Finnish pianist Marja Kaisla plays May 4 benefit concert


Marja Kaisla, Whatcom Museum

Marja Kaisla, a Finnish concert pianist and the Finlandia Foundation performer of the year in 2013, will welcome spring with European and American compositions at 7 p.m. Sunday, May 4, 2014 in Whatcom Museum's Old City Hall, Rotunda Room, 121 Prospect St. Bellingham Children’s Orchestra also will perform.


Tapio Holma, the president of Whatcom County's Finlandia Foundation, Suomi chapter, wrote to me about the upcoming celebration of Finnish May Day, called Vappu, and more about the chapter.

He says the nonprofit chapter works to promote and share members' Finnish heritage with the community.

The national chapter, established in 1953, has 8,000 members across the United States. The local chapter, Holma says, was established four years ago and has 36 members.

To foster cultural awareness, the chapter has brought several Finnish artists to Bellingham, including The Helsinki Policeman's Choir and The Vaasa Men's Orchestra, has hosted lectures by scholars and helped sponsor the Mt. Baker Toppers' trip to Vaasa, Finland.

Also, members of local affiliated organizations go to Scandinavia and Finland to promote friendship between our countries. With the help of members, Bellingham is now a sister city with Vaasa, the only city in Europe with that distinction.

As part of the May Day celebration, the chapter is hosting a Vappu Concert at 7 p.m. Sunday, May 4, at Whatcom Museum's Old City Hall building, featuring Finnish pianist Marja Kaisla and the newly formed Bellingham Children's Orchestra. Traditional Finnish appetizers will be served afterward.

Holma says Finnish May Day is celebrated throughout Europe to welcome spring and to acknowledge workers, akin to our Labor Day celebration in September.

Kaisla, who was born in Helsinki, began piano studies at age 3 and made her public debut at age 5. As a chamber musician, recitalist and concerto soloist, she has performed in Europe, the former Soviet Union and the United States.

Kaisla received her education in piano performance at Sibelius Academy in Helsinki, at St. Petersburg Conservatory in Russia, with György Sebök in Switzerland and with Susan Starr in Philadelphia.

Since moving to the United States in 1987, she has enjoyed an active concert career on stage, radio, television and major motion pictures. She now lives in Philadelphia.

The Finlandia Foundation National, the premier network of Finnish-American organizations in the United States, named Kaisla as its 2013 performer of the year. For more about her, see

Bellingham Children's Orchestra, which will open the concert for Kaisla, is comprised of 7- to 12-year-olds who attend Whatcom County schools. They recently performed at the Allied Arts Holiday Festival in December and at the Leopold Retirement Residence during the first Friday Art Walk in February.

The orchestra supplements the work of local private teachers by teaching young musicians skills necessary to play in an orchestra. The orchestra also provides social support for the young string players.

Holma says the concert will benefit the two organizations - the Bellingham Children's Orchestra, and the Suomi chapter of Finlandia Foundation and its Finnish language school, set to open this fall.


There's a music school in town for young pianists that was founded two years ago, and founder Mary Walby thought it was time to host an open house to let parents know about it.

On Saturday, May 3, kids can explore the piano with Walby at Piper Music, 2512 Meridian St.

Discovery Music Academy targets kids 7 and older. Walby started the school with a focus on not just teaching students to play piano, but on understanding how music relates to and enriches their lives.

"My hope is that kids and parents interested in piano will come to the open house to get a taste of my teaching style and just how much fun learning the piano can be," she says. "The event is meant to be an informal opportunity for families to discover the wonders of playing piano."

Walby has more than 25 years of experience teaching and performing. She studied piano and pedagogy at Washington State University, and has been teaching piano in Bellingham for nine years.


Seattle Opera's production of "The Tales of Hoffman" will be the last stage opera presentation of general director Speight Jenkins.

Offenbach's fantastical story about writer E.T.A. Hoffman's misadventures in love runs Saturday, May 3, through May 17 at McCaw Hall, in Seattle Center.

There will be two special events honoring Jenkins; on Aug. 7 (the annual Wagner competition) and Aug. 9 (a concert with 16 of his favorite singers).

Seattle Opera is celebrating its 50th anniversary this season. Jenkins has been at his post for 31 years. Details:


When: 10 a.m.-noon Saturday, May 3.

Where: Piper Music, 2512 Meridian St.

Details: 360-527-9626,,, and Discovery Music Academy on Facebook.


When: 7 p.m. Sunday, May 4.

Where: Whatcom Museum's Old City Hall building, Rotunda Room, 121 Prospect St.

Tickets: Concert features pianist Marja Kaisla and the Bellingham Children's Orchestra. $20 adults, $10 for students, free for kids 12 and younger.

Details:, 360-714-8600,

Behind the Scenes focuses on the people who make the arts and entertainment world of Whatcom County happen. It appears in Take Five, The Bellingham Herald's entertainment section, each Thursday. Margaret Bikman is the Entertainment News Coordinator at The Bellingham Herald. Contact her at 360-715-2273 or

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