When Anna Kijanowska came to the United States from Poland in 1995, all she had was her parent's life savings of a few hundred dollars, a ticket for a three-day bus ride to Idaho and a dream.
Now, 12 years later, the William and Mary instructor of piano is preparing for her debut recital at Merkin Hall in New York City.
"Anna performs internationally, and is an excellent example of the first-rate performing artist faculty that we have in the department of music at William and Mary," said Judy Zwerdling Zwelling, director of applied music.
At her debut recital in Merkin Hall on March 29, Kijanowska will perform the music of Karol Szymanowski, the father of modern Polish music, accompanied by a violinist and cellist. The recital is presented by the Polish Cultural Institute and Kosciuszko Foundation and will mark the 125th anniversary of Szymanowski’s birth and 70th anniversary of his death.
“I hope it will be well received,” said Kijanowska, who is also performing at the College on March 23 at 8 p.m. in Ewell Hall. “I’m proud to be part of it.”
Kijanowska began studying music in Poland at the age of 7. She received a master of music in piano performance and piano pedagogy from the Music Academy in Wroclaw, Poland, and then and then accepted a scholarship offer from Madeleine Forte to study at Boise State University, Idaho. She received her master’s and doctorate degrees in piano performance from the Manhattan School of Music. She has taught and performed throughout the United States and in countries around the world, including Germany, the United Kingdom and South Africa, and will soon perform in the Ukraine and Asia.
Now teaching in her third semester at William and Mary, she provides private instruction to piano students of all levels. Despite international acclaim for her performances, Kijanowska loves teaching, as well.
“I think it’s very important for my own development and also for my students, I think it is very important to be working with a performing artist—that will give them a little different perspective on things,” she said. “I think it can help with preparation as well because I have to prepare myself and I know how exactly it feels before the performance, how one has to work on memorizing things. It is a very important part of my life, teaching, and the students here are very special—they are very hard working, very ambitious, very intelligent.”
Besides just teaching her students how to play the piano, she also hopes to pass on a philosophy that she learned from one of her mentors, American pianist Byron Janis.
“He used to say, ‘Remember, never give up! And everything is possible,” she said. “I try to share that wisdom with my students.”
She hopes her work at the College will help inspire her students, no matter what level they are on or if they intend on making music a career.
“Pretty much, I am trying to teach a love for music,” she said. “We are not just producing notes and rhythm, but we are creating music.”
In addition to her Merkin Hall debut, Kijanowska is planning performances in the Ukraine and Asia. She has one CD out now featuring the music of Szymanowski and another is scheduled to be released soon. Kijanowska is also working to combine music department performances with art exhibitions at the College, creating a whole new series.
“We have wonderful musicians on the faculty and great audiences—we just need to connect the two,” she said.