Wilho Saari

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Wilho Saari performs on the kantele during the 2006 NEA National Heritage Fellows concert.

Wilho Saari is a fifth-generation Finnish American player of the kantele, the Finnish psaltery. Kreeta Haapasalo, a well-known kantele player in Finland in the 19th century, was his great-great grandmother. Wilho's father, Wilho Sr., also performed the kantele in public, only in Washington, having brought a kantele with him to America in 1915.[1]

In 2005, Washington's governor, Christine Gregoire, awarded Saari the Governor's Heritage Award for his work popularizing and teaching the kantele. Wilho Saari is a resident of Naselle, Washington. In 2006, Saari was one of ten recipients of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) award of a National Heritage Fellowship, the country's highest honor in the folk and traditional arts.[2]

Saari has both taught and performed around the country. In Astoria, Oregon and Naselle, Washington he performed at FinnFest USA '06, an annual national festival, where he participated in the world premiere of a Kantele Mass composed by Jarkko Yli-Annala.

Saari has been married for over 50 years to his "Roadie" Kaisa, of Kuopio, Finland. Together, they have two children who continue to reside in Washington state. Wilho's greatest pride is his six grandchildren: Kelsi, Kyle, Karli, Kirsten, Kenny, and Kayti.


  1. ^ "Wilho Saari: Finnish kantele player". www.arts.gov. National Endowment for the Arts. n.d. Retrieved January 7, 2021.
  2. ^ "NEA National Heritage Fellowships 2006". www.arts.gov. National Endowment for the Arts. Archived from the original on May 21, 2020. Retrieved January 7, 2021.

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