Ceyda Berk-Söderblom is an independent cultural manager, producer and curator with more than 18 years of experience, mostly working as the programmer of international festivals with close ties to the world-known institutions, orchestras, artists, and ensembles. Ceyda has worked with diverse cultures and has an extensive international professional network; and specialist knowledge in programming, curating, cultural branding, co-creation, fundraising and sponsorship. Currently based in Helsinki, she founded MiklagardArts to focus on internationalisation, inclusiveness, innovation, bridge building and initiates new artistic expressions arising from creative clashes between cultures. Ceyda is originally from Izmir -historically Smyrna-, a-8500-year-old city located on the Aegean coast of Turkey.
Being born and raised in a city right in the middle of historical landmarks such as Ephesus, Pergamon, Sardis, and Klazomenai; she has been constantly surrounded by culture. Her initial experience of arts was the recognition of the endless horizons of literature under the guidance of her late grandma who was a poet. This very first encounter with art haunted her child soul and sowed the seeds of her life’s passion, path and field of work.
Ceyda obtained her BA in Journalism at the Faculty of Communication of Ege University, and her Executive Management Diploma at London College of Management; and is currently writing her master thesis at the Sibelius Academy.
In her home city of Izmir, she worked for Izmir Foundation for Culture, Arts and Education (IKSEV), one of the most established art institutions of Turkey. This non-profit, non-governmental foundation is the organiser of two international festivals and a national composition contest; plus, it is home to a music academy and a museum. During her time at IKSEV she held positions as Festival Coordinator and Main Producer at the International Izmir Festival (a member of European Festivals Association), and Programmer at Izmir European Jazz Festival (a member of European Jazz Network) for more than 14 years. Both festivals are flagship cultural events of the country, with high-level international visibility.
During those years, Ceyda initiated transnational collaborations like bringing Martha Graham Dance Company’s “Panorama” project to Europe for the first time; presented the “RE-RITE”, an award-winning immersive/interactive installation that features a film of the Philharmonia Orchestra playing Stravinsky’s “The Rite of Spring”, conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen; co-organised “Yolda / Onderweg / En Route”, a musical celebration of the 50th year of Turkish migration to Belgium; initiated “Europe for Festivals, Festivals for Europe (EFFE) Hub” for Turkey, a project of the European Festivals Association (EFA) co-financed by the European Union; co-organised the “Atelier for Young Festivals Managers” of the European Festivals Association (EFA) in Izmir.
She has also curated programmes internationally, including artistic programmes celebrating diplomatic relations between Turkey and Netherlands; and Turkey and Poland. In 2010, she wrote a grant project financed by Izmir Development Agency to found MUZIKSEV, the first traditional instrument museum of Turkey. Ceyda also worked for the other initiatives of IKSEV such as Academy IKSEV, a pedagogical platform for master classes in the field of music and dance; and the Dr. Nejat Eczacıbasi National Composition Contest, which aims to encourage young Turkish composers of contemporary music.
During her time at International Izmir Festival, she has presented companies such as Béjart Ballet Lausanne, The Tokyo Ballet, Les Ballets Jazz de Montreal, Paul Taylor Dance Company, Dutch National Ballet, Dance Theatre of Harlem, Martha Graham Dance Company and Ballet du Grand Theatre de Geneve; and orchestras such as Filarmonica Arturo Toscanini conducted by Lorin Maazel, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Gennadi Rozhdestvensky, Orchestra del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino conducted by Zubin Mehta, Orchestra Filarmonica della Scala conducted Myung-Whun Chung, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra conducted by Daniele Gatti, Philharmonia Orchestra conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen, Wiener Philharmoniker conducted by Herbert Blomstedt, Berliner Philharmoniker conducted by Sir Simon Rattle, New York Philharmonic conducted by Alan Gilbert, Sinfonia Varsovia conducted by Kzysztof Penderecki, Orchestra Luigi Cherubini conducted by Riccardo Muti; and soloists such as Emanuel Ax, Giora Feidman, Gheorghe Zamfir, Ian Anderson, Mihaela Ursuleasa, Julian Llyod Webber, Lucia Micarelli, Alexander Ghindin, David Lively, Janis Vakarelis, Cyprien Katsaris, Michele Campanella, Shlomo Mintz, Krzysztof Jabłoński, Mario Frangoulis, Yannis Markopoulos, Jose Carreras, Cesaria Evora, Emma Shapplin, Jane Birkin, Katia Guerreiro, Omara Portuondo, Robin Gibb, Buika, Pink Martini, Natalie Cole, Alexander Markov, Alexander Rudin, Chick Corea, Yuri Bashmet, Uto Ughi, Mischa Maisky, Hille Perl, Lee Santana, Rachel Podger, Yo-Yo Ma, Hüseyin Sermet and Itzhak Perlman.
