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Interview by Katariina Forsberg

Our blog series checks in with New York’s local Finns and offers a few of their insider tips into the city. Today’s entry is about jazz guitarist Olli Hirvonen, who will perform at the Salmagundi Club tomorrow, February 15th, at 8:00 pm. Hirvonen got his training at the revered Sibelius Academy in Helsinki, and has been continuing his studies at the Manhattan School of Music since the fall of 2011. He was named Artist of the Year at last year’s Pori Jazz, the highest-profile jazz festival in Finland.

Q: What are your three favorite places in the city?

A: Riverside Park, Harlem and the West Village.

Q. What’s your favorite restaurant in the city?

A: When I go out, it’s usually Toast at Broadway and 125th Street. It’s a nice place and usually full of musicians from the nearby Manhattan School of Music. The food is good, drinks are cheap and the bartenders are cool by the most part.

Q: Do you have a favorite store?

A: I love bookstores. My favorite ones in the city are Strand on Broadway and Book Culture on 112th Street. For clothes, it’s definitely Uniqlo on 5th Avenue and 53rd Street.

Q: What do you like to do on your free time?

A: If I happen to have a day off, I usually just go walking around and shopping in midtown. I also try to see as much live music as I can.

Q: What do you think is the best thing about living in New York?

A: The atmosphere. For a jazz musician it’s extremely motivating to be around all the great music that is happening here. Also the community of musicians here is one-of-a-kind. The sheer amount of players really forces you to stand out of the crowd and find your own thing. Things also happen somehow faster here, you have to get into the flow, get things done, or you fall behind the curve. This is a huge inspiration for me.

Q: What do you miss the most about Finland?

A: The people, the nature, and the vibe of Helsinki.

Q: If you were to describe New York in three words, what words would you use?

A: Busy, inspiring, indifferent.

Q: What words would you use to describe Finland?

A: Cold, dark and depressing… Just kidding. Honest, safe and solid.

Find out more about Olli Hirvonen and his music at www.ollihirvonen.com, and see Finland Center’s site for more details about tomorrow’s concert. Hirvonen will also perform at The Shrine on March 3rd.

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