The Frederic Chopin State School of Music in Warsaw
The Frederic Chopin School of Music was established in 1883 by the Warsaw Music Society during presidency of famous Polish composer Stanisław Moniuszko. After twelve years of intensive Society’s activity since its rise, it became obvious that establishing of a music school, educating professional musicians and educated audience is a necessity. It Kingdom of Poland the School offered to its graduates a Certificate of Professional Musican. Such diplomas were recognised as official licences giving status of professional musician also by the Russian Empire (occupying 1/3 of Poland’s territory, including Warsaw on that time). At the beginning the School run only vocal and choral classes taught by renowned vocal music composer Piotr Maszyński. Throughout following years classes of wind instruments, cello, organ, piano and violin were gradually being established. Theory classes of harmony, counterpoint and music architecture were added. A little later Wiktor Piatkowski established classes of diction and declamation. The School developed so much in these directions, that during 1905-1916 played significant role of the only venue teaching theatergoer and became known as a dramma school. Among School’s faculty and gradutes the greatest Polish actors of that time could be found, among them: Helena Modrzejewska, Mieczysław Frenkiel, Józef Kotarbiński, Wincenty Rapacki, Władysław Szymanowski, Maria Przybyłko-Potocka, Stanisława Wysocka, Roman Żelazowski, Antoni Fertner, and later – Aleksander Zelwerowicz. It is worth to note that during 1892-1897 the School has one of the most prominent Polish composers, renowned writer and establisher of the National Philharmony – Zygmunt Noskowski – as its Director. The School reached the highest European level of musical education and was a genuine counterpart for the Warsaw Conservatory.
In the beginning the School was placed in the Great Theater ballrooms (Sale Redutowe), during following years changed locations till 1909, when finally received a steady venue in the new Warsaw Philharmonic building. Teaching scheme included three courses: the lower, the intermediate and the upper one. In result of growing success and achievements, in recognition of its distingushed role for the national culture, the School was granted official name of the Frederic Chopin Higher School of Music in 1919. Between World Wars the School was in its blooming period. It flourished mainly by dominating piano classes taught by such artistic and pedagogical personalities as: Bolesław Wojtowicz, Aleksaner Michałowski and – above all – Jerzy Żurawlew (seen at the picture below). Violin classes were developing too, especially when Adam Wieniawski worked as School’s Director. At the same time organ and vocal classes became famous, as well as classes of composition and orchestral conducting.
The School was known for its ambitious projects – for example the first exchange students’ concerts, presenting achievements of various higher schools of music in Poland. It also was a venue where two most famous, still existing international music competitions were born. Following initiative of Professor Jerzy Żurawlew School started the International Frederic Chopin Piano Competition in years 1926-27 (see the poster at the left) and following Adam Wieniawski’s idea – International Henryk Wieniawski Violin Competitions in 1935. These two events made the School famous around the world. Not many people realize today, that these two, major international music competitions were established at the Frederic Chopin School of Music in Warsaw.
The Second World War didn’t break activity of the School. Despite of serous damage of Warsaw Philharmony building, where the School was sited, teaching was continued. Towards the end of 1942 occupying German authorities closed the School. Soon afterwards it started to work in conspiracy. Concerts and lectures, which helped the nation to survive, stand the test of time and save its cultural identity were arranged. Regular lessons were started as soon as during Warsaw Uprising in 1944. They were held in a temporary venue found in less destroyed Praga, on the right side of Vistula River.
In 1945 Adam Wieniawski became a School Director again. Following growing interest many branches of the School were established in Warsaw and in surrounding suburbs. In 1950, during Stalinist rule, the School was nationalized and officially named the Frederic Chopin Secondary School of Music. Great, pre-war traditions were continued by old, experinced teachers: Józef Śmidowicz, Paweł Lewiecki, Wiktor Bregy, Maria Haftner, Mikołaj Orłow, Zofia Drexler-Pasławska. In following years the School was rapidly growing, number of students was constantly increasing, new departments and sections were being established. The faculty was enriched by internationally renowned Polish performers like: Irena Dubiska, Zenon Brzewski, Kazimierz Wiłkomirski i Roman Jabłoński. Later on many outstanding graduates accomplished notable successes on concert and opera stages in Poland and around the world. The following names can be mentioned: Zdzisława Donat, Jerzy Artysz, Jadwiga Rappe, Jerzy Knetig, Anna Malewicz-Madey, Leonard Andrzej Mróz, Jadwiga Kotnowska, Wanda Głowacka, Paweł Skrzypek, Leszek Potasiński and Sławek A. Wróblewski. Most of them have returned to the School to join faculty staff and today they work as its renowned teachers.
Referring to pre-war theater tradition of the School its Vocal Department has been extended by the Song Section, focused both on actors’ song as well as on lighter music, pop and musical. The Song Section of Vocal Department professionally prepares singers to their career in show and entertaining business. Among its graduates such popular names like Edyta Geppert and Andrzej Rosiewicz can be mentioned. In 1992, following initiative of the then Vice-Director and Artistic Consultant, classical pianist Paweł Skrzypek in cooperation with one of the leading figures of Polish jazz, the trumpeter Henryk Majewski the School opened a new department dedicated to jazz music. The Jazz Department gathered the best possible faculty recruiting from the group of famous jazz musicians: Zbigniew Namysłowski, Jan Ptaszyn-Wróblewski, Henryk and Robert Majewski, Andrzej Trzaskowski, Andrzej Jagodziński and Czesław Bartkowski. Since then the faculty staff of that department was joined by several great musicians: Adam Cegielski, Zbigniew Wegehaupt, Piotr Rodowicz and Michał Tokaj; it was also joined by jazz vocalist Ewa Bem. Following growing students’ needs the Postgraduate Jazz Studium was established in 1997 forming the Group of Frederic Chopin State Schools of Music.
Since August 2000 School co-organises the Warsaw Piano Workshop – one of the biggest international piano course in Poland and in 2005 – in accordance with tradition of implementing innovative projects – the School was enriched about only in the country Interdepartmental Section of Early Music. In the same year class of organs was reactivated, previously acting in prewar years. Since January 2005 School is supported by the Bednarska Foundation, which owns an Educational Music Institute as its part.
During last 40 years directors of the School were: Halina Dzierżanowska, Zenon Brzewski, Elżbieta Artysz, Jan Kaniewski, Danuta Olechnowicz, Krystyna Bentkowska and Paweł Skrzypek, who is performing this function from September 2004.