Mika Pohjola is a Finnish-born jazz pianist and composer, who resides in New York City. He is one of the most prolific Scandinavian jazz musicians in his generation.
Childhood in Helsinki, Finland 1971-87
Mika Pohjola was born in Helsinki, Finland, and grew up in the neighboring city of Vantaa. He received his formal education in a Steiner school, where his first instrument was violin. He then studied drums, and in 1979 piano and basic music theory with his father, Heikki Pohjola, who is a notable Finnish jazz guitarist. In 1982, young Pohjola entered the Helsinki cathedral boy choir, Cantores Minores under the direction of Heinz Hofmann. At the age of ten, Pohjola had started studies in classical piano, music theory and counterpoint at the Vantaa Conservatory, while also starting to play jazz. His early classical influences were Claude Debussy, Edvard Grieg and Johann Sebastian Bach, and Finnish prominent composers, such as Selim Palmgren, Oskar Merikanto and Aarre Merikanto. Pohjola was introduced to the music of Art Tatum, Charlie Parker and Oscar Peterson by his father, who played his large record collection at home. Pohjola performed music by Mozart, Beethoven and Debussy at regional recitals and received a shared second prize in the classical piano competition of Vantaa in 1987, and represented his city and conservatory at the Ilmari Hannikainen Piano Competition.