Category Archives: Writing & blogging

Writing and books have been Tiija’s passion for many years. Determined to pursue one her goals in life, Tiija recently wrote and published her debut novel ‘Four Sides to the Core’. The book is a semi-autobiographical novel that consists of small self-contained stories from Nepal, Kenya, Jordan and Pakistan. These stories form a bigger narrative that touch human rights, universal values and daily realities in these different cultures. It is a book based on Tiija’s travels in different countries as a development aid worker and researcher.

In 2012, Tiija also published two children’s books. The first book, ‘Nuttie – the Under water Survivor’, contains a story that she had come up with many years ago on alien creatures living on our earth, yet never had the chance to tell others. The second book, ‘The Joyland’, is a story set in Africa, aimed at Western children in order to highlight how different their lives could have been if they were born in a different continent. Both books were illustrated by primary school children.

You can find all of Tiija’s books and order copies at:

At present, in addition to working on a novel, Tiija writes a regular blog. This blog brings the reader stories from countries that Tiija have travelled to; whether close or far away. The blog also contains information about films that Tiija has seen, books that she has read and other exciting experiences that have come her way.

You can find the blog here:

Tiija is available for freelance writing work. Previously, she has worked for a social policy site called Policy Bloggers Netowork (, and for the New Londoners Magazine ( Rates of pay are negotiable.

Sibelius – perhaps the most well-known composer from Finland

Over the past few weeks, we have been learning about different classical music composers in our music theory classes. Sometimes we can be so focussed on playing the music that we forget about the forces behind the creation of such wonderful pieces!

This past week we learnt about Sibelius, perhaps the all time greatest Finn in the realm of classical music. Having been born in Finland and spending the first 18 years of my life there, it feels appropriate to share some knowledge of this great composer – in particular since Finland has always been considered to be a relatively small country in the back burner even if many brilliant things came from there such as Nokia and Kimi Raikkonen, not to forget the amazing education system that always tops any leader boards on education outcomes!

Jean Sibelius, born Johan Julius Christian Sibelius (8 December 1865 – 20 September 1957), was a Finnish composer and violinist of the late Romantic and early-modern periods. He is widely recognized as his country’s greatest composer and, through his music, is often credited with having helped Finland to develop a national identity during its struggle for independence from Russia.

The core of his oeuvre is his set of seven symphonies which, like his other major works, are regularly performed and recorded in his home country and internationally. His other best-known compositions are Finlandia, the Karelia Suite, Valse triste, the Violin Concerto, the choral symphony Kullervo, and The Swan of Tuonela (from the Lemminkäinen Suite). Other works include pieces inspired by nature, Nordic mythology, and the Finnish national epic, the Kalevala, over a hundred songs for voice and piano, incidental music for numerous plays, the opera Jungfrun i tornet (The Maiden in the Tower), chamber music, piano music, Masonic ritual music, and 21 publications of choral music.

Sibelius composed prolifically until the mid-1920s, but after completing his Seventh Symphony (1924), the incidental music for The Tempest (1926) and the tone poem Tapiola (1926), he stopped producing major works in his last thirty years, a stunning and perplexing decline commonly referred to as “The Silence of Järvenpää”, the location of his home. Although he is reputed to have stopped composing, he attempted to continue writing, including abortive efforts on an eighth symphony. In later life, he wrote Masonic music and re-edited some earlier works while retaining an active but not always favourable interest in new developments in music.

The Finnish 100 mark note featured his image until 2002, when the euro was adopted.Since 2011, Finland has celebrated a Flag Day on 8 December, the composer’s birthday, also known as the “Day of Finnish Music”.In 2015, the 150th anniversary of the composer’s birth, a number of special concerts and events were held, especially in the city of Helsinki.


Emotional Aspects of Musical Performance

Learning to read musical notes is a task that many students find tedious and often want to put it off – yet, it is crucial to learn to read note in order to be able to play pieces of music without anyone’s assistance. It can be quite a technical and mechanical task that requires a great deal of repetition.

What often happens is that students get so fixed on solely looking at the musical notes that they forget to consider other aspects of the music, such as dynamics and correct rhythm. This then results in the musical piece not sounding right and rather just as if someone is playing one note after the other from a random task.

When we think about musical performances, or even music that we listen to regularly, it is clear that there is so much more at play than simply playing the correct musical notes. Correct rhythm is important for getting the melody of pieces to come out; dynamics add variety to the piece and make them more colorful; slow or fast tempo of a piece create a different feeling in the listener… All these different aspects combined together result in a beautiful musical performance that evokes feelings in the listener (as well as the performer).

What we often hear from parents is that the student is not considering anything else than the musical notes when they do note reading, e.g. not the dynamics or even the correct lengths for the notes. This seems to be most true for students under the age of 12. It seems that the majority of this age group are so focussed on looking at the notes that they simply forget to consider any other aspects of playing the piece. When students reach the age of 11 or 12, they seem to pay more attention to the emotional connotations of music, as well as the correct rhythm.

