The International Summer Jazz Academy – Newspaper & Magazine Articles of Note

 Up the Academy – 7 August 2003 – WARSAW VOICE

 The 9th Annual International Summer Jazz Academy (ISJA) took place recently in Cracow.

“Even just before the event, we balked on whether to hold it,” admits Grzegorz Motyka, founder of the Cracow School of Jazz, Pop and Rock Music. “We received no support from the city authorities, but still decided to take a risk because we can’t imagine wasting the great relationship we entered into with Webster University. The Americans, and Michael Parkinson in particular, put a lot of heart into the Academy’s development and helped to sponsor the event,” says Motyka. “We couldn’t disappoint the young musicians-every year, we have a group of 70 students from Poland, Denmark, the United States and Ukraine. Our Academy is an unusual opportunity for musicians-beginners. And later on we’re proud when we look at our students making careers, as was the case with Marzena Korzonek, who won the debut concert of the Polish Song Festival in Opole.”

“The ISJA students always inspire the faculty to give their very best,” says Parkinson, director of the Summer Jazz Academy. “We love spending time working with them, watching them grow, and hearing the progress they make over a very brief period. It’s exciting for all of us.”

During the final concert, Motyka spoke about the days of intense learning. “Workshops used to start at 9 a.m. and lasted until the evening jam session in the Piec Art Club,” he recollects. “We adjusted the level of the course to the level of its participants-both students of music schools and people who couldn’t read a note. Lectures on the history of jazz took place every day.”

Two concerts were organized at the end of the Academy. The first featured novice musicians; at the second, held July 31, only the best artists performed. The final concert in the yard of Radio Cracow began with a performance by a big band, led by Parkinson and consisting of over a dozen musicians. This was followed by a 20-member vocal group and four of the best combos chosen from eight small jazz ensembles participating in the workshops. The excellent teachers of the Academy appeared in the second part of the concert.  Lecturers at this year’s workshops included: from Webster University, St. Louis, Missouri-Michael Parkinson (trumpet, artistic director), Willem von Hombracht (bass), Bret Spainhour (reeds); from New York-Gary Wittner (guitar), Gerald Trottman (vocals); from Austria-Harry Tanschek (percussion), Agata Pisko (voice), Martin Sharbel (guitar/vocals); from Poland-Grzegorz Motyka (guitar), Joachim Mencel (piano), Wojciech Groborz (piano), Karim Martusiewicz (bass).  By Edyta Gajewska.


Only Friends Were There12 August 2002 – Gazeta Wyborcza

A Thursday concert on the yard of Radio Krakow finished the 8th International Summer Jazz Academy

Young musicians have attended instrumental and vocal classes for ten days. They practiced the improvisation art in the small groups – combos and in the big band. There were also music theory, jazz history, composition and arrangement lectures. We could see the effects of the common work of Polish and American faculty at concerts and jam sessions.

At the final concert, the best ISJA participants and faculty performed together. The students presented not only a good quality of the solo improvisation but also a great musicianship. Worth mentioning are the subtle dynamic differences and a sensitivity of the rhythm section to the smallest changes of the solo parts. It concerns both the big band directed by Michael Parkinson and Gary Wittner’s combo.  The big band was able to clearly present the thematic nuances of the compositions. Despite of a high amount of the loud wind instruments, one could hear diverse musical colors of the pieces very well. The students themselves told me that it was an effect of a laborious work with a great teacher – and artistic director of the Academy – Michael Parkinson.

Gary Wittner turned out to be an equally good teacher. His combo presented a suite consisting of two works by Thelonius Monk, with a piece in between which the students composed themselves. This part of the suite was entitled “Evil Dance” and was the only free jazz composition that we could hear at the concert. It does not mean that the concert was only a presentation of jazz standards but it was this particular combo that showed us the most creative and avant-garde approach to music.

