Andreas Bjørkås ler

Born to play the fiddle

Fiddle player Andreas Bjørkås was born into a folk music family. He started playing at the age of 6 or 7. Now he shares his experience and knowledge with the students of Nordic folk music at The Norwegian Academy of Music.

However, the knowledge flows both ways.

– Oh, yes. I learn a lot from my students. They pick up things other places and bring it back to lessons. I find it very useful. So teaching is not just about giving away knowledge, it is also about receiving

A short biography

Andreas Bjørkås is from Oppdal, a small municipality in the Dovre-region. A mountain village known for its folk music and traditional dancing. Born in 1984 into a family where both his father Jan, his uncle and several other relatives were folk musicians with a passion for traditional music. He started to play the fiddle at the age of 6 or 7, and joined the local spelemannslag – a folk music orchestra traditionally playing dance music on special occasions.

At 16, he left for Vinstra, a nearby town that offered combined studies in Nordic folk music and secondary schooling. Then on to Oslo to study more Nordic folk music, classical violin and finally a year of music teaching-studies at the Norwegian Academy of Music.

Finds teaching very rewarding

Bjørkås finished his studies in 2010. Three years later, he was back at the Academy, this time as a teacher of Nordic folk music. By the fall of 2015, he received tenure.

For you, the performance part of being a musician is very important. Why become a teacher at the Academy?

– This is the most fun and rewarding teaching position I can imagine! I can’t deny it, it was an honour just to be asked.

How is it to be a teacher at an institution like the Norwegian Academy of Music?

– The students are very interested and dedicated to their work, I really feel like they have a passion for what they are doing, and they have a great thirst for knowledge. In these circumstances, it is exciting to be a teacher.

“He is extremely dedicated. He has a technical and musical surplus that few other folk musicians have, and he really fits the part as a teacher here because he has broad knowledge of different types of repertoire.” One of Bjørkås’ students at the Academy

Changes to the folk music community

Bjørkås lives in Trondheim and commutes to the Academy in Oslo, where he usually teaches two days a week. The other half of his occupational activities include teaching at a music school for younger pupils in Trondheim, in addition to his own performing projects.

– The obvious difference between my students in Trondheim and my students at the Academy is their educational level. With my pupils in Trondheim, I can contribute to shape their musicality all the way from the start of their musical education. At the Academy my students already have a solid knowledge of music.

Bjørkås says there is a definitive difference between the folk musicians of today and those of only twenty or thirty years ago.

– It has to do with influence. Today hardly anybody comes from small mountain villages without being influenced by anything. Everybody listens to music all the time, and one is influenced all the time. So the folk musicians of today have to learn the traditions in a much more active way. Folk music isn’t just passed on without any other influences, like it was before.

However, this makes the folk musicians of today more versatile, says Bjørkås.

– As a student of Nordic folk music at the Academy, you learn several traditions, not only the ones you grew up with. You also have the opportunity to learn the traditional music of other countries. You have time to practice your technical skills and learn how to memorize new repertoire fast.

The importance of belonging

Bjørkås has more than one string to his bow. Solo playing, duets, trios and groups. He likes it that way, and does not mind playing the old fiddle tunes – the slåtter – in less than traditional ways.

– However, he adds, perhaps I have become more traditional as the years have passed. It really takes a lot for a tune to be able to compete with the old slåtter. They are so great and have so many qualities. If I am at a folk music concert these days, where they play mostly newly written tunes, and then play a traditional slått, then I often prefer the traditional one.

Do you think you would have been a folk musician if you had not been born into a folk music family?

 – It depends, he smiles. – I don’t know. I was born into a family with a strong tradition, so I have been around to festivals and kappleiker – competitions where the folk musicians of Norway show off their skills – since I was a kid. Early, I had early sense of belonging to this musical scene, and this connection naturally makes it easier for me to continue my musical career.

How do you have time to perform, with all the teaching you do now?

– This last year I haven’t had time to perform, but I plan to reduce my position in Trondheim to free up some time for performing, says Bjørkås

Last updated: 23. February 2016