Maija Kaunismaa is a singer-songwriter whose second solo album, The Pine House Songs, was released on 8 June 2020. Due to the coronavirus situation, the album tour will take place next year. This suits Maija just fine – she is making the most of the unexpected extra time and space. After all, they are vital for a creative person.
Maija was born and raised in Jyväskylä. Applying to the University of Jyväskylä was a natural next step for her after completing upper secondary school. She was accepted to the class teacher degree programme in 1993 – the same year she graduated from upper secondary school. A couple of years later, she transferred to the Department of Music to study to become a music teacher.
Of her time in the University, Maija especially remembers the music exam concerts and jam sessions that were organised at the legendary Jazz Bar on Kauppakatu. Many of the best and most famous current professionals performed there at the early stages of their careers. Maija also remembers the beautiful campus of the University of Jyväskylä fondly, and the close cooperation between departments.
“We could go and exercise at the Faculty of Sport and Health Sciences, which was great. I am also grateful for the language studies I was able to participate in. I took additional Spanish courses on top of my other language courses, and I’m still pleased I did that. I also fondly remember our lunches and concerts at Ilokivi!
Maija also praises the quality of the education provided and the expertise of the university’s teachers. “It’s easier for students to understand and internalise what is taught about theoretical pedagogy when the general teaching is combined with high-quality personal teaching, which is a rare thing these days”, says Maija.
“For musicians, learning their instrument is the most important thing, and I had just the best teachers for classical piano, improvisation, classical and pop singing, and traditional band instruments. I even learned to play the acoustic guitar, even though I had never played a string instrument before – my teacher was that inspiring!”
Since graduating from university, Maija has worked as a singer and composer. During the last two decades, she has composed a lot of theatre music for a plethora of Finnish theatre projects. She has often also acted as the conductor, musician and music instructor for the premieres featuring her musical works. She is known for her awe-inspiring and personal singing voice and her memorable style as a composer.
At the end of the 2000s, Maija became famous for working together with author Sofi Oksanen. She has worked with Oksanen on three musical plays: High Heels Society (KokoTeatteri, 2008), Kertomuksia Keittiöstä (“Tales from the Kitchen”, the Finnish National Theatre, 2011) and Kun kyyhkyset katosivat (“When the Doves Disappeared”, the Finnish National Theatre, 2013).
Maija has three previous albums: Valtion miehet (“Men of the State”) in cooperation with author Elina Karjalainen (Love Records, 2000), Liian lyhyt hame – kertomuksia keittiöstä (“A Skirt Too Short – Tales from the Kitchen”) with author Sofi Oksanen (MuFarang International, 2011) and The Origins: Fragments of the Hunt Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (Kaunismaa, 2020)
Kaunismaa is an artist-in-residence at the Zen Center of Los Angeles, where she will be spending a year with the help of the US-based Kobori Roshi grant. She has also been granted funding by the Finnish Music Foundation MES for translating Kanteletar, a collection of Finnish folk poetry, into English.
Lifelong learning has always been important for Maija. Since her graduation, she has continued learning all things related to her work as a composer, musician, and voice coach.
“I recently became a certified TRE Provider [Tension and Stress Release Exercise]. I have complemented my education in signing with the Estill Method, and next I will learn about studio technology and recording.”
Maija wants to use her work to promote solving societal issues. For example, she encourages people to take action to stop climate change and ensure that the Earth can sustain us. She also advocates for the homeless.
Watch Maija´s musicvideos:
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