In the second part of the concert, the Summer Academy faculty presented a great amount of modern jazz. The American and Polish teachers performed a few standards and original compositions. Marek Balata sang with an unconventional but incredibly thrilling accompaniment by Jacek Niedziela on the base. Agata Pisko’s performance was also very beautiful. Till recently, Pisko was a Summer Academy student and now she is a faculty member. At the end of the concert, the faculty played a Wlodek Pawlik composition “Paradox of Paradise”, with an excellent solo on a trumpet by Michael Parkinson.  Parkinson closed up the 8th International Summer Jazz Academy with following words: “At the beginning, I told my students: There will be no enemies and no strangers among us. There will be only friends!” It is really a beautiful message.  By Tomasz Jakub Handzlik, transl. Ewa Bachminska


To Get a Credit in Jazz – 8 August, 2002 – Gazeta Wyborcza

 Around sixty students came for this year’s Jazz Academy. Students attend mainly from Poland and the US but also a few Ukrainians and one Czech. The two-week workshops were organized this way that every participant has private instrumental class of the instrument he or she plays. Everybody practices also their skills while making music in a small group called combo. A true challenge is playing in a big band. As a part of an applied class, everyone can perform at the every day’s concerts at Piec Art.

MACIEJ LAKOMY, A STUDENT OF THE SCHOOL OF MUSIC OF POZNAN, PLAYS A TROMBONE:  At least a while, one can listen to the great musicians, our teachers and get to know them better here. Although the Academy lasts only two weeks, we work so intensely and our contacts are so frequent, that I know what I should work at the whole next year. I came back for the third time because the professors keep surprising me with something new on and on. When it seems to me that I made some progress, it turns out that I have to learn much more. At the School of Music, I’m getting the classical education and I treat jazz as a hobby. I don’t know yet what I’ll do after graduation but I’d like to continue my education and become a better musician, a classical and jazz one.

DOMINIK WANIA FROM SANOK, A JUNIOR AT THE SCHOOL OF MUSIC OF KRAKOW, PIANO CLASS: It is my fifth time at the Jazz Academy. I study with Wlodzimierz Pawlik and Carol Schmidt. It’s a kind of a confrontation of my ideas with the reality. I’m always curious what kind of a man and a teacher a famous musician is whose CD’s I’m listening to home. I play regularly with my quartet at the Krakow jazz clubs. Since I’m for a following time here, I’ve got an opportunity to find out if I made progress because my teachers have known me for a long time.

ANNA SZULC, SOPHMORE AT THE SCHOOL OF MUSIC OF POZNAN, VIOLIN CLASS, STUDIES VOCAL JAZZ:  No vocalist can study entertaining vocal music at a music school. Here, we can learn from the great vocalists. I study with Agata Pisko and Marek Balata. The whole faculty shows us so much heart and is so patient, that I’m not stressed by the performances at all. They say that if we can’t do something, we’ll learn one day. They believe in us and it’s great!

AGNIESZKA HORBANOWICZ, A STUDENT OF THE JAZZ HIGH SCHOOL OF WARSAW, PLAYS THE ALTO SAXOPHONE: These are the best workshops in Europe and I visit a few such meetings during a year. I come here because I cherish the way the professors treat us. They look individually at everyone; they are for us the whole day. The knowledge they pass to us is very condensed. They inspire and motivate us for the future work. 

KAROL OBARA FROM KIELCE, A STUDENT OF MUSIC JUNIOR HIGH, PLAYS A GUTIAR: I came here for the fist time. My girl friend talked me into that and I’m very glad that I did it. I play in a Hugh Jones’ combo and a big band directed by Michael Parkinson. I studied with a few guitar teachers but Gary Wittner influenced me the most, as a person and a teacher. Two weeks are too short to learn something concrete. The professors rather show the problems one has to deal with, they advice. They often send us books that one can’t get in Poland. You can also ask them about everything and they are always eager to advise or help. I learned really much and I’m sure to come back next year.  By Katarzyna Olejarczyk, transl. Ewa Bachminska

Jazz at Collegium Medicum – A Concert of the Masters4 August – Gazeta Krakowska

At the faculty concert at the 8th Summer Jazz Academy, the suspense was growing form the beginning to the very end.  Love to jazz connected the American and Polish musicians on the stage.

