Just in: Juilliard professor is distanced amid US unrest

Just in: Juilliard professor is distanced amid US unrest


norman lebrecht

June 02, 2020

[Editor’s note: The headline has been altered to reflect a comment below.]

Matti Raekallio, the first Finn to teach at Juilliard in New York, has announced he is returning home to the Sibelius Academy as professor of piano from August. He has been on the faculty at Juilliard for 13 years.

Raekallio, 65, told Finnish media: ‘It is especially pleasant to return to Finland. It is easier to live again in a country that has an identity, is rationally governed and has social values that ​​are in the right direction.’

UPDATE: In a comment on this post (below), Raekallio provides  a slightly different translation of his remarks – ‘It feels like a relief to live in a country I can identify with, a country with a rational leadership, and a country which has the right kinds of social values.’ He adds: ‘Nowhere did I say that I am “quitting Juilliard over US unrest.”’

In a second comment to the post, he adds that he will continue teaching at Juilliard remotely from Finland. This did not appear in the Finnish media reports that we cited. We have adjusted the headline accordingly.


  • Francesca says:

    Nice to just be able to “go back”, isn’t it?

    • annnon says:

      That’s why Trump can so easily demonize foreigners — even those who have lived in the US for 13 years, even those with green cards, even those with dual citizenships — their allegiance is never to the United States, it’s always to their motherland.

      When the going gets tough, they all go crying home to mama.

      Blacks don’t have that choice, they didn’t have a choice when they were first brought over in chains either.

      They have to stay and fight for their rights, for change, and America — as a whole — became better for it: after the Civil War, after the Civil Rights Movement, after this.

      So go home, the idea of America, where each person is responsible for his own destiny, was never meant for you anyway.

      • Julliard hockey says:

        They had a choice…Lincoln got together with 12 of the most intellectual blacks and voted to stay….learn your history.

      • Sleepy Joe “You Know The Thing” says:

        You are correct.
        And these foreigners always lecture us on the values of socialism.

      • Irma Feingold says:

        This is a classical music blog dear.

        Your racist tirades are highly offensive to Jews for Trump and you don’t belong here!

    • Steve says:

      It’s not only a question of ‘go back’, Trump and Brexit are reasons for anyone to ‘get out’…

    • Donnie Trumpster says:

      Indeed. These foreigners abuse the system, make money in the US, take bribe money from wealthy families in East Asia (and that sweet, Chinese communist blood money built off the backs of slave labor and cultural repression) and then lecture us on our political system.

      Perhaps USA should start limiting work visas for every field, not just engineering.

  • Paul says:

    His criticism is correct, of course, but the article does not at all imply that he left BECAUSE of the unrest in the US. There’s no way that he quit Juilliard and got a big job back home in Finland in just the past week. This clearly had been planned for a long time.

    • Mr. Knowitall says:

      If Finland is like Germany, there is a mandatory retirement age for conservatory staff. He might just be retiring to teach privately.

    • Pirkko says:

      In a Finnish interview he points out that he’s going BACK to his old job only for one semester, because the Sibelius Academy hasn’t been able to fill the position because of the trumpvirus.
      The decision seems to be quite spontaneous, but obviously he’s fed up with living in the US of A.

    • Laura Leinberger says:

      What you say makes a lot of sense. I hope his students understand his need and can accept the fact that people have to do what’s best for them.

  • sam says:

    “a country that has an identity”

    Sure, Finland is really diverse

    Finn 93.4%
    Swede 5.6%
    Russian 0.5%
    Estonian 0.3%
    Romani 0.1%
    Sami 0.1%

    Almost as diverse as Staten Island in New York City.

    • Gotcha@gmail.com says:

      And why are you pointing this out?

    • V.Lind says:

      Who’s talking about “diversity”?

    • Jean says:

      Ridiculous comment

    • Bruce says:

      It’s clear you are being humorous/ sarcastic, but it’s hard to tell what your point is, and how it relates to Mr. Raekallio’s remark.

      Oh. Did you perhaps read “identity” to mean “racial identity”? Still not sure how your statistics would relate, but trying to figure out the reason for your use of statistics.

