Tuomo Rannankari is a singer, songwriter, scriptwriter and a host of the children’s TV programme Pikku Kakkonen. After his long career as a class teacher, Rannankari now expresses his teacher identity through songs. His lyrics deal with manners, emotional skills, and environmental issues. Now an award-winning children’s musician, Rannankari was one of the founders of the choir Seminaarinmäen mieslaulajat, and he sang in the choir for over thirty years. Studies at the University of Jyväskylä proved significant for his later life as well.
After he graduated from upper secondary school, Rannankari, originally from Veteli, started class teacher studies in Jyväskylä. It was not his first choice, however. “I had an athlete’s identity and yearned for a study place in the Faculty of Sport and Health Sciences,” Tuomo says.
“I trained a lot for the admission tests and was truly disappointed when I failed to get in. My sister had studied in the Department of Teacher Education and recommended it to me.”
Unlike with the Faculty of Sport and Health Sciences, he was admitted to teacher education. Jyväskylä was not a familiar city to Tuomo beforehand. He could not even find any proper housing at first and had to live for the first couple of weeks at his friend’s place. However, in the Department of Teacher Education Tuomo immediately felt at home. “It was in a way a cultural shock to find out how many like-minded people there were among the new fellow students,” he remembers.
“It was like going to first grade again. We got on really well, and studying was a lot like school. I really liked it and was happy I had been admitted. We still have reunions on a regular basis.”
As the best memories from his university years, Tuomo mentions his studies in performance skills and drama pedagogy. The group put on a performance of the play Tukkijoella as their course project. For those days, Tuomo sends his thanks to his teacher Erkki Laakso and music teacher Esa Markku Juutilainen. Tuomo says he learnt holistically about what it means to be a teacher.
“It felt great when the university teachers went all out and threw themselves into the activities.”
However, the number one thing from Tuomo’s study years is still Seminaarinmäen mieslaulajat – Semmarit for short – as he was one of the founders of this choir. It consisted of kindred spirits who eventually became colleagues and lifelong friends to each other. “In the group, I was one of those who had the most experience in an ordinary choir,” Tuomo remembers. “We wanted to get rid of the stiffness and rigidity associated with traditional choir singing and do something different.” Out-of-the-ordinary choir singing remains a trademark of Semmarit.
“The excellent group provided a safe scaffolding for professional growth as well, a way to acquire intellectual capital for oneself.”
Although Rannankari was long an active in Semmarit as a singer and songwriter, it took years before he fully took up music in a professional sense. He worked as a class teacher in Jyväskylä for about twenty years. But music gigs came little by little, and one led to another, and so there was again more work to do. His career took a new turn due to an illness.
“At the beginning of the 2000s, I got asthma at work because of indoor air problems. I was pondering how I could continue and suggested to my employer that I could make rounds to day care centres as a musician.”
This is how Tuomo Rannankari started to make music for children, which has always felt natural to him. He began to give concerts for children, where he sang that he had written to his pupils already in his teacher days.
“Through the concerts, they picked me up for the Musarullaa tour of Pikku Kakkonen and further to host the TV programme.”
After graduating, Rannankari made a career as a teacher, but from 2017 onwards he has worked as a freelancer. He finds that each job has prepared him for the next one: “I couldn’t host Pikku Kakkonen without my teacher education and years of work experience,” he says.
Even though he left the physical work of the teacher in the past, Tuomo’s teacher identity has carried on through his songs. Pedagogical competence can be used in many settings, not just the classroom.
“A hint to students: Don’t worry unnecessarily about whether you have found your field at once. Different career paths are possible. It is good to remember that academic freedom continues after your studies as well.”
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