Crossing Borders With Music

In the Spotlight: Aarne Saluveer

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Aarne Saluveer doesn’t remember a time when he wasn’t involved with music. His grandfather played folk instruments, his father conducted several choirs, and he started taking piano lessons at age 4. Those early lessons were followed by his studies at an innovative music school, singing in choir and even starting bands and playing rock festivals. While Saluveer no longer actively sings, he’s managed to turn a family tradition into an international music career.

Saluveer lives in the Republic of Estonia, a state on the Eastern shores of the Baltic Sea in Northern Europe, where he’s a driving force in the country’s music scene, but you’ll often find him crisscrossing the globe to conduct choirs or lend his expertise as an INTERKULTUR adjudicator. He is one of 61 judges from 34 countries at this year’s Games. The producer, conductor and educator is always keeping an ear out for new ideas and comparing notes with others in the music world. During a spring assignment in Singapore, Saluveer returned home with a few thoughts on preparing repertoire for a major song festival in Estonia of which he is artistic principal director.

Working with so many young people might be intimidating to many, but Saluveer is always looking for opportunities to encourage his students and others to be passionate about music and discover all it has to offer. He works toward this lofty goal through an impressive list of leadership roles. Saluveer is the founder and artistic director of the Estonian TV Girls’ Choir, President of the Estonian Choral Association, and a founding member of the Estonian Society for Music Education.  He also serves on the board for the Estonian Music Council and the International Federation for Choral Music.

In addition, he’s won awards too numerous to list and is part of the World Choir Council. “Singing brings people together from all over the world,” Saluveer says. “And at the World Choir Games, we can hear the best examples from different cultural backgrounds.” During his work as a judge this year, Saluveer will be looking for well composed and energetically performed programs. He enjoys the judging process because it allows him to hear and analyze brilliant choir performances, as well as seek out musical fellowship with other conductors.

It’s clear that Saluveer has no shortage of his own musical experiences to share. His career has given him the opportunity to perform and make world premieres at some of the most prestigious venues in the world, including Lincoln Center in New York, Great Hall of Moscow Music House, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Camden Roundhouse in London and many others. Sometimes he’s even found himself sharing the stage with celebrities, including Imogen Heap, Juliette Binoche and Michael Jackson.

Yes, even the King of Pop. In an unforgettable career moment, Saluveer took part in a performance on Jackson’s 1997 HIStory World Tour at the Tallinn Song Festival Grounds in Estonia. This particular tour included children’s tracks and Saluveer worked with young, talented singers to perform during hits like “They Don’t Care About Us,” “Heal the World” and “Earth Song.” “We made the best preparations that such a high level tour performance needed,” he says. “Every child was ready.” To prepare, the group listened to these powerful songs during practices, and the lyrics were translated into Estonian so the children could understand them. 

With all these amazing performances under his belt, Saluveer still appreciates how much the network surrounding the World Choir Games gives to musicians and looks to the event with big expectations. “I hope that there will be more and more choirs rising to the best level of the world in every country,” he says. “Young new conductors and interesting composers will lead us into an exciting future.”

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