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Michigan Heritage Awards

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Photo of Oren and Toni Tikkanen playing their instruments
Photo by Mary Whalen

Photo of Oren and Toni Tikkanen
Photo by Mary Whalen

Oren & Toni Tikkanen
2001 awardee, Alpha (Iron County), promoters, supporters, and chroniclers of Upper Peninsula traditional music and dance

Toni (1946-2004) and Oren (b.1943) Tikkanen are recognized by their fellow Yoopers (the term for residents of the Upper Peninsula) and Finnish Americans as "true leaders and role models." They are dedicated promoters of traditional regional and ethnic music and dance in central Upper Peninsula. Through their unselfish support of traditional arts, the Tikkanens have strengthened local identity and pride and promoted understanding among diverse groups.

Although active with a range of regional groups and traditions, the Tikkanens' primary work is with Finnish Americans. Their list of accomplishments is commendable. By locating and restoring early 78 rpm recordings, they have been instrumental in preserving the music and song of the immigrant generation and introducing legendary artists and their music to today's Finnish Americans and to Finnish nationals in Finland. The Tikkanens also have produced cassette recordings of contemporary local musicians playing traditional music that has great meaning to Finnish Americans. Their efforts were rewarded when the American Folklife Center selected two of their recordings, first a reissue and then one of Oren's original productions, for the center's annual list of the best recordings of traditional music for their given year.

The Tikkanens augment their dedication to preservation as skilled performers. Often they play backup for older musicians who perform for local events and at annual folk music festivals. As an Upper Peninsula native son, Oren grew up in a context of multicultural music, jokes, stories, and dialect. Using this traditional repertoire, he developed his talents not only as a performer of traditional music but also as a raconteur and an engaging master of ceremonies able to present an extraordinary range of musicians and other performers.

Dr. James Leary of the University of Wisconsin, Madison, says about the Tikkanens "that [they] have done so much for so long for so many is indicative of both their love of Finnish American music and of their generosity. It is appropriate that the Michigan Traditional Arts Program publicly recognize Oren and Toni Tikkanen for the longevity and worth of their dedication. They are a cultural treasure." (1)

(1) Leary, James. Letter of recommendation to panelists. 1 December 2000.

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