History

Former Dean of the USC Music School William Thompson with PMC Founders Stefan and Wanda Wilk and composer Witold Lutoslawski at the dedication of the PMC, January 1985.

The Beginning

The Polish Music Reference Center (renamed the Polish Music Center in 2000) was established in 1985 by Stefan and Wanda Wilk. Their initial donation of $100,000 followed the agreement with the University of Southern California and the School of Music (renamed the USC Thornton School of Music in 1999) to establish the Stefan and Wanda Wilk Endowment Fund, supporting the Center’s activities in the field of Polish Music.

Officially dedicated in January of 1985 in the presence of composer Witold Lutosławski and other distinguished guests, the endowment fund of the Polish Music Center has grown substantially over the years, enlarged by generous contributions and donations from the Wilk family, Witold Lutosławski, Dr. and Mrs. Zbigniew Petrovich, Dr. and Mrs. Clark Halstead, Dr. and Mrs. Kenneth Harris, Dr. Helena Nowicka, and Lottie Harasimowicz. However the PMC relies on the ongoing generosity of our donors to support such day-to-day operational costs as office equipment and supplies, as well as funds for new library items, publications, research assistance and events. To learn more about how you can support the PMC, please visit our Donations page.

Archive, Library and More

The Center’s Manuscript Collection began in 1985 with the gifts of manuscripts by Stanisław Skrowaczewski and Witold Lutosławski. In subsequent years manuscripts by Grażyna Bacewicz (gift of Wanda Bacewicz), Tadeusz Baird (gift of Alina Baird-Sawicka), Szymon Laks (gift of Andre Laks), Krzysztof Meyer, and of works by Lutosławski and Krzysztof Penderecki (gift of Józef Patkowski), further enlarged the Collection. From these core holdings, the PMC Archives have developed into a rare and thriving collection of materials related to several prominent musicians—such as Ignacy Jan Paderewski, Henryk Wars and Bronisław Kaper—including scores, letters, photos, personal objects, and much more.

In addition to original manuscripts, the PMC Collection also contains a great deal of published books and scores, with a particular focus on Polish music from the 20th and 21st centuries. We also have significant holdings of sound recordings, journals and magazines, many of which are not available outside of Poland. The breadth of our collection is possible largely thanks to relationships with Polish publishers and individual donors that were established by the Wilks and continue until today.  To learn more about visiting our library or archive, please visit our Research section.

Although it was initially housed in the USC Music Library, it soon became clear that the scope of the PMC went beyond that of a library collection, and thus the PMC was given its own space on the USC campus in October 1987. From a small room in the basement of USC’s United University Church, newly appointed Center Director Wanda Wilk continued her mission to create a cultural outreach center that would actively spread knowledge and appreciation of the richness of Polish musical history. Having already established a series of books on Polish music in 1982, she would continue to publish and lecture about various topics of Polish music, and eventually create the PMC website in 1994 as a world-wide tool of dissemination for this material. To explore our extensive published material, please visit our Publications section.

Concerts, conferences, lectures, exhibits and other such exciting events have also always been an essential part of the PMC’s outreach. PMC events feature the highest quality of musicians and scholars from around the world, and present programs and topics that are thoughtful and engaging, all while remaining free and open to public whenever possible. Some of the highlights include: Szymanowski Centennial (1982); Górecki Autumn (1997); Polish/Jewish/Music! International Conference (1998); Polish Manuscript Exhibition and Concert (2000); Polish Independence Day & Henry Vars Gala Celebration (2005); ‘Paderewski at 150’ Lecture-Recital and Panel & ‘The Modern Immortal’ Exhibit (2010); ‘New Generation’ Concert (2011); Sounds from Behind the Iron Curtain conference and concert (2013); and ‘Measures & Frames‘ concert (2015). Many of these events were recorded and are available for purchase or on our PMC Youtube channel. To learn more about the long history of events organized by the PMC, please visit our Events section.

The Directors

Wanda Wilk PMC UUC
Wanda Wilk, PMC library, USC United University Church

In 1987, Wanda Wilk was appointed as the PMC’s first Director by Dean William Thompson of USC’s School of Music. Having already introduced many initiatives and programs, as Director Mrs. Wilk established the Wilk Prizes for Research in Polish music (1986-2003) and enlarged the Center’s collection of books, scores, recordings, and manuscripts. In this capacity she also lectured at the Los Angeles Music Center, local universities, music organizations and Polish-American associations, including the American Council of Polish Cultural Clubs. During her eleven year tenure, she organized numerous concerts featuring music by Polish composers, answered all inquiries about Polish music, and served as an invaluable resource to scholars and others interested parties. Wanda Wilk continued to support activities of Polish Music Center as its Honorary Director, past Editor of Polish Music History book series, and the President of Friends of Polish Music until her death in 2009.

Henryk Mikolaj Gorecki Maja Trochimczyk
Henryk Mikolaj Gorecki with Maja Trochimczyk

Dr. Maria Anna Harley (now: Dr. Maja Trochimczyk) was appointed the director of the Center in 1996 and also served as assistant professor of music history and literature in the Thornton School of Music. Dr. Trochimczyk organized many lectures, conferences, special events and residences (including the “Górecki Autumn” events at USC in 1997, at which time she was named as the newly established “Stefan and Wanda Wilk Director” of the PMC). She also enlarged the manuscript collection by soliciting donations from a wide range of contemporary Polish composers, as well as created and served as Editor-in-Chief for the Polish Music Journal, an online publication, until 2003. In 2002 Dr. Trochimczyk established the annual Paderewski Lecture-Recital, designed to introduce the most prominent Polish composers and musicians to audiences in Southern California.

Marek Zebrowski and Stanisław Skrowaczewski discuss one of his founding donations to the PMC Manuscript Collection. Special Collections Room in Doheny Library, USC, Los Angeles. September 2004
Photo: PMC Archives

Marek Zebrowski succeeded Dr. Trochimczyk as PMC’s Director and Curator in 2004. During his tenure several unique collections have enriched the Center’s holdings, including the Zygmunt and Luisa Stojowski Collection (2004), the Henryk Wars Collection (2005), the Ludomir Różycki Collection (2005), the Bronisław Kaper Collection (2006), the Paderewski Archive—The Paso Robles Collection (2008), and the Roman Ryterband Collection (2015). In addition, the Polish Music Center has continued to cooperate more closely with the USC Thornton School of Music, Poland’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Culture and National Heritage, as well as various Polonia-centered organizations, including the Kosciuszko Foundation, Polish-American Congress of Southern California and the Modjeska Art and Culture Club of Los Angeles, among others. More recently, the Polish Music Center and its holdings were also presented and discussed at several international music library conferences, including in Warsaw, Rome, London and New York, and is the subject of an important collaboration with the State Archives in Warsaw.