Youth Cultural Exchange

Paderewski Festival Cultural Exchange Program History and Information

Mayor Frank Mecham & Supervisor Mieczysław Kras, Paso Robles, 2008

Ignacy Jan Paderewski wanted to establish a music school in Paso Robles, California—his beloved American retreat—and the Paderewski Festival Cultural Exchange Program seeks to foster that dream. It was initiated by a Sister Cities agreement between Paso Robles and Tarnów, Poland, signed in November 2008. The Exchange Program encourages the exploration of cultural, educational and business opportunities between these two communities that share historical ties to Paderewski. It also provides free master classes with visiting artists and special coaching session for all interested young musicians.

American and Polish students after a concert at the Jagiellonian University, 2011


The Paderewski Festival Cultural Exchange Program provides annual opportunities for young musicians from California’s Central Coast and the Tarnów region to further their piano studies and perform together, as well as learn about each other’s countries and cultures. In odd years, chosen finalists of the Paderewski Youth Piano Competition in Paso Robles travel to Poland to participate in master classes alongside Polish students at Paderewski’s former estate in Kąśna Dolna near Tarnów, as well as perform together for audiences at Kąśna Dolna and Jagiellonian University in Kraków. Four tours of young Central Coast musicians have travelled to Poland in 2009, 2011, 2013, 2015, 2017, 2019, and now again this year in 2023 after a hiautus due to the pandemic. In 2010, 2012, 2014, 2016, and 2018 young Polish musicians from Tarnów came to Paso Robles, staying with host families in California while studying with internationally renowned pianists and performing during the Paderewski Festival.

Exchange Program students from Poland and California at Paderewski’s manor house, Kąśna Dolna, 2013

In June 2013, students from Khmilnyk in the Ukraine joined the Exchange Program in Kąśna Dolna, and the Paderewski Festival invited them to California, together with students from Tarnów, in fall of 2014 and 2016. The Festival and the Exchange Program celebrate Paderewski’s links with places closely tied to his personal history and, over the past seven years, have developed a wonderful cooperation between Paso Robles, San Luis Obispo County, and the Province of Tarnów. The addition of the Ukrainian region of Podolya to the Exchange Program not only recognizes Paderewski’s birthplace but also represents a promising development in fostering closer cultural links between Poland, the Ukraine and the United States.

Lars Hoefs (C) with students from California, Poland and the Ukraine sightseeing in southern Poland, 2013

The annual costs of the Exchange Program are shared between the Paderewski Festival in Paso Robles, the City and Province of Tarnów, and the Paderewski Centre in Kąśna Dolna. All lodging/meals/transportation in and around Kąśna Dolna are provided by our partners in Poland. However, the Paderewski Festival provides international airfare for up to three American students and their chaperone and all other lodging and meals during the sightseeing portion of the journey, as well as amenities and events for Polish students visiting California. Only through your generous financial support can this Cultural Exchange Program continue.



Youth Cultural Exchange Program Summaries


The Festival’s Youth Exchange participants from California have travelled to Poland during odd years since 2011, except for those years that fell during the Covid-19 pandemic. Each time, they’ve done so under the supervision of Festival Artistic Director Marek Zebrowski, who provides a chronicle of what the participants experience during their trip. Please click on the links below for summaries of these biennial experiences.