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Poland, Paso toasts to Paderewski's legacy

Modified: Tuesday, Apr 27th, 2010

Marek Zebrowski, director of the Polish Music Center, Thornton School of Music at the University of Southern California, performed alongside Los Angeles-based quintet group The Midnight Winds. Photo by Hayley Thomas.

Paso Robles and the District of Tarnow, Poland recently strengthened their friendship and united to celebrate the spirit of Ignacy Jan Paderewski during the 2010 Toast to Paderewski, a concert that benefited the Paso Robles-Tarnow Student Exchange Program.

The event, which also paid tribute to the anniversary of Paderewski's 150th birthday, was hosted by Pear Valley Vineyard in Paso Robles on Saturday, April 24 from 6 to 9:30 p.m.

Attendees sipped select vintages served by The Back Roads Wineries of Paso Robles, sampled Polish-themed delicacies provided by Cass Winery and enjoyed a concert performed by Marek Zebrowski, director of the Polish Music Center, Thornton School of Music at the University of Southern California, alongside Los Angeles-based quintet group The Midnight Winds.

A live auction featuring winemaker dinners, wine packages and more generated additional funds for the Robles-Tarnow Student Exchange Program, which allowed a group of hard-working Paso youth musicians to travel to Tarnow, Poland last year.

As part of the program, two Tarnow students plan to fly to Paso Robles for the 2010 Paderewski Festival in November, where the youth are slated to perform as well as take part in master classes featuring previous Paderewski Youth Piano Competition winners.

The exchange program was made possible when Paso Robles and the Polish city of Tarnow signed a sister city agreement in November 2008 in an attempt to explore cultural, educational and business opportunities between the two locations, which share strong historical ties to the late great pianist.

Polish Consul General Joanna Kozinska-Frybes, Tarnow City Council President Ryszard Zadło and Mieczysław Kras, Supervisor of the Tarnow district, mingled with guests and enjoyed front-row seats to the concert, which featured the works of Chopin, Debski, Bacewicz and Paderewski.

The delegation met with the Paso Robles Chamber of Commerce, local business leaders and members of the Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance on Friday, April 23 as part of their Paso Robles visit. Paderewski Festival treasurer Stephen Cass said the group discussed ways Paso Robles and Tarnow could expand their relationship, which may include importing Paso Robles wines to Poland.

Cass said remembering Paderewski means remembering the musician, the politician and the humanitarian.

"[Paderewski] was a great musician, and we love his music, but he was also a great human being and humanitarian," said Cass. "He was one of the first major celebrities to do fundraising efforts for people that really needed help, and there was a massive refugee issue in WWII. He played massive concerts to raise millions of dollars to help with relief for those people. He was an extremely good person."

Added festival marketing director Rob Sharp, "he was a big 'first' guy. Paderewski planted the first Zinfandel vineyards in Paso, he was a pioneer in Paso, the first prime minister of a democratic free Poland, so really, he was first to do a lot of things that still affect us today."

On the heels of the tragic plane crash which took the lives of more than 90 Polish dignitaries including Polish president Lech Kaczynski, the first lady, chief of the Polish General Staff senior Polish military officers and others, Kozinska-Frybes said that Paso Robles' dedication to Paderewski's memory was touching.

"For me to come back to Paso is always a great, great pleasure...this is a very special year for the Paderewski Festival and for Paso Robles, with Paderewski's 150th anniversary, said Kozinska-Frybes. "It's also a good moment to restart, because we had a huge tragedy just 10 days ago for Poland, so in the memory of those who passed away we must keep going. I think that the friendship that does exist between Paso Robles and Poland -- and between Paso Robles and Tarnow - which has the sister city agreement with Paso Robles, is just a great point that faith and music must go on."

Zadło said the delegation truly appreciates Paso's continued hospitality and recognition of Paderewski as a musician and an important political figure.

"For polish people, Paderewski has an unbelievable meaning, because he was the one who led Poland to become and independent country," said Zadlo. "The most touching feeling is when [I] see all the Polish flags around here, and [I] see the connection between Paso Robles and Poland. It gives huge respect to the Polish people."

Added fellow Tarnow city government official Kras, "Being here is a really unbelievable experience for us. The respect for Mr. Paderewski is so unbelievably huge in this town coming here, [I] noticed that a lot of Paso Robleans have a lot of sympathy and solidarity with the Polish people because of the tragedy. It was really very surprising and very nice."

After the concert, the Polish delegation addressed the crowd and two checks were presented to the Paderewski Festival board of directors in an effort to help fund the exchange program as well as to fund the purchase of a Steinway piano to be utilized by Paso Robles youth in the future.

Zadło, Kras and Kozinska-Frybes thanked the Paderewski Festival board, its supporters and the entire community of Paso Robles, a city where Kozinska-Frybes said, "Paderewski is still alive."

Kras and Żądło also presented medals as tokens of their appreciation toward the ongoing efforts of Kozinska-Frybes and dedicated festival organizers Marek Zebrowski, Stephen Cass and Paderewski Festival President Joel Peterson.

Said Peterson, "It's really exciting to be having another toast to Paderewski, and it's just a treat to have the people of Paso Robles come out and support us and really be a part of Paderewski's legacy."

For more information regarding the upcoming Paderewski Festival, visit www.paderewskifest.com.

For the complete article see the 04-27-2010 issue.

Click here to purchase an electronic version of the 04-27-2010 paper.

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