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Wilho Saari

Tradition Bearer of The Finnish Kantele

Finlandia Foundation National Performer of the Year For 2011

Finlandia Foundation National is proud to announce Wilho Saari, a distinguished kantele master from Naselle, Washington, as a 2011 Performer of the Year. He can trace the tradition of kantele playing back five generations in his family. His great-great grandmother, Kreeta Haapasalo, is one of Finland’s notable kantele matriarchs, a kantele-heroine, as she is often called.

Saari’s degree in music has helped him to develop outstanding skill in teaching himself to play kantele later in life He is not only a recognized performer in demand, but also a well-respected and active teacher, who generously continues to share his kantele knowledge with numerous students around the country. Saari has received a Washington state Governor’s Heritage Award for his work popularizing and teaching kantele. In 2006, Saari was honored with a National Endowment for the Arts Heritage Fellowship, the country’s highest honor in folk and traditional arts. He is also a very productive composer of kantele music with over 2400 pieces written.

In 2010, Dr. Arja Kastinen from Finland published 365 of Saari’s compositions in a collection called “Tune-a-Day.” Saari has recorded two CDs on the kantele. His latest CD called “Vilhon Vintiltä” is mainly made up of his own compositions.

The 2011 Performer of the Year term starts January 1, 2011 and runs the full calendar year. During that time, Wilho Saari is available to perform throughout the country in various chapter events with travel expenses covered by the grant of Finlandia Foundation National. Host organizations are responsible for local arrangements including performance fees, local travel and accommodations.

For additional information, please contact Satu Mikkola, Coordinator of the Finlandia Foundation Performer of the Year Program at satum@aol.com