the support of his friends and family even though they initially did "not see the point of all this." 

"I sounded horrible for quite some time," Osmo said.

With a career in mathematics and medical research behind him, I wondered if going back to study music brought about any nervousness or isolation. "Do you fit in at school?" I asked.

"I feel accepted," Osmo said. "Our folk music class is quite small, and each class plays and rehearses together as a band too which is a great way to get to know your class mates from the start.
There are also others who are changing careers. Last year, when I got accepted, there were four others as well, so the total number of our class is five. I am the oldest at our class, but the ages vary quite a lot from early twenties to mid-late thirties, all the way up to me. And in other folk classes, there are other people who are also over 40 like me.
The students of the folk music department do vary quite a bit and they have quite interesting musical & non-musical backgrounds. We have also pop and jazz and classical music departments, and we do many projects with them. Their students are maybe a bit younger on average, but I don't really feel that I stand out in any way."
       He also talked about the courses and academic work load.
"When I already have one Masters degree done, I can concentrate on only music. All other studies, presentations, written assignments, etc...feel really easy now. And having spent many years in quite demanding research work, it feels that studying is so pressure-free compared to work life. And I love to play the fiddle."

Osmo began to play the fiddle with a private teacher. He practices for a minimum of two hours daily, starting his sessions with long bow strokes on open strings, scales, and fast finger excercises. After the technical stuff, he begins working on tunes and arrangements. Time management wasn't easy for him, but he learned to fit practice, rehearsals, and now school into his busy schedule with self-discipline and determination.

"What are you most proud to have accomplished at this point?"

"I am very happy that I finally have started to like my own fiddle sound. I am also very happy and proud to be able to play in two awesome bands. Playing with others in bands and jams was really the main reason why I wanted to learn to play the fiddle."

"Outside of the bigger picture, what are your current musical goals?"

"I have many. Of course, one main goal is to improve technically since I have played only a short amount of time. But mainly, I want to learn how to quickly catch on to new tunes at jams, and harmonise on the spot. I play mainly Scandinavian and Appalachian old-time tunes, so being able to vary my playing, both rhythmically and melodically, is important. Also, being able to accompany with chords is something I am constantly working on."

Osmo left us with some sage advice for adult learners looking to begin a musical journey.

"I have three tips.

    1. Get a good teacher from the very start. Especially in the beginning, it is important to learn the basics properly and a good teacher is a must. Get the teacher from that genre you want to play. Don't get a classical violinist as a teacher if you want to learn to play the fiddle or vice versa.
    2. Record or video your playing often. That is the best way to see and hear how you really sound, and if you keep the recordings, you have a nice way of analysing your progress over the months and years. That has helped me more than anything else.
    3. USE A METRONOME!

I am living my dream now. It really is never too late, and adults can learn to play the fiddle!"

Photo Credit: Portrait Photo "Osmo Hakosalo" by Simo-Pekka Lindström.


 

Read motivational "Music is for Everyone" interviews every Wednesday on the Fiddlershop blog. Fiddlershop is proud to support string musicians of all ages and levels. Check out our Fiddlershop Music Scholarship to fund your music lessons or the purchase of a new instrument!

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