|Polish Music Center|
|Among the many political, economic and social organizations related to Poland the Polish Music Center at the University of Southern California occupies a unique position. This center, founded in 1985 by Dr. and Mrs. Wilk (and still improperly seen by many members of Californian Polonia as their private concern) is the only institution dedicated to the promotion of and research about Polish music in North America. Moreover, it is the only academic institution dedicated to Polish culture in Southern California. The Center was designed to last in perpetuity (thanks to its permanent Endowment Fund) and is a part of one of the best music schools in the country, the Thornton School of Music (ranked in the top 1% of music schools in the U.S. and as no. 1 west of Mississippi).|
The displays were assembled on 36
white three-panel boards providing the backdrop for the manuscripts.
The most precious of those were, of course, three of
the manuscripts donated to the Center by Witold Lutoslawski - the total value of the set of five original Lutoslawski manuscripts
in the PMC collection exceeds $1,000,000. No wonder two security guards were needed and present on the premises through the whole exibition. Other precautions included distributing gloves among the attendees, who could turn the pages but would not damage the precious old paper.
Let me start with describing some examples - young musicians, graduate students in the Thornton School of Music, who volunteered to perform in the Concert of 20th Century Polish Music. Ladies first: Adrianna Lis has played the flute since childhood and won numerous prizes in international competitions. After being accepted to study at USC, she became the member of the most elite group of wind players, the "Scholarship Quintet" where she played for one year. It was a very special recognition of her talent as the best flutist in the whole School (her GPA? 4.0, perfect!). Her version of two lively movements from Szeligowski's Sonata for Flute and Piano amazed the audience with the dexterity of her fingers. Marzena Wolna (who because of a hand injury could not perform in the concert) - the first bassoon in USC Thornton Orchestra, first bassoon in Debut orchestra, winner of every orchestral competition for her instrument that she ever entered. I hope that Polish -Americans in California will have an opportunity of listening to her music in the future.
For the concert he selected a piece by Tadeusz Baird, the most romantic of Polish modernist composers, an artist whose talent was and is, not known well enough in the U.S. 2 Kaprysy delighted with their "capricious" nature and the virtuosity of performance.
Michaż Sobus (double bass) and Krzysztof Szmanda (percussion) have just been accepted to the Thornton School and will have to prove their talents. Already both musicians play the "first" parts in the Thornton ensembles and perform in other orchestras based in Los Angeles. During the concert Mr. Sobus performed a difficult and engaging work by Tadeusz Wielecki (the current director of the Warsaw Autumn Contemporary Music Festival). Mr. Szmanda was accompanied by a pianist in 4 Preludes for vibraphone and piano, and by another percussionist in Scintilla for two marimbas. Both works were composed by Marta Ptaszynska, Poland's most eminent woman composer who is now full professor of composition at the University of Chicago. Ptaszynska is a percussionist herself and understands the nature of her instruments. The two marimbas at one point quoted some music from Chopin - so that the greatest Polish composer could be present in this concert as well.
I have not forgotten, but left for later, two names of wonderful Polish musicians who are not connected to the Thornton School but instead are active in Los Angeles: Yolanta Tensor, soprano (who moved here from Chicago, interrupting a budding solo career) and Roza Kostrzewska-Yoder (who studied in Harvard and other prestigious institutions) and now devotes most of her time to teaching and nurturing young talents.
The concert was just one of the aspects of the program of this event (it was recorded and a CD will be available).
As a musician, music student (doctoral program in piano at USC) and music teacher, I am delighted to find such a
resource for Polish music as the Polish Music Center on USC campus. I did not base my decision to apply to this school
on this fact, but rather on the excellence of the piano department. I am proud, as a Polish American, that the Center
presents such high quality projects dedicated to Polish music and that I am involved in some of them (my previous
appearance was at the International Conference on Polish Jewish Music in 1998).
| Let us all hope, for the benefit of all Poles, that more organizations will take pride in actively supporting
the Center and its programs in the future.
Copyright 1998-2001 by the Polish Music
First published in Polish Music Newsletter, November 2000.