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Martin Wegelius

Born November 10, 1846, Helsinki. Died March 22, 1906, Helsinki.

Master of Philosophy (Aesthetics), 1869, Imperial Alexander University
Music studies in Helsinki, Vienna, 1870-1871, Leipzig, 1871-1873, Munich, 1877-1878
Trips to Germany, 1876, 1882, 1886; France and Belgium, 1889-1890; Italy, 1901

Singing teacher in various schools in Helsinki, 1868-1869, 1880-1902
Leader, Akademiska sångföreningen (Academic choral society), 1869-1870, 1873-1876
Répétiteur (music coach), Swedish Theatre in Helsinki, 1873-1877
Conductor, Finnish Opera, 1878-1879
Founder, Helsinki college of music (aka Sibelius Academy)
Music Theory Teacher, Director, 1882-1906, Helsinki college of music
State Pension for Artists, 1902
Lectures on music and music history, 1870s

Memorial, Ramsholmen (Tammisaari-Ekenäs, southwest Finland)

Named after Wegelius
Martin Wegelius Institute Foundation, 1956
Martin Wegelius minne -memorial foundation, 1931

Photo: National Board of Antiquities
Written by Tomas Sjöblom
Translated by John Calton

The Martin Wegelius Institute

Martin Wegelius was perhaps the most prominent pioneer in Finnish music pedagogy at the turn of the 20th century. He was one of the main founders of the Helsinki music college and had a great influence on the Swedish-speaking music movement in Finland. It comes as no surprise that his students should decide to name a music institute after him.

The song festival at Tammisaari in 1891 planted the seed of an idea in Wegelius’ mind. He was of the opinion that courses were needed for choristers and conductors. He participated in organising the first of those courses with the Svenska folkskolans vänner association. Over the next decades their activity grew and Finlands svenska sång- och musikförbund (FSSMF, the Swedish song and music association of Finland), which was founded in 1929, joined them. The demand was still greater than the supply by the time they got to the 1950s.

The organist Enzio Forsblom, who was member of Finlands svenska kantor-organistförening (the Swedish cantor and organist society) and FSSMF made a proposal at the annual meetings of the associations in January 1956, that already in the summer of that year the Swedish-speaking music associations would jointly organise a course for conductors. His idea was met with approval, but was postponed to 1957 due to other projects.

Forsblom thought that vague co-operation was not a strong enough basis for real action. He proposed that a foundation be planned to take care of the matters concerning courses. The foundation was established in December 1956 and at the beginning of the following year articles of agreement were delivered to the Ministry of Justice.

Following a suggestion made by the teacher and chamber choir leader Harald Andersén, the foundation was named after Martin Wegelius, the pioneer of music pedagogy. It came to be called Stiftelsen för Martin Wegelius-institutet.

At first the institute was primary purpose was to provide continuing education for adult conductors and choristers. It was soon noticed however that organising education for orchestral musicians and choir singers alike was practical.

The chamber orchestra Wegelius kammarstråkar in concert. Photo: Rikhard Tiula.​
The chamber orchestra Wegelius kammarstråkar in concert. Photo: Rikhard Tiula.​

The Wegelius institute’s first summer course was organised in 1957, and they have taken place each year since then. The institute’s activity has become more diverse over the years. Nowadays the institute also organises music camps for children and courses on folk music. There are many choirs and orchestras operating in collaboration with the institute, among them the celebrated string chamber orchestra, Wegelius kammarstråkar.

Wegelius kammarstråkar presents itself as a “creative and youthful” chamber orchestra. Photo: Rikhard Tiula.​
Wegelius kammarstråkar presents itself as a “creative and youthful” chamber orchestra. Photo: Rikhard Tiula.​



  • Lena von Bonsdorff & Tove Djupsjöbacka, Musik i ingenmansland. Martin Wegelius-institutet 1956–2006, (’Music in no man’s land. The Martin Wegelius institute 1956-2006’). Esbo 2006.
  • Jukka Sarjala, ‘Wegelius, Martin’, National Biography of Finland online. Accessed May 5, 2015. available via NELLI. (In Finnish.)
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