The Musical Heart of Poznań
Poznań is a city that thrives with culture and art. International festivals, competitions, cultural institutions with long traditions and wide range of activities – this makes the capital of Wielkopolska region inspire and attract lovers of art, including music. For more than a hundred years, the Ignacy Jan Paderewski Academy of Music in Poznań has been part of this colorful landscape of culture creation and promotion.
The school began its activity on October 16, 1920 as the State Academy and School of Music, and its first principal was Henryk Opieński. The organizational and curricular structure was based on the assumptions of the Paris Schola Cantorum and Prague Conservatory of Music. Classes of theory, singing, string instruments, wind instruments, and piano were launched, as well as – within the framework of the higher course – Departments of Drama, Opera, and Church Music. Due to the insufficient number of primary and secondary schools, teaching at the State Academy was extended to all age groups (a two-year introductory course, a four-year high school course, and a three-year academic course).
Over the decades, the institution went through transformations. In 1922, due to an order from the Ministry of Religious Denominations and Public Enlightenment, it was converted into the State Conservatory of Music, eliminating some classes and thus limiting the possibility of preparing and attracting candidates for study. This led to the revocation of the Conservatory’s academic rights, despite the establishment of the Pedagogical Department in 1923. The following years brought a nationwide discussion on the system of music education, but no organizational and curricular concept was developed, leaving decisions on the functioning of universities and schools to their principals. Since 1934, the central authorities have made efforts to academize conservatories. The restoration of academic rights was to take place on January 1, 1940, but unfortunately the outbreak of World War II postponed the realization of these goals for almost fifteen years.
The pre-war period, due to the lack of adequate decisions of the central authorities, was the time when the conservatory made organizational and curricular changes on its own. In 1935, the departmental structure was introduced which – although it changed its shape over the years – is still in force today. Six departments were established: I – Special Theory and Composition, II – Conducting, III – Piano, Organ, IV – Solo Singing, V – Orchestral Instruments, VI – Teacher Education. In 1939, an opera class was established, which, together with the existing vocal class, became part of the Department of Solo Singing, thus closing the transformation of the school from the interwar period.
After World War II, the conservatory resumed its activity in 1945, offering education in four Departments: I – Special Theory and Composition, II – Instrumental, III – Vocal, and IV – Pedagogical; a year later, a conducting section was launched within Department I.
In 1947, the school was renamed the State Higher Music School (1951), and then merged with the State Higher Opera School. In 1964, Department IV was renamed Department of Music Education; nearly twenty years later it was expanded to include the specialty of eurhythmics. The development of Department II was also continued by launching more instrumental classes: accordion (1973), guitar (1976), saxophone (2002 – after a many-year break) and the only program with major in artistic violin-making at Polish music universities (1978). There were also changes in the structure of the faculties – in 1984, III was transformed into Department of Vocal and Acting, and IV first (1998) into Department of Choral Conducting, Music Education and Eurhythmics, and then (2001) into Department of Choral Conducting, Music Education and Church Music, moving the specialty of eurhythmics to the structures of Department I. From 1961 to 2010, the school’s branch operated in Szczecin.
The didactic process in force at the school has always been based on the departmental structure – today this tradition is continued, however, in addition, institutes corresponding to majors have been established.
On November 24, 1980, by a resolution of the Senate, the school was named after Ignacy Jan Paderewski, and a year later (December 1, 1981) – in accordance with a decree of the State Council – the State Higher School of Music was renamed the Ignacy Jan Paderewski Academy of Music.
Over the course of a century, the seat of the music academy also changed shape – the building at 87 Święty Marcin street, along with the launch of new majors and an increasing number of students, did not meet the accommodation needs. A decision was made to develop it: in 1994-1997 a new wing of the building was built, and in 2000 the entire building was put into use – modern, while at the same time referring in shape to the body of the old wing. The whole was completed by the Aula Nova – the new musical heart of Poznań – which was put into use in 2006 and can accommodate nearly 500 listeners.
However, the Poznań music academy is, above all, people – music enthusiasts, Masters and Students. Its rectors include outstanding artists: violinist Zdzisław Jahnke, musicologist Zygmunt Sitowski, pianist Wacław Lewandowski, choirmaster Edmund Maćkowiak, musicologist and conductor Stefan Stuligrosz, pianist Waldemar Andrzejewski, choirmaster Stanisław Kulczyński, oboist Mieczysław Koczorowski, cellist Stanisław Pokorski, pianist Bogumił Nowicki. Subsequently, the position was held for two terms by music theorist Halina Lorkowska, and since 2020 Hanna Kostrzewska, representing the same artistic discipline, has been the rector.
The Ignacy Jan Paderewski Academy of Music has conferred honorary doctorates on two distinguished conductors of international fame: Jan Krenz (2000) and Stefan Stuligrosz (2002), esteemed violinist Jadwiga Kaliszewska (2007), distinguished singer Wiesław Ochman (2010), outstanding composer Andrzej Koszewski (2013), and Stefan Kamas (2020), world-renowned soloist and chamber musician, doyen of Polish viola players.
In the more than 100 years of the university’s existence, its teaching staff has been made up of undisputed musical authorities. The commitment of pedagogues to working with students has brought excellent competition presentations, laurels at many international events, audience recognition, and successive generations of dedicated teachers. The level of education is evidenced by major prizes won by students and young staff of the Academy at prestigious music competitions held in such cultural centers as Barcelona, Darmstadt, Hamburg, Cologne, Lübeck, Milan, Moscow, Paris, Salzburg, St. Petersburg, Tokyo, Turin, Vienna.
There is a thriving international exchange within the framework of the Erasmus program – currently the academy cooperates with 120 schools from 28 countries, which results, among other things, in annual study and internship trips of about 30 of our students as well as guest lectures and workshops of as many foreign educators at the Academy. In addition, since 2009, the school has been cooperating with the Youhao Jilian International Culture Exchange Center – an agency based in Beijing, thanks to which every year we host a dozen or so students from China who study at all departments of the Academy.
The fruit of Master-Student cooperation is also, and perhaps above all, the daily life of the Academy – every day we invite the people of Poznań to concert halls to joyfully share the results of our efforts. A rich offer of artistic and scientific activities is filled with concerts, broadcasts, performances, lectures, and workshops; the Academy is also the organizer of a number of important nationwide competitions, such as the Jan Rakowski Viola Competition, the Prof. Stanislaw Kulczyński Choral Conductors Competition, the Prof. Adam Bronisław Ciechański Double Bass Competition, the Włodzimierz Kamiński Violin Competition, the Zdzisław Jahnke Violin Competition, the Dezyderiusz Danczowski Cello Competition, the Eugenia Umińska Competition for Young Violinists, the “Romuald Sroczyński in Memoriam” Organ Competition, and the “Halina Czerny-Stefańska in Memoriam” International Piano Competition. In 2018, the list was joined by the Stefan Stuligrosz Grand Prix of Polish Choral Music, while at the same time being part of the celebration of the centenary of Poland regaining independence.
For more than a century, the Academy of Poznań has been one of the most important and brightest points on the cultural map of the city, and each of the days of its pedagogues and students is filled with what for the entire community of the Academy is invariably passion, love, and life – music.