Mike Parkinson, a trumpeter and the Summer Academy director, has been passing his knowledge to young people since 1994. The fact that he adopted three Polish children might testify to his love to our country. Thanks to excellent organization, the faculties from Webster University, St. Louis have been coming to Krakow for three years (before, the workshops took place in other cities). The American faculty, together with the Polish jazz stars, teaches young people. One can safely say that there are no equal workshops in Poland as far as the didactic aspect. They treat the participants individually. Everybody participates in the individual classes (one on one with the master), in the groups according to the skills, as well as the jazz harmony and history classes.

The Sunday concert wasn’t unfortunately for wider audience. Jazz musicians wanted to thank everybody who helped to organize the Summer Academy and supported it in the media. That’s a pity. We could’ve heard a piece of good, classical jazz.  The assistants from the Webster University in St. Louis started the night with no needless show-off, with good timing. We should praise mainly Ben Wheeler for the beautiful sound. After the performance of less experienced musicians, it was a turn for the masters. Mike Parkinson (trumpet), Garry Wittner (guitar), Jeremy Clemons (drums), and Carol Schmidt (piano) together with the assistants performed beautifully “Fables of Faubus” by Charles Mingus. Sudden tempo and dynamic changes did not shake the form of the composition. Out of the soloists, we should single out a young Hugh Jones (sax), who improvised with a great feeling. In a funky “Beauty and the Beast” by Wayne Shorter a fine Parkinson’s solo turned into a dialog with a trombone (Zac Danner) who smoothly took a solo a while later.

The highlight of the night was a duet of Wlodzimierz Pawlik (piano) with Gary Wittner. A glamorous introduction in which a guitar was an echo for the piano, and a great musicians’ cooperation allowed building up a really beautiful form.  The last Polish feature was the “Invitation” by Bronislaw Kaper in which Jacek Niedziela (bass) showed his acrobatic skills in his solo.   I truly recommend the student concert of the 8th International Summer Jazz Academy, Wednesday at 7:30 pm at the Salt Mine in Wieliczka (drive-down to Hanuszka cavern at 6:30).  By Tadeusz Platek, transl. Ewa Bachminska

MUSICAL ACADEMY – A Summer of Jazz in Kraków –29 July 2001 – WARSAW VOICE

Nearly 80 students participated in the 7th International Summer Jazz Academy (ISJA), held at the Ludwik Solski Theater Academy in Kraków. The event was organized by the Kraków School of Jazz and Contemporary Music and the Jazz Department of Webster University in Louis.

In the summer of 1994, Isi Rudnick, an American trombonist, decided to initiate an unusual undertaking-a jazz camp for Polish students, with American teachers. Having worked with young Polish music students before, he noticed how eager and motivated they were to learn about jazz music. He also found it was not easy to find educational materials such as sheet music, books, tapes and CDs, as well as skilled teachers who teach jazz in Poland. He knew that only a few of the young and talented Polish students would ever be able to study in the place where jazz was born-the United States.

With the help of numerous U.S. and Polish institutions, his dream came true. He brought American jazz professors from across the ocean, found experienced Polish jazz musicians and educators willing to offer their help, asked several music companies to donate educational jazz materials and went on to create the very first edition of ISJA. Since then, the academy has changed locations several times. It has been held in Kraków (1994-1995), Warsaw (1995-1997) and Chodzież (1998). It returned to Kraków in 1999. One of the first American professors who came with Rudnick in 1994 was Michael Parkinson, presently the Chair of the Music Department at Webster University in St. Louis, the American Organizing Director of ISJA and a great trumpeter. He initiated the relationship with the young Kraków School of Jazz and Contemporary Music and its headmaster Grzegorz Motyka, a jazz guitarist.

“Without a doubt, 2001 has been the most successful jazz Academy I remember,” said Parkinson. The main rules of the ISJA are simple: enthusiasm, good organization, punctuality and a professional attitude. This year Parkinson brought with him some fantastic teachers and musicians, mostly from the jazz faculty of Webster University in St. Louis, including Michael Karpowicz (flute, saxophone, clarinet), Gary Wittner (guitar), Willem von Hombracht (bass) and Kevin Gianino (drums). Motyka invited the most eminent Polish jazz musicians and educators to the international workshop, including Joachim Mencel (piano), Jacek Niedziela (bass) and Marek Bałata (vocalist).

