The following day Erik gave me a tour of Piteå. It’s a nondescript little town, driven by the music school and adjoining satellite campus of Luleå Technical University as well as summer tourism. Just a few hours drive from the heart of Lapland to the interior, Piteå’s location on the Swedish coast also categorizes it as part of the so-called “Nordic Riviera.” Only two hundred miles south of the arctic circle, Piteå enjoys 20hr days during the summer months. I clearly picked the wrong time to visit, as it has begun to get cold and rainy.
The music school/tech university facility is impressive. Home to no more than a thousand students, the campus is cozy and boasts state of the art facilities. The Acusticum theater is a professional concert hall that puts Wesleyan’s counterpart to shame. In addition to the classrooms and studios, there are countless rehearsal studios with pianos and other instruments for practicing. The school’s greatest attribute lies in its vertical integration of the entire music production process.
First you have the content creators (fantastic musicians), then you have the sound engineers (and fully outfitted recording studios) to capture the music, then music producers (with top of the line editing software) to mix and master the tracks, then you have multimedia/graphic designers to create the cover art, pamphlets, etc., then you have the entire TV production department to film live concerts and/or music videos. And the best part – it’s all free. EU citizens pay $0 in tuition. (Ok, indirectly this is funded by higher overall taxes, but would you rather graduate in a mountain of debt/loans or take home less of your income later in life?). Sweden 1 – US 1. The school’s cafeteria food is also phenomenal, in case you were curious.
Later in the afternoon, I sat in on Erik’s choir rehearsal. [I posted a short clip of them singing a Jan Sandström (personal friend of Erik and one of Sweden’s best choral composers) piece several days ago]. Since the choir is a year-long class and not its own major, only 6 of the 24 singers were familiar to me – the rest of the Wesleyan contingent had either graduated already or not returned to the choir. One choraler was an American, from Oregon by way of Middle Tennessee State. I also met two percussionists from the U.S., Ohio and Texas to be exact. Although everyone did ask me what I was doing in Piteå, it’s clear that I am not the only random Yankee here! The choir sounded great. They only sang one or two pieces continuously from start to finish – it was a rehearsal after all – but I formed a solid impression of the group. The bass section in particular is excellent this year.
After the rehearsal, several of the singers were performing in a Magnus Tingsek tribute concert the Kårhuset, or student-run multipurpose performance space. Tingsek is not dead; quite the opposite, as it seems he’s still in the prime of his career, but I suppose they’re allowed to call it a tribute concert if they want. It was quite the production, and all eleven performers (2 drummers, 4 back-up singers, bass, guitar, keyboards, and two lead vocalists) were music students. How convenient. Check out some concert clips below. The lead girl singer is unbelievable. Damn. From talking to her after the show, I don’t think she has any idea how good she really is. They may not always seem so, but Swedes are in fact generally very modest.