    • Gordon Luft says:

      So he misses “white only” Finland over the diversity in America??

      Catch the first plane back buddy.

  • Sir David Geffen-Hall says:

    Suck the US system dry and go home. Nice.

    Meanwhile he put some qualified US citizen out of work while he reaped the benefits of what the US had to offer.

    Sorry, I am a liberal, but these individuals drive me crazy.

    • kdc says:

      Sorry, wha???

      One of the reasons he’s going back is BECAUSE of the US system. Benefits? Like the healthcare system and retirement? Wait, no it’s better there.

      And if you have a problem with foreigners taking music jobs, keeping only US people involved you’d end up having maybe 10-15 people in every orchestra and conservatory. Yeah, good luck with that.

      Please…that kind of comment belongs on the Fox News site.

      • Anon says:

        As a EU member it’s nigh on impossible to get an orchestral job in the States, as the unions forbid it – only after it is deemed no American can fill that position! (Despite a full time job in Vienna/Berlin Phil) We know, as it has happened to colleagues, and please do not cite sound as a wind or brass player. String players are equally badly treated.

    • Steve says:

      As if a valued professer, from one of the world’s most historically/musically rich and cultured nations, had absolutely nothing to offer to the ‘US system’…

    • V.Lind says:

      Working and earning a living is “sucking the system dry”? He should have worked for nothing? Or not come at all?

      Some liberal. You sound like Trump.

    • Bruce says:


    • Bruce says:

      Sounds like the people who blame Mexicans for taking American jobs while ignoring the American employers who hire them over Americans.

      Juilliard could have found someone American… if they’d wanted to make citizenship a criterion.

  • Min says:

    This is not true at all. This has been planned for sometime. He is returning to his home country, temporarily, for health reasons. He will continue to teach at Juilliard (via online), while filling one year as interim professor at Sibelius while their ongoing search was put on hold. Juilliard is in support of this as are his students at Juilliard.

    • norman lebrecht says:

      What is true is wat he said to Finnish media, which we reported here.

      • Marshall says:

        What is true? Because the media reported it?
        What is truth?

      • V.Lind says:

        Does he say he is returning “over US unrest”?

      • Matti Raekallio says:

        In my comments to Finnish media I said this, verbatim: “ On helpottavaa asua taas maassa, johon voi samastua, jota johdetaan rationaalisesti, ja jonka yhteiskunnalliset arvot ovat oikeansuuntaiset.” Translated: “It feels like a relief to live in a country I can identify with, a country with a rational leadership, and a country which has the right kinds of social values.” Nowhere did I say that I am “quitting Juilliard over US unrest.” Ridiculous.

        • norman lebrecht says:

          The headline was a reasonable inference to draw from your critical comments about the US, which you have now confirmed. I will draw attention to your comment in the main post.

          • Bruce says:

            With due respect, there were plenty of grounds for Mr. Raekallio’s remarks even before the recent unrest — before 2020, for that matter.

        • Klara Min says:

          So glad to see that this is clarified! You must be furious! How did this come along without enough evidence? I am so relieved to see that you are not leaving Juilliard.

      • Bruce says:

        Perhaps both are true. That happens sometimes.

    • YC says:


    • Matti Raekallio says:

      This is exactly accurate.

  • Joe says:

    What Min stated is absolutely true – I know both Matti and a number of his students well, and the myriad reasons have been known to us for a while.

  • Araragi says:

    If you want to go back to Finland, by all means do so. America is not for everyone and he likely has reasons for returning of which we’re unaware. Just not sure why it’s necessary to bash your host country of 13 years before you leave.

    • YC says:

      He did not say that!!! This is a fake new!!!

    • V.Lind says:

      He has contributed to an aspect of American life — and possibly, probably, much more — and paid taxes and lived and shopped and paid rent and been a colleague, friend and neighbour for 13 years. Is he not entitled to criticise the country he has been living in when he sees something wrong?

      Did you ever read a story about Americans returning from abroad? I have, and they judge and respond pretty critically if they feel like it. Despite what Americans are raised to consider their exceptionalism, they are part of the world and as such governed by the same natural rules. If they are entitled to their views, so are others.

