Sasha Mäkilä, Conductor

Finnish conductor Sasha Mäkilä is gaining recognition as one of the most prominent rising talents of his generation in both operatic and symphonic fields. Since 2017 maestro Mäkilä has been Artistic Director of the Helsinki Metropolitan Orchestra. In a short period of time, Mäkilä has made a name for himself as a versatile artist with a broad repertoire ranging from baroque to contemporary. In maestro Mäkilä’s previous post as Music Director of St Michel Strings, he lifted the orchestra from near oblivion to national fame, taking them on international tours and music festivals and by inviting world-class soloists as well as introducing concert webcasts.

Sasha Mäkilä’s conducting career has taken him to four continents and to major ensembles, such as the Cleveland Orchestra and the Mariinsky Theatre. Mäkilä has performed at the Savonlinna Opera Festival, Mikkeli Music Festival, Pyeongchang Music Festival (South Korea) and Nargenfestival (Estonia) and collaborates with soloists such as Vadim Repin, Kyung-Wha Chung and Jian Wang. Mäkilä has conducted the world premieres of Free Will (2012, Savonlinna Opera Festival), Lovers of Mankind (2009, Musica Nova Helsinki), as well as Finnish premieres of Philip Glass’s chamber operas In the Penal Colony and Les Enfants Terribles.

Originally a cellist, Sasha Mäkilä studied conducting at the Sibelius Academy (Finland) and at the St. Petersburg State Conservatory (Russia). After completing a three-year tenure at Orchestre National de France as maestro Kurt Masur’s assistant he was nominated a Conducting Fellow at the American Academy of Conducting in Aspen. Mäkilä is a prizewinner of the Vakhtang Jordania International Conducting Competition (USA, 2006), and in 2013 the University of Helsinki presented him with the Pacius Award for his contributions to Finnish musical life.”

Taru Ritavesi, pianist

Taru Ritavesi is a versatile pianist who specializes in different areas of collaborative piano. She started her piano studies at Lappeenranta Music School with Tuula Hirvenoja and Marja Kääriäinen as her teachers. In 1995, she moved to the Conservatory of Central Finland as a student of Carlos Turriago, graduating as a music pedagogue in 1999. After that Ritavesi completed postgraduate studies at the Prague Music Academy in 1999–2000 and in 2001–03 at the Guildhall School of Music, London, where she completed a Master’s degree in correpetition and collaborative piano.

In 2002, Taru Ritavesi won the Cunard Carpathia Award at the Guildhall School, London, and the 2006 Pieksämäki Poleeni lied pianist competition at the Kangasniemi Music Festival.

In addition Ritavesi has worked as rehearsal pianist of the Finnish National Ballet 2003–04. She regularly works as an accompanist for various singing masterclasses and has performed at the Kuhmo Chamber Music Festival in 2010-12. Since 2012, she has been the competition pianist of the Toivo Kuula singing competition.

Taru Ritavesi has been the rehearsal pianist for Sasha Mäkilä’s conducting masterclasses since 2013.