Organist Kent “Aarne” Washburn’s term as FFN Performer of the Year was interrupted and then extended due to COVID-19. He also offered a virtual concert option, and has been available in 2022 to fulfill appearances that were not possible earlier.
Kent has in his repertoire a host of Finnish musical experiences. The wide range of Finnish orchestral music that he transcribed for organ includes traditional folk music, patriotic marches and songs, and favorites such as “Kulkurin valssi,” and “Kotimaani ompi Suomi” and “Finlandia.”
Kent grew up in Ithaca, New York, where his mother, who was born in Finland, and his father were founding members of the Finger Lake Finns. He began piano lessons at age nine and organ studies at age 14, while enjoying participating in local Finnish music and dance activities. He went on to complete organ and music studies at Syracuse University.
Washburn lives in the Washington D.C. metro area and is organist at Arlington Memorial Baptist Church in Arlington, Virginia. He has performed on piano at the Finnish Embassy for Kalevala Night, and enjoys playing organ concerts of Finnish orchestral music.
Kent’s main program is the organ accompaniment to the 1929 silent film Mustalaishurmaaja (The Gypsy Charmer), for which he scored an organ soundtrack with colorful folk and popular Finnish music.
The film was written and directed by Valentin Vaala and Teuvo Tulio, two Russian immigrants to Finland, who stepped into the cinema limelight in 1929 with a colorful script featuring a Rudolph Valentino-like gypsy played by Tulio. Kent scored the film entirely with Finnish music, and to the colorful gypsy life on screen he matched a wealth of equally colorful folk and popular music.