10 for 10: Alumni Q&A with Essi Kiiski

10 for 10: Alumni Q&A with Essi Kiiski


violin, 2016

To celebrate ten years of the partnership between Southbank Sinfonia and EFG Private Banking, and to highlight how together we have helped musicians from across the world build successful and varied careers, we are presenting 10 for 10: 10 alumni stories over 10 months shining a spotlight on the achievements of our brilliant alumni.

For this installment of our 10 for 10 blogs, we caught up with Essi Kiiski, a violinist from our 2016 orchestra. After completing the Southbank Sinfonia Fellowship, Essi began a successful career as a freelancer, playing with groups such as the London Philharmonic Orchestra. This was until last September when she decided to pursue her interest in politics and started an internship at the European Parliament in Brussels.

What motivated me to join Southbank Sinfonia initially?
During my studies, I met people who had done the Southbank Sinfonia Fellowship before, and they recommended it to me. I knew already that I wanted to be an orchestral player, so it seemed like the perfect next step after graduation towards achieving my goals.

What is your favourite memory from your time in Southbank Sinfonia?
My favourite moments during that year were the concerts. At its best, it felt like we were playing chamber music, actively listening, inspiring and communicating with each other. Playing music with good friends is always very special, and I made some of my closest friends during that year.

What have you been up to since completing the Southbank Sinfonia Fellowship?
I worked as a freelancer violinist until recently and, for the past two years, most of my orchestral work was with the London Philharmonic Orchestra. I have also had the honour of guest leading the 2nd violin section in the Ulster Orchestra in Belfast. However, I've always also had a passion for politics and last September I started an internship at the European Parliament in Brussels. After finishing the internship, I started working as an accredited parliamentary assistant for a Finnish member of the Parliament. Currently, my job is helping the member make the EU and the world a bit better place.

How did being in Southbank Sinfonia help you in your achievements since leaving the orchestra?
The biggest defining factor in auditions is confidence. If you believe in yourself, chances of success are already doubled. The support from the other players and lessons with Associate Leader Eugene Lee played a fundamental part in how my freelancer career turned out. As a professional musician one has to have high attention to detail, be persistent and able to take the initiative, extremely hard-working and know how to network, perform and present oneself professionally. Southbank Sinfonia helped me get used to the fast phase of professional life and gave me the confidence I needed. All these skills have helped me also in my new role in the EU Parliament.

What might had your typical working week looked like for you?
At the moment I have a lot more regular life than before. A typical work week for a Parliamentary Assistant can include organising events and meetings, writing briefings, attending meetings etc. Occasionally I get to travel to Strasbourg, where the members of the Parliament go to vote approximately once a month. 

What goals do you have for the future?
My goal for the near future is to develop in my new job and extend my knowledge in different policy areas and topics as much as I can. I am hoping to one day call myself an expert on a specific policy area. 

I want to thank all the supporters for their invaluable part in making the programme a success. Every donation and every audience member makes a difference for the players and helps them grow as professionals.

Find out more about Essi here.