Celebrating Paderewski and His Local Roots
by Joel Peterson
In my role as President of the Paderewski Festival, I’m often asked about who Paderewski was and why we celebrate him. It’s a good question, as we don’t often get a glimpse of a person who lived 100 years ago. He’s also a bit hard to define since he did so many things over the course of his life. In a few paragraphs I’ll attempt to give you a brief glimpse into Paderewski’s life and why we celebrate him.
As strange as it may seem in a world dominated today by pop culture, Paderewski was the most popular entertainer of his time – the Elvis or John Lennon of his era. Universally acclaimed as a “Modern Immortal” by his contemporaries, Ignacy Jan Paderewski was a virtuoso pianist, composer, politician, humanitarian and orator. His charismatic personality and popular appeal made him one of the most cherished figures of the 20th century.
A skilled and brilliant performer and a true Romantic pianist, during a career spanning fifty years Paderewski performed all over the world, playing hundreds of concerts across the globe. His American debut in 1891 in New York City was followed by over 100 concerts on the continent. It was the first of his twenty subsequent tours of North America.
Paderewski was equally known for the amount of hard work he put into his craft – practicing throughout his career 8 to 10 hours per day. He was among the highest paid performers of his time. Much of his fortune he gifted to organizations and helped raise millions for a war-torn Poland and its people. In 1918, he signed the Treaty of Versailles and became the first Prime Minister of Independent Poland after World War I. Although his bold political vision for a multi-ethnic and multi-cultural United States of Poland was never realized, his musical legacy continues to inspire generations of musicians all around the world.
Paderewski was introduced to Paso Robles in 1914, when severe arthritis in his hands interrupted his U.S. tour. He came to Paso Robles for its natural hot springs cures and, after falling in love with the area, purchased several tracts of land on Paso’s west side. Paderewski’s properties in Paso eventually encompassed nearly 3000 acres. After establishing almond and fruit tree orchards, he planted Zinfandel and Petite Syrah grapes and became a pioneer wine producer, whose farming methods helped transform the Central Coast wine region. Paderewski’s wines were made at the nearby York Mountain Winery and, like his music, were loved by critics, including the Los Angeles Times, who considered Paderewski’s wine one of 10 best in California.
Paderewski returned to Paso for a month-long rest in the middle of every American tour. His association with the Paso Robles—a place he called his American residence—extended for 25 years until his death in 1941.
Join us for this year’s 2011 Paderewski Festival, November 10-13, three days of celebrating music, wine and the legacy of Paderewski. The festival includes concerts by internationally acclaimed artists, young pianists from Central Coast, performances of jazz music, exhibits of Paderewski memorabilia at the Pioneer Museum and Carnegie Library, a lecture from a California historian, and tours of Paderewski’s original property.
Once again, we will honor Paderewski’s mission to bring music to Californians by making all concerts during the 2011 Paderewski Festival in Paso Robles free of charge. Visit http://www.paderewskifest.com for our schedule of events and more information about Paderewski and the festival.
Reserve your tickets online, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call (805)769-4622. Special thanks to Marek Zebrowski, our artistic director, for helping me put with this list together.
Joel Peterson is the Director of Communications for Hope Family Wines. Additionally he is the President of the Board of Directors for the Paderewski Festival in Paso Robles and serves on the Paso Robles Planning Commission. He loves to live, work and play in Paso Robles.