Jussi Makkonen began playing the cello at the age of seven, at Pielinen-Karelia Music Institute in Lieksa. He was chosen for the Sibelius Academy’s youth department in 1993, and in 1996 he started his university studies at the Sibelius Academy, under the tutelage of Martti Rousi. He completed his Master’s degree in Music 2005. His teachers in masterclasses he has attended include Professors Arto Noras, Erkki Rautio and Frans Helmersson. After winning the Finnish try-outs for the Eurovision Young Musicians competition in 1996, Jussi Makkonen has been a performer in demand, both in Finland and abroad. From 1996 to 1998, Makkonen was a member of the EU Youth Orchestra and the Gustav Mahler Orchestra.
In 2008, a Sibelius record by Makkonen was released for international distribution by the record label Naxos. After this, Makkonen has performed the music of Sibelius to hundreds of thousands of listeners in his concerts in Finland, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam, the United States, Canada, Estonia, Romania, Moldova, Greece, Italy, Denmark, Germany, Czech Republic and Belgium. Makkonen’s concert tours have received impressive news coverage both in Finland and internationally, and he has appeared on music programs on radio stations in Finland, the USA, Indonesia, Vietnam, the Philippines and Romania. Makkonen has given concerts at home in Finland and abroad with first-rate Finnish pianists such as Folke Gräsbeck, Risto Lauriala, Ville Matvejeff, Violeta Petrova, Terhi Dostal, Esa Ylönen, Kalle Toivio, Ruusamari Teppo and Rait Karm. Since 2013 he has had a regular work partnership with pianist Nazig Azezian.
Makkonen’s way of interpreting Sibelius has also made classical music accessible to a whole new, younger audience. In the years from 2010 to 2014, narrative school concerts featuring the music of Sibelius and of Merikanto, created and scripted by Makkonen, have already reached a total audience of almost 250 000 Finnish school pupils. For many of the listeners, these concerts have been their first experience of classical music. The concerts have brought forth new ways of communicating with children and young people through the tools of art. In 2015, a Sibelius-themed children’s picture book, written and illustrated by Katri Kirkkopelto, will be published. The book will be accompanied by a CD featuring music by Sibelius, interpreted by Jussi Makkonen and pianist Nazig Azezian. With the backing of the Ministry of Education, the book will be distributed to all elementary schools in Finland in January 2015. In the summer of 2014, Makkonen shot two Sibelius music videos in North Karelia, whose themes center around Sibelius’ honeymoon in Pielinen. The Impromptu op. 5/5 music video was released in September 2014 and has already been watched by tens of thousands of viewers, in Finland as well as abroad. In 2015, Jussi Makkonen has been invited on two extensive tours giving school concerts in the United States. Apart from the school concerts, there will also be other performances including the Astoria Music Festival and a series of Sibelius concerts with Seattle Symphony. These will be together with pianist Ruusamari Teppo, whose grandmother’s grandfather was Jean Sibelius himself.
Jussi Makkonen has, since 2008, directed the Pielinen Soi festival together with his brother, cellist Matti Makkonen. In recent years the festival has grown into a significant art event, bringing together both Finnish and foreign fans of music and art in scenic Pielinen.
In recent years, Jussi Makonen has been an artist in demand also on various recordings. He has made recordings of chamber music with soprano Johanna Rusanen-Kartano and baritone Esa Ruuttunen, among others. In 2013, Makkonen appeared as a guest star, along with soprano Karita Mattila, on virtuoso organist Kalevi Kiviniemi’s record ‘Joulun legenda’ (‘The Legend of Christmas’). January 2015 will see the release of the Jean Sibelius 150th Jubilee Year album, featuring Makkonen with pianist Nazig Azezian, baritone Esa Ruuttunen and mezzosoprano Annastiina Tahkola.
Aside from concerts, Jussi Makkonen also performs at state functions. He has appeared at a reception given by the President of the Republic in Mäntyniemi, at a Nordic Council awards ceremony held by the Finnish Parliament and at numerous Finnish embassies in Europe, Asia and the United States.
In recent years, Jussi Makkonen’s artistic work has benefited from the support of OKO Bank, the Finnish Cultural Foundation and Wihuri Foundation, among others. Jussi Makkonen works in partnership with Konserttikeskus ry, who organise school concerts, and Lasten Keskus, the publishers of the Sibelius-themed children’s book.
Jussi Makkonen plays a 1757 Henry Jay cello.