In its early years, the first Patron of Finlandia Foundation National was Finnish composer, Maestro Jean Sibelius.
Finlandia Foundation National (FFN) was formed in 1953 in Pasadena, California, under the leadership of Consul Yrjö Paloheimo, who served as president for the first six years.
A main goal of the Foundation was to “unite all friends of Finland in America and perpetuate Finnish-American cultural institutions.” One of the questions that arose was, “How could Finland, remote and far away, assist in this effort?”
The concept of “Finnish culture” in the minds of Foundation Trustees at that time was exemplified by the thrust towards music, and that is not a surprise since the first four years of the existence of FFN (1953-1957) were also the last four years of the life of Jean Sibelius.
Sibelius agreed willingly to be associated with the fledgling foundation as its Patron or Sponsor in Finland. The first Finlandia Foundation National scholarship fund was named after Jean Sibelius, and in 1954 the composer was presented with a birthday scroll with over 2,000 donor names for the Sibelius Scholarship Fund.
The year 2004 was an historic year for the Finlandia Foundation National with the opening in May of its first national office during its 50 years of existence. The excitement continued with the announcement that conductor/composer Esa-Pekka Salonen agreed to become the Patron of the Foundation.
Salonen was born in Finland in 1958 and studied at The Sibelius Academy and with private teachers in Italy. He is currently the Principal Conductor and Artistic Advisor for London’s Philharmonia Orchestra. From 1992 until 2009 Salonen was chief conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, where he was also Music DIrector. He appears as guest conductor with orchestras around the world.
Salonen’s talent as a composer was recently recognized with the Nemmers Composition Prize from the Henry and Leigh Bienen School of Music at Northwestern University.
Cultivating ties with Finland has always been a central purpose of the Foundation, and with Esa-Pekka Salonen as its Patron, Finlandia Foundation National reaffirms its commitment to Finland and to the recognition of the value of music within our lives, beginning with the education of our younger generation.