He studied horn and composition at the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki, and conducting with Jorma Panula. One of his classmates was the composer Magnus Lindberg with whom Salonen formed the groups Korvat auki and Toimii. Later on Salonen studied with the composers Franco Donatoni, Niccolò Castiglioni and Einojuhani Rautavaara.
His first conducting experience was in 1979 with the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra. In 1983, he replaced an indisposed Michael Tilson Thomas to conduct a performance of Mahler's Symphony No. 3 with the Philharmonia Orchestra at very short notice, and it launched his career as a conductor. He was the Principal Guest Conductor of the Philharmonia from 1985 to 1994.
Salonen was Chief Conductor of the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra from 1985-1995. He made his debut with the Los Angeles Philharmonic in 1984 and has conducted the orchestra in every season since. In 1992 Salonen became orchestra's tenth Music Director. After 2008-2009 season, Gustavo Dudamel took over his post. Salonen intends to focus on composing and opera.
He is married to violinist Jane Price and they have three children. They reside in Los Angeles, California.
- 12 Instruments & Performance
- 27 Writing & Arrangement
- 1 Featuring & Presenting
- 232 Conducting & Leading
- 4 Acting, Literary & Spoken
- 1 Management