The best indicators of the workshops’ success were the faces of the students-happy during the workshop and sad after the final concert. “Time has gone by so fast. It’s a pity that the course is over. We will come back next year!” said the vocalists at the very end. By Agata Pisko


CRACOW MUSIC ACADEMY – Jazz, American Style, 1 August 1999 – WARSAW VOICE

Old hands and students get together each year in a different Polish city to learn and play.

Trumpeter and jazz teacher Isidore Rudnick came to Poland in 1980. Fourteen years later, with the Polish and American Youth Jazz Foundation he created the Summer Jazz Academy in Kraków. Though Poland has a few similar established workshops, such as those in Puławy and Chodzież, none has worked out a formula to beat the Kraków academy.

The American initiative focuses on work and adopted the training system of American universities, hence the “academy” in the name. Obviously, it is not easy to introduce novelties to a foreign environment. That’s why the academy has been changing locations for the past six years, constantly looking for professional Polish managers.

Students, however, are very open to new experiences. Last year, there were as many as 138 volunteers, although the limit said 100. The staff changes slightly every year. Since 1996, the academy’s spiritus movens has been Michael Parkinson, a trumpet player and lecturer at Webster University. Perfectly organized and consistent, he can perform a real miracle over two weeks. He knows how to work both with professional musicians and youthful and spontaneous students. Professors, their assistants and students jam together and play concerts in jazz clubs. The artistic level of the final concert is always surprisingly high.

Since Parkinson started working at Webster, the university has become actively involved in organizing the academy. It finances a substantial share of its costs, and is willing to set up another university campus in Europe. The American Embassy also supports the event, awarding grants, which cover the fees for American lecturers. Numerous American sponsors send the foundation music scores and records.

This year, Kraków will be hosting seven prominent musicians and professors, including guitarist Gary Wittner, who also is an expert on Thelonius Monk’s music, and has been associated with the academy from its very beginning; Gerald Trottman, singer and composer from New York, bass player Dan Eubanks from St. Louis, who is a member of a few popular bands; drummer Kevin Gianino, and, of course, Mike Parkinson.  Pianist Carolbeth True and saxophone player Paul Evoskevich, among others, will visit Poland for their first time. Polish musicians accompanying the American staff will include: pianist Joachim Mencel, guitarist Grzegorz Motyka and bass player Jacek Niedziela. The workshops will be held at the Old Town Youth Culture Center on Wietora Street. The center also runs the Pop and Jazz Music Academy-which is one of the organizers of this year’s academy.

As usual, the academy will open with a concert in Warsaw. The July 31 concert will be a part of the Jazz in the Old Town festival. Then the event will move to Kraków. Highest-quality jazz will be played at the Harris jazz club, at Janusz Muniak’s and in the Botanical Gardens, which will be opened by its management for the “Music Among Flowers” concerts. The workshops will take place from Aug. 1 to Aug. 14 and will end with a final concert.  By Irena Filus.

MUSIC ACADEMYWhat Kind of Blue?15 August 1999WARSAW VOICE

Poles in need of a jazz education have only to enroll in the annual summer school to have all their questions answered.

Following an exceptional performance in Warsaw on July 31 as part of the Jazz in the Old Town series, students and teachers of the Sixth Annual International Summer Jazz Academy (ISJA) headed to Kraków to begin the summer school. Teachers of the intensive two-week course, run by Webster University in St. Louis, Missouri, come from both the United States and Poland. There are places for over 100 students.

Chair of Webster’s Department of Music and experienced trumpet player, Dr. Michael Parkinson is also artistic director of the ISJA. He has been coming to Poland regularly since the academy was established in 1994. “The whole idea was, in the beginning, to bring a group of American specialists and to work with Polish students-to basically bring the American idea of jazz education to Poland,” he says. However, the academy also teaches Polish jazz history and styles and its fundamental aim is to enhance the already highly developed Polish jazz scene. “It was not meant, in any shape, form or fashion, to degrade anything that goes on in Poland,” adds Parkinson. “We feel that sooner or later we will not be needed here.”

