Sibelius concert created by cellist Jussi Makkonen and pianist Nazig Azezian has become the all-time most popular children’s concert in Finland. As of 2010, Konserttikeskus (Concert Centre Finland) has arranged over 1,400 school concerts across Finland, and these concerts have had already over 400,000 listeners. The artists’ school concerts have also achieved great success outside Finland: in Hong Kong, Italy, Belgium, Norway and the United States. By the end of 2017 the Sibelius school concerts have reached an audience of 500,000 children.
In the narrative children’s concerts written by cellist Jussi Makkonen, the artists perform Sibelius’ music and, between the songs, tell the listeners stories about Sibelius’ life and the compositions heard at the concert in an absorbing way. The Sibelius Society of Hämeenlinna granted him a Sibelius Birthplace Medal in December 2014 for his merits as a performer of Sibelius’ music to hundreds of thousands of schoolchildren. In August 2015, Makkonen was granted an acknowledgement award by the Kalevala Jewelry Cultural Foundation for his outstanding work for Finnish culture.
The children and schoolchildren’s multimedia concert offers the best bits of the Sibelius Inspiration multimedia concert. The new multimedia concert has been performed at schools as of autumn 2015, and the response has been very enthusiastic.
In January 2015, Melody Forest – In the Footsteps of Jean Sibelius, a children’s picture book created at Makkonen and Azezian’s initiative, was released in Finnish, English and Swedish. The book has become one of the best-selling children’s books in Finland. The Melody Forest book illustrated by Katri Kirkkopelto has been distributed to every Finnish elementary school with the support of the Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture in 2015. Makkonen and Azezian's Melody Forest CD, that was recorded in Ainola, sold platinum in August 2017.
You can watch a video on the book’s origins here: