Jorma Panula

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Jorma Panula
Jorma Panula in 2009
Born (1930-08-10) 10 August 1930 (age 85)
Kauhajoki, Finland
Other names Jorma Juhani Panula
Occupation conductor, composer

Jorma Panula (born 10 August 1930 in Kauhajoki) is a Finnish conductor, composer, and teacher of conducting. He has mentored many notable Finnish conductors, such as Esa-Pekka Salonen, Mikko Franck, Sakari Oramo, Jukka-Pekka Saraste, and Osmo Vänskä.


Panula studied church music and conducting at the Sibelius Academy. His teachers included Leo Funtek, Dean Dixon, Albert Wolff and Franco Ferrara. Apart from conducting, he has composed a wide variety of music. His operas Jaakko Ilkka and the River Opera established a new genre called "performance opera", which fused music, visual art and the art of daily life. Panula's other compositions include musicals, church music, a violin concerto, jazz capriccio and numerous pieces of vocal music.

Panula was the artistic director and chief conductor of the Turku Philharmonic Orchestra from 1963 to 1965, the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra from 1965 to 1972 and the Aarhus Symphony from 1973 to 1976. He has also conducted his own opera Jaakko Ilkka at the Finnish National Opera.

Panula has served as Professor of Conducting at the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki from 1973 to 1994 and at the Royal College of Music in Stockholm and the Royal Danish Academy of Music in Copenhagen.[1]

As a pedagogue, Panula has been a teacher and mentor to many Finnish conductors, such as Esa-Pekka Salonen, Mikko Franck, Sakari Oramo, Jukka-Pekka Saraste, and Osmo Vänskä. Other conducting students have included Ari Rasilainen, John Storgårds, Hannu Lintu, Eeva Ollikainen, Susanna Mälkki, Tuomas Ollila (Hannikainen), Pietari Inkinen, Olari Elts, Stefan Solyom, Rolf Gupta, Jani Telaranta, Maria Badstue, Tuomas Rousi, Jan Söderblom, Kari Tikka, Atso Almila, Markus Lehtinen, Jukka Iisakkila, Juha Nikkola, Petri Sakari, Dmitri Slobodeniouk, Tibor Bogányi, Sasha Mäkilä, Esa Heikkilä.[2] He has since taught conducting courses all over the world, such as in Paris, London, Amsterdam, Moscow, New York, Tanglewood, Aspen, Ottawa and Sydney. He has limited his podium appearances greatly during the past ten years. Panula was listed as one of the "60 most powerful people in music" featured in the November 2000 issue of BBC Music Magazine. Panula was awarded the Rolf Schock Prize in 1997.

In March 2014, Panula caused controversy in a Finnish television interview with remarks that denigrated the ability of women to conduct particular composers, and that women were suited to conducting music that was "feminine enough" (tarpeeksi feminiinistä), such as Debussy, but that they were unsuited for conducting Bruckner. He stated that "women [conductors]… Of course they are trying! Some of them are making faces, sweating and fussing, but it is not getting any better – only worse!... It’s not a problem – if they choose the right pieces. If they take more feminine music... This is a purely biological question.”[3] Other conductors, such as his former student Salonen, responded critically to Panula's remarks.[4]


Preceded by
Ole Edgren
Turku Philharmonic Orchestra
Succeeded by
Paavo Rautio
Preceded by
Tauno Hannikainen
Music Director, Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra
Succeeded by
Paavo Berglund
Preceded by
Per Dreier
Principal Conductor, Aarhus Symphony Orchestra
Succeeded by
Ole Schmidt