Antti Kleemola is a multitalented musician whose career has taken him along three different paths. He graduated as a music teacher from the University of Jyväskylä and, at the moment, trains future songwriters at the Jyväskylä Educational Consortium Gradia. He has succeeded in connecting the professions of a teacher, performing musician and songwriter, though it was not always so easy.
Kleemola comes from Kauhajoki, in the expanses of Southern Ostrobothnia. A career in music was always a given. In high school, the young musician began dreaming of bigger and more inspiring music scenes. A few of his musician friends had left Kauhajoki to study in Jyväskylä, and he heard positive things about both the University and the town. Jyväskylä began to look like the right size town with opportunities to make music in various ways: ”I had a strong feeling that this is going to be my place,” he says.
Consequently, Kleemola began his studies at the Department of Music, University of Jyväskylä, in 1992. The preconceptions about the versatility of the University and the town expanded. Alongside studies, there were plenty of opportunities to do what you wanted to do. A guy who had the enthusiasm and zeal to experiment with different things found lots of like-minded people around him. There were endless opportunities to do all kinds of things. “It was intoxicating,” says Antti about his study years.
“I remember writing in my diary: ‘Lots of action – I’ve got 10 bands!’”
Kleemola enjoyed playing in the University’s own ensembles. He played the trumpet in Puhkupillit and Sinfis. Sinfis went on to produce a musical about Olavi Virta, Sinun silmiesi tähden, in which Kleemola had a role as a singing actor.
The University offered a spontaneous musical scene where Antti could try out different set-ups and musical styles: “For the freshman initiation party, we formed a band called Hot Pants. Together with the music educators, we had an a cappella band for several years, the Pentatones, and with my student mates we had an ethno pop band called Jouka. Jouka even got a recording deal and made a record. All this alongside the studies!” he says.
“During my studies, I found myself in roles and jobs that surprised even myself! We had concerts, we recorded and travelled. There were plenty of great opportunities on offer!”
Of the many music venues in town, Kleemola highlights Jazz Bar, which opened in 1992. “Jazz Bar played a major role for music students because it always offered a stage for performing. I performed there every Monday night for one year as a pianist-singer.”
Kleemola’s three careers all began during his studies. He feels that his music pedagogy studies supported all of them. Antti has nothing but praise for the opportunities offered by the University to master several instruments. However, he thinks that teacher training is only the tip of an iceberg. One’s identity and readiness as a teacher comes from the work itself: “There can’t be any pedagogy without musicianship. Being a musician and a songwriter has given me a good vantage point for seeing what is important when I teach future professional musicians.”
After graduating, Kleemola moved to Helsinki but, after eight years, he returned to Jyväskylä with his family. He gained teaching experience at all levels of schooling: from musical playschool to university. Today, he is a teacher in charge of creative songwriting at Gradia. At the same time, he performs as a singer-songwriter and, while working on his solo records, writes songs for Finland’s foremost artists. Nearly 200 of his compositions have been recorded.
“This combination actually works best for everyone because, as a popular music professional, I have found my own brand as a music pedagogue. There has been a need for songwriter training and I have been able to meet this need.”
Kleemola remains connected to the University. The most recent result of the cooperation is REC JKL of the Finnish Music Campus, a showcase for creative music production. The goal of the event is to bring future songwriters and music business professionals together. Intended as an annual event was, it arranged for the first time in May 2019. Kleemola has an active role in the event’s production team, and you may bump into him on the Seminaarinmäki Campus every now and then.
The Finnish Music Campus Jyväskylä is a centre of competence in music education and research, consisting of the Jyväskylä University of Applied Sciences, the University of Jyväskylä and the Jyväskylä Educational Consortium Gradia. REC JLK will present cooperative and creative projects, composing as well as know-how in creative music production.
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