Stefan Wanda Wilk

“An ambitious music lover and web surfer will be delighted to find the English-language pages about Polish music on the server of the University of Southern California. The pages include a monthly newsletter about music in Poland, numerous important links, and a semi-annual academic Polish Music Journal with scholarly articles about Polish music. . . Everything that the Polish Music Center now offers about music remains a true gift of Providence. There is no time or room here to describe all the achievements of the Californian center—it should be a subject of a different article.”

Grzegorz Zieziula, Rzeczpospolita, September 2000

The Wilks and the PMC

Wanda Wilk (b. Wanda Harasimowicz 1921, in Hamtramck, Michigan) and Dr. Stefan Wilk (b. 1917 in Lwów in southeastern Poland) were married in 1952 and settled in Los Angeles, California. As a pianist and music educator turned full-time housewife and a radiologist, the couple was deeply devoted to philanthropy in the areas of music and medicine, especially as related to their shared Polish heritage.

When their daughter Diane enrolled at USC in the School of Architecture, Mrs. Wilk returned to the USC School of Music to finish her Master’s degree. She chose as her thesis the compilation of a bibliography on Polish music and discovered a total lack of material at USC and other libraries throughout the USA. In order to find the appropriate references and learn more about the Polish music literature, she enrolled in a summer session at the Jagiellonian University in Krakow. In 1976 she completed her thesis and graduated from USC with a Master of Music degree. A year later saw her elected as Program Chairperson of the International Committee of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, a position which she held for three years. In 1980 she received the Mayor’s Certificate of Appreciation for her participation in the Polish Cultural Exhibit at the California Museum of Science and Industry in Los Angeles, for which she organized the music section and presented seventeen musical programs.

Friends of Polish Music – Early events & publications

In 1981 Wanda Wilk secured the sponsorship of the USC School of Music for a Szymanowski Centennial. There she established the Friends of Polish Music and organized a week-long series of symphonic concerts, recitals, lectures, discussions, a banquet and an outdoor festival with the participation of artists, musicologists and students from England, Poland and various parts of the United States.

Under the auspices of the Friends of Polish Music, Mrs. Wilk initiated an ongoing monographic series on Polish music history with a book about Karol Szymanowski in 1982, and it continues today as the Polish Music History Series. Between 1983 and 1984 she prepared a traveling exhibit on Szymanowski which was shown in 24 university libraries throughout the US and Canada. In 1983, she received the Perspectives’ Award from Perspectives Magazine in Washington, DC and also the Director’s Award from the USC School of Music in Los Angeles.

Establishing the PMC

In 1985, Dr. Stefan and Wanda Wilk established the Polish Music Reference Center (PMRC – now called the Polish Music Center, or PMC) at USC with a joint endowment gift. Wanda Wilk was appointed the Director of the PMRC by the Dean of the School of Music in 1987 and in this capacity was invited to give lectures at the Los Angeles Music Center, local universities, music organizations and Polish-American associations, including the American Council of Polish Cultural Clubs.

In 1992, again the Wilks established a new foundation, Ars Musica Poloniae, and under its label produced a compact disc entitled Riches and Rags, which featured Polish women composers, performed by pianist Nancy Fierro. She is also the author of articles about Polish women composers, and many other subjects pertaining to the history of Polish music. Her texts frequently appeared in Polish-American press. In 1994, Ms. Wilk initiated the creation of this web site, devoted to Polish music.

In 1996 Wanda Wilk retired as Director of the PMRC, becoming the Center’s Honorary Director and continuing her activities as the President of the Friends of Polish Music. She continued to devote much of her time to championing the cause of Polish music, both nationally and internationally, until her death on February 18, 2009.

Recognition for the Wilks

In 1988 the Wilks were jointly awarded the Polonia Award from the Southern California chapter of the Polish American Congress, and a Gold Medal from the Polish Composers’ Union (ZKP), of which Wanda Wilk was an honorary member. In 1992 she received the Torchbearers’ Award from the University of Southern California. In 1996, her devotion to Polish music earned her the highest state award from Poland: the medal Polonia Restituta.

In 2005, then USC President Steven Sample recognized the contribution that the Wilks had made to the University by granting them the USC President’s Award. It was presented to them by Thornton School of Music Dean Robert Cutietta on 11 November 2005, on the occasion of the Polish Independence Day & Henry Vars Gala.