There are plenty of exercises that can help with assisting students to consider the rhythm, dynamics and tempo of a piece. If this is something that the teacher and the parents feel like they need to work on, there are specific books out there for this. Another simple way to encourage students to consider these other aspects is to let them listen to music or take them to a concert and ask them to feel the music. Afterwards you can have a chat with them about how the music made them feel and what elements of the music made them feel in certain ways. That should help them consider these other aspects when playing new pieces on their own.


Post-doctoral Research Study on Music Education in Uganda

We are pleased to say that we have been awarded a scholarship to carry out an investigative study on the music education system in Uganda, East Africa. The scholarship was awarded by the Society for Education and Music Psychology Research (SEMPRE).

The research study will investigate current practice in music education across Uganda in order to identify challenges and potential ways forward in the field. The study will consist of data collection with local music education professionals in four regions of the country in order to gain a comprehensive understanding of the issue.

We delighted to be starting work on this important topic and we’ll be reporting any findings here on due course.


A Perfect Travel Blog to Follow

If anyone is looking for an inspiring and truthful travel blog to follow, here is the perfect one to read! Written by our friend and fellow volunteer, she provides you with a truthful account on a young lady travelling and volunteering abroad:


We have updated our website – there is a new section on our music school in London, UK, and added details of our other engagements and activities. Please take a look and enjoy!





Light Reading for the Summer

For anyone looking for some light reading this summer, Fanny Blake’s ‘House of Dreams’ is highly recommended! I came across the book while browsing in our local library for something to read – something that would be light to read but also entertaining and would have a good plot to follow. ‘House of Dream’ is just it and I’ve been laughing every evening now while reading it!

The book is a heart-warming tale of family secrets that are slowly revealed after the mother of the  family passes away and her three children go out to their family house on the Spanish coast for one last time. Just the setting alone is ideal reading for the summer – you can just imagine yourself sitting on the beach by the seaside (even when it’s raining outside in the UK!). As the siblings discover new things about their family and hippy mother, the reader is thoroughly entertained – but can also reflect on how all families are not as straightforward as they might seem for an outsider.

Fanny Blake had a successful career as an Editor for many of the major publishers in the UK before deciding that she actually wanted to write books herself, not just read other people’s books. Nowadays she also uses her literature knowledge on being a judge for several literary awards.

You can find out more about ‘House of Dreams’ and Fanny’s other books on her website – we think that her books are a must this summer!







BOOK REVIEWS:Marie Skilling – The Adventures of Benjamin Franklin

‘The Adventures of Benjamin Franklin’ is a novel aimed at children aged +5. The main character in the book, Benjamin, is desperate for adventure, but with few friends and strict parents it doesn’t seem possible. Since Benjamin is a child with fire in his heart, he decides it is time to find his own adventure. Heading out into the wild outdoors in search of new places, despite the horrid weather, he finds more than he ever expected. New characters spring into Benjamin’s life that he never thought that he would meet. When unexpected events threaten his safety, he is scooped up into an unimaginable world with stranger characters than before.

Marie Skilling, the London-based author who created Benjamin Franklin, was inspired to write Benjamin’s story on an adventure that took her miles away from her home, but which took place just around the corner from her parent’s home in Canada. Benjamin began his journey with Marie on a wintry day when hail fell from the sky and the winds nearly blew her away. Before Marie had a chance to see a willow tree, she ran home to stay warm and dry. It was there that she began to write Benjamin’s story. Benjamin’s tale is about his adventure into a world that is exciting and unusual. Strange goings on sweep him from the ordinary to the extraordinary.

In addition to Benjamin’s story, Marie has published books of poetry and writes a blog. For more information on her work and whereabouts, please see her excellent website:



J. K. Rowling (aka Joanne Kathleen Rowling) is most well known for her epic and phenomenally popular books series ‘Harry Potter’. The books took her life and work to a whole new level, yet she has been passionate about books and children for her entire life and led an interesting existence even before we all got to know Harry Potter and his friends. Even today we often see Rowling making a political point, donating to charities and raising awareness of good and worthy causes. So who is this powerful and talented lady?

Rowling was born in 1965 at Yate General Hospital in England and grew up in Chepstow, Gwent. From a young age, she was interested in literature, languages and stories, and left her local neighbourhood and school for Exeter University where she studied a degree in French and Classics. As part of her degree, she spent a year abroad in Paris.

After graduating, Rowling moved to London and worked in a number of jobs, one  as a researcher at Amnesty International. In fact, she has always taken a strong interest in human rights and even today still is vocal about how all humans should be treated with dignity. It was during her time in London when Rowling started writing the Harry Potter series, on a delayed Manchester to London train journey. Over the following five years, she outlined the plots for each book of the series and began writing the first novel.

