For most of the past twenty years there has been a Paderewski Festival held annually in Paso Robles. Founded by Virginia Peterson and Barbara Partridge in 1991, the first Festival was actually held in 1993. The event prospered for about a decade, until an earthquake and the death of one of the organizers temporarily halted this annual celebration and homage to Paso’s most illustrious citizen.

The Paderewski Festival was restarted in 2006 and, thanks to enthusiastic support from the local community, an excellent and dedicated board of directors in wide-ranging cooperation with the Polish Music Center at USC, and the Consulate General of the Republic of Poland in Los Angeles, it continues to grow and prosper.

Starting as just a one-day, one-concert affair in 2006—called the “Paderewski Reprise”—the Festival is now a four-day feast of music, history, patriotic celebrations, lectures, exhibits, and more. A new and exciting dimension was added in 2008 when a cultural cooperation agreement between the Province of Tarnów and the City of Paso Robles was signed. As a result, a group of young Central Coast pianists travelled to Poland in 2009 and 2011 to perform at Paderewski’s former manor house in Kąśna Dolna and at the Jagiellonian University in Kraków. They also participated in a week-long series of workshops and master classes at the manor house with their young counterparts from the music school in Tarnów. During the 2011 exchange program, young musicians from California and Poland were joined by two young pianists from Khmilnyk. Once a province of Poland and now part of the Ukraine, it was Paderewski’s homeland: he was born in Kuryłówka, a small hamlet about 12 miles from Khmilnyk.

In 2010 the Festival hosted two young pianists from Poland but this year, three young musicians from Tarnów will come to Paso and perform during the Festival. Held at the Cass Winery on Thursday, November 8 at noon, the Festival Teaser Concert will introduce Ula Barnaś, Robert Maciejowski, and Marcin Krysa to the American public as they perform pieces by Chopin, Paderewski and others. Their second recital of larger works for solo piano—held in conjunction with a lecture and luncheon at the Halter Ranch on Sunday, November 11 at 11 a.m.—will close the Festival with a celebration of Poland’s Independence Day.

The 2011 exchange students at Kąśna Dolna on June 29, 2011 (L-R):
Evan Lin (US), Madeline Anderson (US), Marcin Krysa (Pol), Jordan Adams (US), Urszula Barnaś (Pol),
Robert Maciejowski (Pol), Inna Bondar (Ukr) and Nazar Kozluk (Ukr)
[Photo: Bianca Lin]

11 o’clock on November 11 commemorates a milestone of world history since, on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918, the ceasefire ending World War I was signed. This was also an hour of triumph for Paderewski, whose skillful diplomacy and effective advocacy on behalf of Poland’s independence finally bore fruit. Paderewski’s influence on President Wilson and his contributions to the US plan for rebuilding the political map of Europe led to the reinstatement of Poland after 123 years of partitions.

In addition to the concerts by world-renowned artists, lectures, exhibits and other attractions that usually grace the roster of the Paderewski Festival in Paso, this year will also feature the unveiling of a Paderewski monument right in the center of town. Paso’s citizenry, city and county officials, generous Festival sponsors and numerous friends have successfully rallied to commemorate and honor Paderewski by erecting a statue in the City Park. It will be unveiled in the presence of an official delegation from Tarnów andBogdan Zdrojewski, Poland’s Minister of Culture and National Heritage, is also expected to join the ceremony scheduled for Saturday, November 10 at 12:30 p.m.

Over seventy years have passed since Paderewski’s death in New York City. Yet, his magic touch—as a pianist, politician, and humanitarian—continues to motivate successive generations of people who see his exemplary life as an inspiration for continuing his mission of goodwill to mankind. As the City of Paso Robles prepares to celebrate Paderewski and Poland’s Independence Day, let us reflect on how this extraordinary man continues to bring together the citizens of many diverse countries and cultures and how we might continue his mission today.

The 2012 Paderewski Festival in Paso Robles begins on Thursday, November 8 and runs through Sunday, November 11. More information on the schedule, concert programs, tickets, and other attractions can be found on the Festival website: or by contacting the Festival by phone: (805) 769-4622, email:[email protected], or mail: P.O. Box 272, Paso Robles, CA 93447.