Marja “Marjukka” Olamaa, Violin Teacher Trainer, FINLAND 1952 - 2019
Marja Olamaa, long-standing chairperson of The Finnish Suzuki Association, violin teacher and teacher trainer passed away on the 28th of February 2019 in Terhokoti, a palliative care home in Helsinki.
Marja, or Marjukka as she was known, was born in Helsinki 9.12.1952 a daughter of two biology teachers who were also music lovers. Her father, Aarne Vuorijoki, was a co-founder of the Käpylä Music Institute in 1957, and Marjukka was one of its first cohorts. Her studies continued at The Sibelius Academy, her tutors being Ari Angervo and Seppo Tukiainen. When undergoing her pedagogical studies at the Academy, Marjukka agreed to accept as a pupil a boy of four nobody else had dared to take on. This set her on a path to explore the world of teaching small children. Sirpa Lannes-Tukiainen, who was teaching violin pedagogy, introduced Marjukka into the Suzuki-method in the 70’s, the method being still quite unknown in Finland at that time.
However, thanks to her young pupil the Suzuki method awoke Marjukka´s interest and in 1985 she began Suzuki teacher training studies together with Hannele Lehto. The two were taught by the Danish teacher trainer Tove Detreköy (1925-2018). This was the beginning of decades of close cooperation between Marjukka and Hannele.
Marjukka began her teaching career in the Kerava Music Institute, but returned to her roots at the Käpylä Music Institute in 1981. Alongside their work, Marjukka and Hannele continued their studies in teaching the Suzuki-method and in 1991 they received their teacher trainer Diplomas. Tove Detreköy wanted the two of them to continue her work in Finland, and so Marjukka and Hannele, as soon as they finished their own studies, began training new teachers.
Marjukka was also active in the Finnish Suzuki Association. She was chairperson from 1995-2016. On top of teacher training she organised the national Suzuki camps first in Ellinvuori, then in Linnasmäki, Turku.
As a pedagogue, Marjukka was firm but gentle: she had an exceptional talent in achieving ambitious goals exclusively through child-centred methods. She was an extremely precise teacher and a true authority for both pupils and their parents, whilst at the same time she sincerely loved the children and working with them.
Marjukka also succeeded in creating a community of the pupils and their families, which especially in the 80-90’s was astonishingly active and close-knit. Many of her pupils from those days still warmly remember the great “Suzuki-family” they were part of. Many friendships between pupils and their parents still remain from those days. Former pupils have also brought their own children to study with Marjukka. This brought her great joy. Former students of Marjukka play in some of our most prestigious orchestras, such as The Radio Symphony Orchestra and Helsinki City Orchestra. Furthermore many of those who were studying with her are now violinists working in other fields of music as educators or free lance musicians, and even soloists.
In her private life Marjukka has been described as something of a hermit. She enjoyed being on her own in her country cottage for long periods of time, with just her camera and birds in the vicinity keeping her company. Metaphors linked with nature were reflected in her teaching too; most of Marjukka’s pupils may well remember the frequent rhythms in baroque music compared to Siberian jays. In her sessions you could ‘stroke a dog with a saggy back’ or make a sounds like ‘the shape of a cow’s stomach’. Birds especially were of interest to this daughter of biologists, and photographing birds was hobby dear to her until her last days.
The Finnish Suzuki Association remembers Marjukka with warmth and is grateful to her for her immeasurably valuable work for the Suzuki Community in Finland.
“As a teacher, Marjukka was uncompromising. She took the player safely and skilfully towards their goal. The child and later the young person learned to demand beauty from their own sound. ”