Patrik Kleemola is a classical guitarist. Few people may know his name but his performances are inspirational. Kreol Magazine interviewed the artist about his life and career.

If you were to sit down with a group of 10 musicians and listen to the tales of their childhood, inspiration, and source of talent, you might be surprised how frequently you hear similar answers. However, just because many musicians share a similar background from the discovery of talent through its nurturing and growth, that doesn’t mean all artists are the same. Patrik Kleemola, a Finn, is an extremely gifted guitarist, but if you never spoke to him you wouldn’t know how truly unique he is as an artist.

Patrik-Kleemola

Patrik Kleemola’s (top row far right) at 20th anniversary of Finnish guitar music concert. organised by Professor J. R. Monroy (top row far left) of Latin American and Caribbean Cultural Society (LACCS-UK), at Purcell Room, Queen Elizabeth Hall, London.
PHOTO: Roland Kemp

A Family of Musicians

Patrik’s grandparents had musical talent in their blood. His maternal grandfather was an accomplished accordion player, and his paternal grandfather sang in a local choir for years. With a little bit of music in his blood, Patrik built upon that foundation to become the only one in his family to take his music seriously as a profession.

His interest in music, and the guitar specifically, was evident from a young age. Patrik’s talent began to emerge at the age of 10, and one of his first purchases as a young man was an electric guitar. From the age of 10 onward, he played the classical guitar. Throughout his youth he pursued a mixture of musical genres that fall on very different ends of the musical spectrum.

As a teenager, his interest in progressive rock and heavy metal led him to play the electric guitar in a band. That very same electric guitar that he bought as his first instrument enabled his performance, but unfortunately he admits that its fate is unknown to him today as it has been lost in recent years.

Despite his love for rock and heavy metal, and performance in a band, he never stopped pursuing classical guitar. While performing with the band, he continued studying classical guitar at a local music institute. Over time, the guitar and its repertoire began to grow on him. He was particularly attracted to the classical guitar and its associated music because it was, as he put it, “less showy, but more personal”.

Inspiration as an Artist: Julian Bream

Another common question that many people ask musicians about focuses on the source of inspiration. Like many artists, Patrik does not pretend to claim his musical prowess is the result of entirely his own visions. He has drawn stimulation from various artists throughout his life, and studied under many others who have helped shape his own musical style.

When he first felt a pull toward the classical guitar rather than the electrical guitar, it was the repertoire of English guitarist Julian Bream that proved inspirational in his mind. He would watch television series on the history of Spanish guitars, and Bream’s interpretations and the expressions of style blew him away.

Although he performed in a group within the intense genre of progressive rock and heavy metal, Patrik found the intensity and personal nature of classical guitar more powerful than the heavy metal bands he was listening to and playing alongside. But guitarists weren’t his only inspiration. He admits to enjoy the sounds of Radu Lupu with Schubert, and the recordings of Claudio Arrau, categorizing both as “sublime”.

As for his direct learning experiences, he completed a series of master classes in Siena, Italy. He was a student of Oscar Ghiglia at the prestigious Academia Musicale Chigiana. He spent three summers working closely with some of the brightest young talents, like him, from around the world. Patrik continued his studies in Italy under Massimo Felici, Stefano Grondona, and Lorenzo Micheli.

His studies would eventually bring him home to his native Finland. Following his studies in Italy, Patrik studied at the Turku Music Academy with Timo Korhonen and Ismo Eskelinen.

Patrik-Kleemola2-(photo-by-Heikki-Tuuli)

Patrik Kleemola
PHOTO: Heikki Tuuli

Performing Globally, Involved at Home

Kleemola’s career has grown to a point where he has garnered accolades around the world for his performances, while remaining grounded in his hometown of Turku, Finland. During his professional career, Patrik has played at London’s Purcell Room in the Queen Elizabeth Hall, and performed as a soloist alongside the famous Venezuelan youth orchestra, Orchestra el Sistema.

These days he spends much of his time in Turku. The former capital of Finland, Turku is the city that Patrik calls home, and he strives to perform in his native Finland and give back when he can. He performs roughly 20 concerts each year, ranging from solo recitals and chamber music to solo performances accompanying orchestras. Not only does he perform throughout his local community, he has also grown into a role as a teacher in Turku. Currently, he is also the artistic director of the Turku Guitar Festival, scheduled for the spring of 2016.

Patrik has been teaching the guitar to other musicians since he was 20, but his role has grown in recent years. He now spends half of his time practicing his own music, and the rest of his time teaching in a Turku music institute. He admits that it takes up a lot of his time each week, but says that having a fixed job where he can give back is a good thing. As he sees it, “You learn a lot when you have to verbalize your thoughts for students”.

Advice and Tips for Others

As a teacher, Patrik doles out advice on a daily basis, but it never hurts to gain further insight from a musician of his talent level. He admits that while music came to him naturally, no artist should count on their instincts alone. Patrik practices constantly to maintain his skills and grow as an artist.

When it comes to preparing for major concerts, nerves can be a difficult factor to overcome. He believes in preparation and concentration when it comes to defeating nerves. As for advice to up-and-coming artists, he offers the following:

“Concentrate on the essence of your music first and redefine your craft tirelessly. Worry later about what people think about it or even better: do not worry about it at all”.

Patrik plans to keep his head down and continue with his work in the years to come. His profession has brought him many beautiful experiences to date, through concerts, meeting people, and travelling around the world. While he admits to having no particular goals for the near future, he admits that a recital in New York’s Carnegie Hall would be special.