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Why We Celebrate Paderewski in Paso Robles

This weekend, the entire town of Paso Robles will be hosting the Paderewski Festival, a four-day music festival celebrating the legacy of Ignacy Jan Paderewski, world-renowned pianist, composer, politician, and Polish patriot. You might be wondering why Paso Robles devotes an entire weekend to a Polish pianist, and the answer is this: Ignacy Paderewski became one of the most famous individuals to take up residence in charming Paso Robles, California. Before the festival this weekend, read up on the rich history of this musical event.

Paderewski’s Success

Ignacy Paderewski was born on November 6th, 1860 in southeast Poland. He grew up studying piano, harmony, counterpoint, and trombone in Warsaw at the Music Institute. At age 28, Ignacy made his professional debut in Paris, after which he went on to sell out headlining concerts across Europe.

Three years later, Ignacy traveled to the United States to perform for the first time in New York City. Over only four months, Ignacy played over 100 concerts, netting $100,000 in the process, an amount that was unheard of in those days. Over the next four decades, he saw great success, touring North America over 20 more times, showcasing his charismatic personality and incredible musical abilities. Sounds exhausting, right? Right. He needed a break…and where did he turn but none other than our very own Paso Robles.

Seeking Comfort in Paso Robles

Due to his busy tour schedule, Ignacy was always practicing and performing, which took a toll on his hands, leaving them painfully inflamed. By the suggestion of his friends in San Francisco, Ignacy visited Paso Robles in 1913, seeking relief from the pain of his hands. Ignacy came to the Paso Robles Hotel, known today as the Paso Robles Inn, and stayed for three months to soak in all the healing treatments offered by the hotel’s mineral hot springs. He resumed his tour but returned later to live at the hotel.

Eventually, Ignacy bought two ranches covering 3,000 acres of land in Paso Robles. For 25 years, he grew Zinfandel grapes, fruit orchards, and almond trees at Rancho Ignacio and Rancho Santa Helena. He even bought 2,600 acres of land in Santa Maria for oil drilling exploration. His land holdings were a major contribution to the Central Coast’s agricultural development and he is credited with popularizing zinfandel grapes in Paso Robles wine country.

The Festival

The Paderewski Festival was originally part of the Paso Robles Zinfandel Festival. However, when Marek Zebrowski, author of the book, “Paderewski in California,” came to the Central Coast looking for a venue for British pianist Jonathan Plowright to play at in 2006, the event became its own entity and was called the “Paderewski Reprise.”

Today,  the festival has taken on a life of its own featuring concerts of world renown talent, exhibits, lectures, master classes, and film screenings along with wine tastings and local vineyard tours. To honor Ignacy’s legacy, a youth piano competition, recital, and student cultural exchange with Poland will also take place over the four-day festival. To learn more about the festival or to buy tickets, click here.

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