After her time in London, Rowling moved to northern Portugal where she taught English as a foreign language. She got married in 1992 and gave birth to her daughter in 1993. When the marriage ended, she with her daughter Jessica returned to the UK to live in Edinburgh, Scotland, where ‘Harry Potter & the Philosopher’s Stone’ was eventually completed. The book was first published by Bloomsbury Children’s Books in June 1997, under the name J.K. Rowling. The ‘J’ for Jo or Joanne, and the ‘K’ for Kathleen, her paternal grandmother’s name, which was added at her publisher’s request who thought that a woman’s name would not attract young boys as a readership audience.

The second title in the series, ‘Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets’, was published in July 1998 and was No. 1 in the adult hardback bestseller charts for a month after publication. Somehow Rowling had managed to conquer the adult readership market as well the kids’ market! Adults and kids alike loved to read the fantasy stories of Harry Potter and lose themselves in stories that were completely different to their own daily lives.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban’ was published on 8th July 1999 to worldwide acclaim and spent four weeks at No.1 in the UK adult hardback bestseller charts. The fourth book in the series, ‘Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire’ was published on 8th July 2000 with a record first print run of 1 million copies for the UK. It quickly broke all records for the greatest number of books sold on the first day of publication in the UK.

‘Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix’ was published in Britain, the USA, Canada and Australia on 21st June 2003 and broke all records as the fastest selling book in history. ‘Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince’ was published in the UK, US and other English-speaking countries on 16th July 2005 and also achieved record sales. By now readers were truly hooked on the stories and left wanting to find out what would happen next to each character. The seventh and final book in the series, ‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows’, was published in the UK, US and other English speaking countries in 2007. By now, the books had been turned into films on the big screen.

Rowling has also written two small volumes that appear as the titles of Harry’s school books within the novels. ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’ and ‘Quidditch Through The Ages’ were published in March 2001 in aid of Comic Relief. Furthermore, in December 2008, ‘The Tales of Beedle the Bard’ was published in aid of the Children’s High Level Group (now Lumos).Yet again, Rowling showed her humanitarian side. There have been rumours that she has donated millions to different charities, but as a private person, she has refused to make such deeds public.

As well as an OBE for services to children’s literature,Rowling is the recipient of numerous awards and honorary degrees including the Prince of Asturias Award for Concord, France’s Légion d’Honneur, and the Hans Christian Andersen Literature Award. She has also been a Commencement Speaker at Harvard University, USA.

However, Rowling not only writes for her human companions but she also supports them in other ways. She is a keen supporter for a wide number of charitable causes through her charitable trust Volant, and is the founder of Lumos, a charity working to transform the lives of disadvantaged children.

Although the Harry Potter series has been widely read by adults, in 2012, Rowling published her first novel for adults ‘The Casual Vacancy’, which has now been published in 44 languages. She has also written ‘The Cuckoo’s Calling’, her first crime novel under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith, which was published in 2013 and is to be translated into 37 languages. She chose to use a pseudonym in order to attract the right readership instead of receiving praise simply on the basis of her name.

Rowling is currently writing a screen play called ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’, an original story set in the wizarding world, some of which will be familiar to Harry Potter fans.   It marks her screenwriting debut and the start of a new film series with Warner Bros. Currently, Rowling lives in Edinburgh with her husband and three children.

It’s no wonder that a person leading an interesting life would be able to write amazing stories for us – please see her website for more information on her books and public engagements:








As her name suggests, Danielle Steel is a woman made of steel. She has been writing fiction for decades and is showing no signs to stop any time soon. She has written dozens of books that have been read world-wide and has a wide readership in her native America, as well as in Europe. She is known for her enticing writing style and stories that warm everyone’s hearts.

The first time I read Steel’s stories, I was a teenager still living in Finland and looking for English novels to brush up my language skills. Within weeks, I had read most of her novels. They were the perfect way to entertain myself and to build up my vocabulary in English. Once I went to university and got into the working world, I heard about her new books but never got around reading them. Until this year when I had a chance to read her latest book – and now I am hooked again!

I thoroughly recommend the books to anyone during this Festive season – if not for anything else, at least for getting you into the festive spirit while reading stories of love, life and gratitude:



BOOK REVIEWS: The Shaman in Stilettos by Anna Hunt

One of the funniest books that I ever read is ‘The Shaman in Stilettos’ by Anna Hunt. I read the book three Christmases ago and, even now thinking about it, I find myself smiling. The book is Anna’s autobiography about her travels to Peru in Central America and about how it changed her outlook on life.Anna describes her spiritual journey in a hilarious way, with each little story in the book being detailed with a sense of humour yet clarity about the journey.

Although the book is essentially about values and spiritual aspects of life, it is also a travel memoir and so would be a delightful read for fellow travelers.

Here is the official introduction to the book:

‘Anna Hunt’s inspirational memoir charts her journey from Cambridge graduate and celebrity interviewer for one of the highest selling newspapers in Britain, to the untouched wilderness of the Peruvian rainforest where she spent months drinking one of the most potent hallucinogens known to man, to apprentice to a disarmingly handsome and charismatic Peruvian shaman. & back again. Today she is a London-based shaman working with an international portfolio of private and corporate clients.’

For more information on Anna’s work, see her website: