Paderweski Festival Students Perform in Poland for Cultural Exchange

Paso Robles Magazine - August 1, 2009

By Melissa Chavez

The connection formed by Ignacy Jan Paderewski nearly a century ago between Poland and the United States continues to be nurtured through two things the composer enjoyed - the gift of music and Paso Robles wine. In a memorable June 20-July 2 visit, Paso Robles Paderewski Festival students flew to Poland in a Student Exchange of tutoring and concert performances. In addition, four wine tastings were held, featuring vintages from Paso Robles winemakers: Cass Winery, Eberle Winery, Hope Family Wines, J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines, Pear Valley Vineyard, Sharp’s Hill Winery and Vina Robles.

Marek Zebrowski, Director of Polish Music Center at the Thornton School of Music at University of Southern California, served as team organizer, mentor, intermediary, tour guide and translator during their travels. In attendance were Gracie Rey of Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance, chaperone and student exchange parent, Teresa McClish, and Cri Cri Eastin, of the Paso Robles Paderewski Festival Board of Directors.

In Poland, three San Luis Obispo County youths shared pianos and friendship to help realize a 2008 sister city agreement between Tarnow and Paso Robles. The Paderewski Festival students are Lindsay Reed, 15, of Paso Robles, Matthew Fauria, 16, of San Luis Obispo, and Rory McClish, 13, of Morro Bay. During their stay, they befriended three Polish students: Barbara Doroszuk, 13, of Tarnow, Marian Michalski, 11, also of Tarnow, and Alicja Wujtowicz, 10, of Rabka. Along with hours of rigorous daily practice, all six students received individualized tutoring by instructors Marek Zebrowski and Klaudia Kukla.

“The kids each performed their own programs. Afterward, they were paired with Polish students to play two more pieces together,” says Eastin. “So instead of two hands at the piano, there were four. Not only did they learn the music; they learned to play alongside someone they had just met. There was a total language barrier among them, but kids are kids everywhere. To communicate, they pointed, smiled and laughed in the same language. Their commonality was of love for the piano and for performing.”

The Paderewski Festival underwrote travel expenses abroad, and the City of Tarnow and Kasna Dolna provided accommodations, dining, and transportation.

“Poles have very limited access to California wines and until our tastings were not very impressed. That impression was emphatically reversed in four tastings,” says Eastin. Two of them were presented following student concert performances at the Paderewski Estate in Kasna Dolna and the internationally renowned Jagiellonian University in Krakow. A third tasting was held at the U.S. Consul General’s residence, and a fourth inside the National Museum in Krakow during an American exhibit reception aptly named, “The American Dream.”

Arriving at a press conference in Tarnow were “at least two newspapers and two TV stations in anticipation of the first student concert in Kasna Dolna.” An immediate and concrete result of one of the tastings, says Eastin, was a visit to Paso Robles in July by a Polish wine magazine editor who wrote a cover story featuring the Paso Robles Paderewski Festival. Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance helped sponsor the visit. Eastin believes the tastings will facilitate opportunities toward “further exploration into the export of Paso Robles wines to Poland.”

The promise of future business exchange looks bright. Meanwhile, the notes of Paderewski, Bach, Beethoven, Faure, Ravel and Chopin are fostering abiding relationships among the next generation of classical pianists.

“This experience has been the chance of a lifetime. Not only was it a chance to grow musically, being there caused me to refine and better understand my passion for music,” says pianist-composer Lindsay Reed. “Honestly, this would have never been possible without Marek Zebrowski and the Board of the Paderewski Festival. My favorite part about the trip was not only the giggles and lightning storms, but the inspiration Poland had to offer, not only for new music I plan to write, but for life in general.”

“The most surprising and unexpected thing that happened during the trip to Poland was the friendship that emerged between the American and Polish students,” says pianist Matthew Fauria. “Mealtimes together were so pleasurable because the food was amazingly good. There was a lot of laughter. We all felt very sad when our time had come to an end. Marek Zebrowski is an amazing teacher and I made excellent progress during our lessons. As a result, I played well at the recitals.

“I truly love Poland, from the historic buildings in the city to the green landscape and magnificent mountain terrain in southern Poland,” says Matthew. “Thank you again to everyone that had a part in making this trip happen. You helped open our worlds, which will help shape our hearts and minds. For that I am eternally grateful.”

Photos from top to bottom: Lindsay Reed made fast friends with instructor Klaudia Kukla and Polish students Barbara Doroszuk and Alicja Wujtowicz. Polish and American students enjoyed a visit to Kopalnia Soli (Salt mines) in Wieliczka. Students Matthew Fauria and Rory McClish each performed in Kasna Dolna and Krakow.