Hannah Cochingco Comia ‘G21 Receives American Scandinavian Foundation Fellowship

A woman with long brown hair leans smiling over the edge of a piano.Hannah Cochingco Comia ‘G21 will spend the next academic year in Finland conducting research on and performing the music of two Finnish composers, Jean Sibelius and Toivo Kuula, through the support of an American Scandinavian Foundation (ASF) Fellowship! The ASF offers fellowships of up to $23,000 to support individuals as they pursue research, study or creative arts projects in one or more Scandinavian countries for up to one year. Hannah, who will graduate with a master’s of music degree in piano from the Setnor School of Music in the College of Visual and Performing Arts this spring, answered a few questions from CFSA’s assistant director, Melissa Welshans, about the award and her application experience.

How did you learn about the American Scandinavian Foundation Fellowship?

I heard about the American Scandinavian Foundation Fellowship from Jolynn Parker, CFSA's director! At the time, I was applying for a Fulbright U.S. Student Program study/research grant to conduct research in Finland. One of CFSA's past students had applied to ASF and Jolynn recommended I see what types of grants and support they offered, and encouraged me to apply to ASF as well.

What resources did you use to prepare your application?

Jolynn and the staff at CFSA were extremely helpful in the process. I attended a few writing workshops offered by CFSA specifically for Fulbright applicants, and then worked with Jolynn one-on-one to tailor my application for ASF.  I also had help from Setnor School of Music faculty, specifically Professor William Knuth. He was insightful in the music side of my application material.

What got you interested in researching Finnish music?

While at SU, I have worked with Dr. Kathleen Roland-Silverstein, Associate Professor of Voice. During my first semester, she introduced me to the songs of Jean Sibelius, the most celebrated Finnish composer. He used music to help with the Finnish struggle towards independence. This was my first experience playing Finnish nationalistic music and I loved it! I've been interested in music's place in a society's culture, especially through the music of my heritage as a Filipino-American.

What will you do while in Finland?

The fellowship from ASF allows me to pursue my creative-arts project at the Metropolia University of Applied Sciences in Helsinki, Finland. There, under the guidance of Sirkku Wahlroos-Kaitila (head of Vocal Studies), and mentorship of Collin Hansen (pianist and head of Lied at Sibelius Academy), I will spend 9-months studying and learning the vocal music of Sibelius and Toivo Kuula, two Finnish composers who were vital in the creation of the Finnish nationalistic sound.  Part of this work will be exploring the Finnish landscape (to experience first-hand the locations that much of the poetry and music is inspired by) as well as learning the language. I will also explore similarities of this music to Kundiman, Filipino loves songs in the tradition of 19th century art song. This music re-emerged during the time of Philippine independence, about 2 decades before Finnish independence. This project will culminate in a recital presenting a selection of the music I've worked on in collaboration with vocalists from the university.

What are your future plans following the Fellowship?

When I return to the US, I hope to present the recital at ASF's Scandinavia House in Manhattan. In addition to the continuation of studying and performing this literature, I plan to enter a D.M.A, specializing in the vocal-collaborative music of understudied languages and underrepresented groups.