    • Steve says:

      It’s very necessary to bash a host country with a president like that – Trump and his supporters are an abomination which every decent person needs to call out.

  • Matti Raekallio says:

    [redacted: defamation]

    I am not “quitting Juilliard”.

    I am moving to Finland, and Juilliard, a school I dearly love, has graciously given me permission to continue my teaching remotely during the entire academic year 2020-2021.

    The reasons for my move are health-related, the decision was made much before the current social unrest in the US began, and Juilliard has been totally supportive of my decision and my situation all the time.

    The “news” as published by NL is untrue.

    Another thing completely is that I do enjoy the thought of living soon in a country which has a social system and hence a social situation I identify with and can be proud of.

    Matti Raekallio

    • Diane says:

      It’s unfortunate that N L feels it appropriate to redact (and claim defamation) a response directly from Mr. Raekallio. If only Mr. Raekallio could redact the entire N L article and headline for defamation.

  • Jo says:

    Mr. Raekallio made the decision in early May and he is leaving because of the pandemic. He said his healthy situation does not allow him to stay in the middle of the pandemic and the remote teaching will allow him to teach from Finland, where he feels more secure and comfortable. He is only leaving for a semester and will decide if to return or not.

  • Katie Li says:

    I don’t blame him.

  • Jean says:

    Whatever his personal reasons(?) might be, what he says to the public is at least equally interesting.

  • Bob says:

    Norman, how can you say that what you’ve reported is true when the headline is factually incorrect? He did not quit Juilliard. This story should be retracted immediately. The story here should be about Juilliard supporting a faculty member’s health needs in a time of crisis.

  • Laura Leinberger says:

    This Professor will be missed. Remote classes can’t be as good as those on site. Too bad he feels he needs to go home. So sorry for his students’ loss.

  • Meanwhile, back at the Yard, since when does Juilliard not have enough teaching assistants to fill the position, like it did in my day?

  • Jon says:

    I am shocked that any student, regardless of the instructor, would want to pay their full fee for distance learning. It is not the same as in-person instruction. There is no downside for him as he will be paid from both institutions. The other comment that was made is simply to incite comments from people who live and reside in the US. More students that will come out of Julliard with massive debts and little to no work opportunities. The cycle just goes round and round and round.

  • fflambeau says:

    Who can blame him?

  • Joe Patrych says:

    Matti is arguably the best college level piano professor in NY – the fact that he will teach at Jyard remotely is a boon to the school!

  • Jeff says:

    Man there is alot of bad reporting happening on this site lately. I mean it’s always pretty bad but it seems to be especially bad these last few weeks.

  • Ritva says:

    -An opportunist is an opportunist is an opportunist-variation on Gertrude Stein-
    In Helsingin Sanomat Raekallio says that he possibly is not returning to Juilliard.

    • Matti Raekallio says:

      To Ritva: Not so. Reread the HS article, and do your best to separate my words from the journalist’s interpretations. It isn’t that hard, I think.

      • Ritva says:

        To Matti: I am a native speaker …with enough experience with the press and philology…in case the journalist were to blame, I´m asking why didn´t you ask to see the text before publishing?-and väläyttää in Finnish is to be translated as giving the impression…so you lead the journalist to this conclusion which is very flattering for the Finns.

  • Meyers's Beer says:

    Please, everyone- go back to your lives! In the scheme of what’s going on in the world right now, this is a lot of fuss over a matter of absolutely no importance whatever. Like really, who cares?

  • Grace O'Malley says:

    The entire country was revolted and horrified by the murder of George Floyd by a rogue cop. How does that reflect badly upon our “social values?” The riots and destruction that have ensued have been organized by anarchists.
    Finland has a small (under 6 million), homogeneous population. It has no racial problems because there is only one race living there. Its birth rate is below replacement level. Enjoy Finland’s “national identity” while you can, professor.

    • fliszt says:

      Not to mention 5 months of darkness, and severe alcoholism problems. But, a great education system, and a wide appreciation for classical music.