Professor Erkki Pohjola (4.1.1931–19.1.2009) was a pioneering figure in the success story of Finnish music education and also in the international children’s and youth choir movement worldwide.

Erkki Pohjola

Outside of Finland Erkki Pohjola was best known as the conductor of The TAPIOLA CHOIR, which developed under his charge from an ordinary secondary school choir into one of the most highly extolled vocal instruments of its time. Pohjola founded the choir in 1963 and led it, alongside his many other commitments, for more than thirty years. The work of the choir became famous all over the world, and prompted the international choral community to speak glowingly of the “TAPIOLA SOUND”.

In 1971 The Tapiola Choir won the main prize, the coveted Silver Rose Bowl, in the BBC’s “Let the Peoples Sing” competition. Under Pohjola’s leadership these children have made 50 concert tours abroad, travelling as young Finnish ambassadors three times around the world, all over Europe and to the United States, Canada, Japan, South Korea, Israel, Australia and New Zealand. The choir has made nearly 20 recordings and has worked hand-in-hand with many leading Finnish and foreign composers. Pohjola’s book “Tapiola Sound” was published in Finland 1992, and has subsequently appeared in English and Japanese translations (Walton Music, USA, 1992, Ongaku no tomo, Japan, 1994).

At the same time Erkki Pohjola fostered the development of a new idea of music education: after meeting Zoltán Kodály and Carl Orff in 1964, he developed from their and his own ideas a liberal approach to teaching, with his leaning towards chamber music principles and taking as its starting point the natural creativity and musicality of the child.

Erkki Pohjola was also known as the father of Finland’s most widely-used school music textbook series MUSICA (Edition Fazer) and the artistic director of three major musical festivals in Finland. He was made an Honorary Professor by degree of the President of Finland 1984, and the Honorary Doctor of Sibelius Academy in 1997.

After handling over the Tapiola Choir in 1994 to his successor Kari Ala-Pöllänen, Erkki Pohjola continued to maintain an active international schedule as a much sought-after quest conductor, lecturer and adjudictator. In 1992–1996 he was the representative of Scandinavia in the Board of Directors of ISME, the International Society for Music Education. He developed a project called SONGBRIDGE, the world-wide co-operation with children’s and youth choirs and contemporary composers. UNESCO has raised Songbridge 2000-2001 as part of campaign “La musique au service de la paix”, celebrating the UN Year for the Culture and Peace.

Tapiola Choir Received the UNESCO Prize for Promotion of the Performing Arts at the 4th World Symposium on Choral Music in Sydney in 1996.