The Kuhmo Music Courses, or originally the Kuhmo Music Camp, is organised in conjunction with the Kuhmo Chamber Music Festival since the first festival year 1970. From the very beginning the aim of the music camp has been to offer tuition in chamber music on high international level for students from both Finland and abroad.
On the first year there were 23 students on the camp. Since 1975 the number of the students has varied between 110 and 250. The largest camp so far was held in 1996 with 262 students.
Student concerts have been given since 1972 and in the course of years they have been called Matineés, Afternoon Sonatas, and Small Afternoon Music and from 1988 onwards Inspirations of the Day. A Student Cavalcade Concert was organised by the music campers in 1992 – 1999. In addition, the students have played during the festival in Amati Café, Village concerts and in the library concerts.
In 1987 master class teaching was introduced in Kuhmo with Grant Johannesen’s piano master class and Peter Csaba’s violin master class.
From the1970s an essential part of the music camp was a camp orchestra, which was assembled of the more advanced students. The orchestra was set up for the first time in 1973 and conducted by Jarmo Vainio. Among his successors have been Erkki Rautio, Ilari Lehtinen, Eli Goren and Akeo Watanabe. A chamber orchestra Virtuosi di Kuhmo was founded in 1986 to substitute the camp orchestra. The Virtuosi ensemble was reassembled every year until 1992 when the now existing composition of the orchestra was established. Nowadays the orchestra is an independent unit working apart from the Kuhmo Festival organisation, but it still carries the name of Kuhmo with great honour and belongs to the regular guests of the Festival. In the 1990s the camp orchestra has once been assembled under the conduction of Orhan Salliel.
In 1984 instruction was given to two youth chamber orchestras from Helsinki (Helsinki Chamber Strings and Western Helsinki Music School Chamber Orchestra) and in 1979 a special course was organised for the Kuhmo Brass Band.
The Ensemble of the Year was chosen in 1980 – 1983 from the ensembles attending the camp. Among the entitled have been a quartet with Juha-Pekka Vikman, Riitta Liukkonen, Tommi Aalto and Janne Aalto in 1980, Brio Ensemble in 1982 and the Rajamäki Quartet with Maarit, Päivyt and Katriina Rajamäki and Kaarina Lampinen in 1983.
Many artists of the Kuhmo Chamber Music Festival of today have participated the Kuhmo Music Camp: the pianists Juhani Lagerspetz, Raija Kerppo and Paavali Jumppanen, the cellists Anssi Karttunen and Martti Rousi and the violinist Erkki Palola.
The musical kindergarten has been a part of the camp almost from the beginning. In 1973 there was a three-days-course mainly for the children of Kuhmo in which Olli Pekkarinen taught ear training according to a Hungarian method. In 1977 – 81 the kindergarten was led by Raija Lampila and in 1982 – 1998 by Ritva and Jorma Ollaranta. They included in the teaching also courses of musical teaching at early age, music therapy for the retarded children and musical playing hour for the whole family. The last musical summer kindergarten in Kuhmo so far was organised in 1999 with Juhana Lindström and Fiona Tharmaratnam as teachers.
From the very beginning the need for musical education of the children in Kuhmo have been taken into account by the Kuhmo Music Camp. The camp has offered initial musical education to many children in Kuhmo, as in the 1970s Kainuu was still lacking its own music school. The camp has offered additional tuition for the local children since the founding of the Kainuu Music Institute. Later, in 1993, along with the Kuhmo Arts Centre Kuhmo got its own Music Institute, which to a great extent was due to the long-term work done by the festival and the camp. At the moment there are about 250 children studying under the guidance of 17 teachers in the Kuhmo Music Institute and its filial in Sotkamo. The work of the festival’s musical kindergarten is continued within the Kuhmo Music Institute, where yearly some 140 children attend the classes of the musical kindergarten.
The Kuhmo Music Association has awarded grants for talented students of the music camp every year.
The name of the Kuhmo Music Camp was changed in 1998 into Kuhmo Music Courses, when the present division into three forms of teaching was introduced: there is a music camp giving private tuition for individual students and for ensembles, master classes and chamber music workshops. In workshops the most advanced students with professional orientation form chamber music ensembles together with some of the festival artists and prepare a concert scheduled in the festival programme.
The artistic planning of the camp was in the hands of Seppo Kimanen, the artistic director of the festival, in 1970–77 and 1980–97. In 1978–79 Yoshiko Arai took up the duties of the artistic director of both the festival and the camp while Seppo Kimanen worked as the director of the Helsinki Festival. The organisation of the Kuhmo Music Courses was strengthened in 1998 by appointing an all-year artistic director, which position was engaged by Yoshiko Arai. During Ms. Arai’s sabbatical year in 2000 conductor and violinist Peter Csaba was responsible for the artistic directorship of the whole festival as well as of the music courses.