Between 2002 and 2015, as the programmer of the Izmir European Jazz Festival organized by IKSEV, the first and only festival building its programme around European jazz in Turkey; Berk presented musicians such as Paolo Fresu, Jacky Terrasson, Aydın Esen, Jacques Loussier, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Wolfgang Muthspiel, Claudio Fasoli, Louis Sclavis, Urszula Dudziak, Erkan Oğur, Eleftheria Arvanitaki, Ulrich Drechsler, Fahir Atakoğlu, Horacio ‘El Negro’ Hernandez, Andy Manndorff, ICP Orchestra, Misha Mengelberg, Han Bennink, Tomasz Stanko, Burhan Öçal, Tuluğ Tırpan, Wolfgang Puschnig, Kerem Görsev, Alan Broadbent, Ernie Watts, Yuri Honing, Edmar Castaneda, Marcin Wasilewski, Stefano Battaglia, Benjamin Herman, Dainius Pulauskas, Ondrej Krajnak, Gregory Privat, Timucin Sahin, Loren Stillman, Christopher Tordini, Gene Jackson, Maciej Obara, Tom Arthurs, Erik Truffaz Pascal Schumacher, Francesco Tristano, Mateusz Smoczyński, Michel Wintsch, Bänz Oester and Gerry Hemingway.
In 2014, Ceyda was awarded with medal of “Bene Merito” by the Foreign Ministry of the Republic of Poland for promoting Polish arts on an international festival scene.
In July 2015, she followed her heart and decided to settle in Helsinki and started a new chapter in her life. Ceyda, who has an incurable passion for literature, writes for Andante Magazine, a monthly classical music magazine in Turkey and is an active blogger at the blog spot of the European Festivals Association, festivalbytes.
Erik Söderblom was born in 1958 in Helsinki. He studied piano and cello since childhood. After finishing school he studied philosophy and arts at Helsinki University. Having initiated his theatre studies in London, he went to Munich, where he studied opera directing with August Everding at the Hochshule für Musik. From 1982 to 1985 he conducted the Chamber Strings of Helsinki-ensemble. At the same time he continued his studies at the Theatre Academy of Helsinki. He graduated from the directors’ class in 1987.
Between 1988 and 1990 Söderblom was director of Turku City Theatre. In 1990 he – together with a group of young actors, directors, writers and set designers of his generation – started up the “Q-teatteri” in Helsinki. With this ensemble he made an acknowledged series of directions of both newly written Finnish texts and classical texts such as Feodor Dostoevsky´s “Writings from the Cellar”, Williams Shakespeare´s “Hamlet” and “Twelfth Night” and Leo Tolstoy´s “War and Peace”. All these productions have been shown on festivals in Finland and abroad. Today Q-teatteri is recognized as one of the artistically leading ensembles in Finland.
Söderblom was chairman of the board and artistic leader of Q-teatteri between 1996-2002. On his initiative Q-teatteri founded the Baltic Circle, a network for free theatre groups around the Baltic Sea. Q-teatteri also hosts the important international Baltic Circle theatre festival. Söderblom was the first artistic leader of this festival.
Alongside his work with Q-teatteri, Söderblom has directed in theatres around Finland and abroad. The best known of his international works is the prize-winning staging of Jouko Turkka´s play “Connecting People” in Von Krahli-theater in Tallinn.
In recent years he has returned to opera and is considered to be a leading Finnish opera director. He has directed performances such as the prize-winning productions of Mozart´s “Entführung aus dem Serail” and “Le Nozze di Figaro” at Pori Opera and the huge outdoor performance of Wagner´s “Der fliegende Holländer” in Turku.
Söderblom has been praised for his directions of contemporary opera. As a trained musician he has the ability to read intricate new music scores and has directed the world premieres of several Finnish operas such as Tapio Tuomela´s “Mothers and Daughters”, Lars Karlsson´s “Rödhamn” and Mikko Heiniö´s “The Hour of the Serpent”, all at the Finnish National Opera; and Veli-Matti Puumala´s “Anna Liis” during the Helsinki Festival 2008.
For the Turku2011- European Capital of Culture, Söderblom directed yet another big scale opera production: the world premiere of “Erik XIV” by the composer Mikko Heiniö and dramatist Juha Siltanen.
The series of Söderblom´s productions of Mozart´s operas continued during Helsinki Festival 2013 with “Don Giovanni”.
Among Söderblom´s recent works are the staging of J.S. Bach´s “St John´s Passion” with Helsinki Baroque Orchestra in November 2013, and a semi-concertante performance of Dmitri Shostakovitsh’s long forgotten opera parody “Orango” in August 2014 for Helsinki Festival. In August 2015 as his artistic farewell production as director for Helsinki Festival he presented a widely praised semi-staged performance of Alban Berg’s opera “Wozzeck”.
Erik Söderblom´s role in Finnish theatre as an important pedagogue is worth mentioning. In the years 1998-2002 Söderblom was leading a famous music theatre class at Turku Polytechnic. From 2001 to 2009 he was a Professor of Acting at the Helsinki Theatre Academy. During the years 2005-2009 he also worked as vice rector for this university.
Söderblom was CEO and the Artistic Director of the Helsinki Festival from 2009 up to August 2015. During his leadership the festival not only became one of the most outstanding festivals of Europe, but also became the biggest art festival in the Nordic countries with its 300.000 annual visitors. In September 2015, he left his position at the festival to focus on his own artistic work.
In 2016 Söderblom was invited to become a member of the Artistic Committee at Tampere Theatre Festival, the most prominent performing arts festival in Finland.
Erik Söderblom is a member of the European House for Culture since 2016.
Since August 2017, he has been working as the Artistic Director of Espoo City Theatre.
In 2018 Erik Söderblom was made a “Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres” (Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters) by the French government.