The History of the Festival
To commemorate Paderewski's association with the area, the Paderewski Festival was launched in Paso Robles in 1993. Annual concerts, featuring a variety of artists, were presented to local audiences. Right from the start, the idea was a resounding success with the townspeople. Tours of vineyards, wine tasting, and presentations of Polish culture and history were held in a variety of venues around town. The death of one of the Paderewski Festival organizers and a destructive earthquake in 2003 temporarily suspended the annual concert series.
Under the leadership of the Polish Music Center at University of Southern California Thornton School of Music and Paso Roblans led by Steve Cass of Cass Winery and Joel Peterson, grandson of the Paderewski Festival's founder Virginia Peterson, the Paderewski Festival was re-launched in October 2006 with a solo recital by the English pianist, Jonathan Plowright. The event, held at Cass Winery, brought many individuals, organizations and local businesses together, underscoring a continued interest in preserving Paderewski's legacy in Paso Robles.
Building upon the success of the 2006 concert, a committee of volunteers was formed and charged with preparing the 2007 Paderewski celebration. Under the leadership of Paso's Mayor, the Dean of Cuesta College, Paso's Chamber of Commerce, the Paso Robles School District, the Rotary Club, representatives of several wineries, and other civic leaders, the 2007 Festival included a noontime concert of winners of the Paso Robles Young Pianists Competition and a Gala Concert, both held in the historic ballroom of the Paso Robles Inn.
The Paderewski Festival in Paso Robles offers many exciting opportunities for the future. The February 2007 letter of Frank Mecham, the Mayor of Paso Robles, suggesting a sister city agreement between Paderewski's former estate in Poland, Kąśna Dolna, and Paso Robles was met with great enthusiasm by the officials at the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage in Poland. As a result, a delegation representing the Paderewski Festival Board of Directors was officially invited to visit Poland in June of 2008. Headed by Mayor Frank Mecham, the visit began in at the Jagiellonian University in Krakow, and continued to Paderewski's estate of Kąśna Dolna, located about 60 miles east of Kraków, where the residence and grounds were recently restored to their former splendor. Concerts and conferences are now regularly held in the manor house, which also has bed and breakfast facilities. The surrounding park with a river and a lake provide a perfect backdrop for a cultural experience or a relaxing visit.
A sister city agreement between Tarnów, Poland, and Paso Robles, California, was signed in 2008 with a goal of establishing cultural, educational, personal and commercial exchanges between the two cities that share their historical ties to Ignacy Jan Paderewski. The first such exchange program was held in June 2009, when three young pianists from California’s Central Coast—finalists from the 2007 and 2008 Paderewski Youth Piano Competitions in Paso Robles—participated in a series of piano workshops and master classes alongside three Polish students. The program was held at the manor house of Paderewski’s former estate, Kąśna Dolna in the province of Tarnów. American and Polish students performed jointly in concerts in Kąśna Dolna and at the Jagiellonian University in Kraków. Wines from Paso Robles were featured in tastings during receptions following each of the youth concerts. In turn, young musicians from Poland will be invited to Paso Robles to perform in the Paderewski Festival in Paso Robles.
Another exciting opportunity is the newly-formed cooperation of Paso Robles and the Polish city of Bydgoszcz, where the Paderewski International Piano Competition is held every three years. As a result, laureates of the Paderewski International Piano Competition are now invited to perform in Paso Robles. There is no doubt that concerts of classical music given by world's most prominent artists and free performances by students and area educators will elevate the cultural atmosphere of Paso Robles. Thus, Paderewski's legacy and love for the region will continue, enriching all who will participate in the rapidly growing list of Paso's cultural events.