With its emphasis on American style jazz education, the academy fills a gap otherwise uncatered to in Poland. “In America everybody has the chance to play an instrument. Any kid can be a music major in college,” says Parkinson. “In Poland it’s not like that.” Guitarist and composer Gary Wittner, another veteran of the academy adds, “The involvement of [jazz] in the educational system is not at the level that it is in the States.” There are only five music schools in Poland where young people can learn about jazz, and they can take only a very limited number of students. The only state-financed institution is in Katowice.

This dearth of facilities has led to a hunger for knowledge among young jazz musicians in Poland. Parkinson and Wittner agree that compared to American summer school students, their Polish students really appreciate what they do for them. “To me they have a much better attitude than a typical American kid at a jazz camp, because there’s a lot of jazz camps in America,” says Parkinson. “Mom and Dad ship the kids off for a week.” And Wittner adds, “These kids, for the most part, are here because they want to learn something-they’re hungrier for the information.”

The academy mainly focuses on traditional jazz styles. Parkinson explains: “By traditional we’re talking about be-bop, basically-post-1945 jazz.” Teaching methods are very progressive, with all teachers working with all the students no matter what their level. A typical day includes master classes for particular instruments, teaching of improvisation, composition and theory lessons, a session in a listening lab, rehearsals and a concert each evening. Student teachers from American colleges run jam sessions as well as perform with the academy students. This year three Polish teachers will supplement the American staff.

The academy is helped by numerous sponsors. Institutions, companies and individuals from both Poland and America provide much of the necessary funding and equipment free of charge. Enthusiasm for the project is also clearly visible from the fact that the American teachers earn half what they would on a similar school in the United States. “We make ourselves available to the students,” says Parkinson. “For example, if a student wants private lessons we don’t charge them extra. Sometimes they just want to get together and talk … There’s a lot of informal education that goes on.” The teachers even maintain e-mail contact with the students all year round. “Some very long-lasting friendships have come out of this,” says Parkinson. “I don’t know anybody who comes that doesn’t want to be here!”  By Barnaby Harward

THE INTERNATIONAL SUMMER JAZZ ACADEMY – And An Area Jazz Professor’s Annual Trek to Poland, JAM Magazine, Kansas City, Missouri, June 1997

“Music is the international language,” as the adage goes.  And so, it could be said, is jazz.

Partly due to Willis Conover’s jazz broadcasts over the “Voice of America” in the 1950s, a passion for jazz was ignited in communist Central and Eastern Europe. The country where the passion burned brightest was Poland. Tomasz Stanko, Zbigniew Namyslowski, Adam Makowicz, Krzysztof Komeda, Jan Wrobolewski, Michal Urbaniak and Urszula Dudziak are just a few of the virtuoso Polish jazz artists emerging since 1960. And Warsaw’s “Jazz Jamboree” annually draws the greatest American and European artists performing to rousing audiences.

Mike Parkinson, director of jazz studies at the UMKC Conservatory of Music, has experienced first hand the love of jazz in Poland by people of all ages. As a result of a 1992 concert at UMKC by the Krakow Youth Jazz Ensemble, Parkinson accepted an invitation to teach and perform in Krakow, Poland in March 1993. He met a remarkable people enjoying the first fruits of freedom and eager to learn about jazz. He returned as a faculty member for the International Summer Jazz Academy (ISJA) and in 1996 as Artistic Director. A self-proclaimed “Polophile,” Parkinson eagerly discusses his work as vice president of the Polish & American Youth Jazz Foundation (P&AYJF), the ISJA, and the country he has grown to love. When asked why he continues to return to Poland, Parkinson replies, “Because that’s where the action is, where people are hungry for knowledge, where freedom is important and where jazz is really appreciated.” He has delved into Polish literature, culture and history and is slowly learning the Polish language, which he says, is “beautiful though treacherously difficult.”

The International Summer Jazz Academy provides talented youth from Poland with the materials and training to experience the freedom and disciplined expression of jazz through interaction with prominent American and Polish artists. The first ISJA was held in Krakow in 1994 with 50 students. The 1996 ISJA was held in Warsaw with 84 students. In 1997 100 students from Poland and other European nations are expected to attend. The ISJA this year will take place August 1-14 at the century-old Frederick Chopin State Secondary Music School, home of the only secondary school jazz program in Poland.

The Polish & American Youth Jazz Foundation, a Dallas-based nonprofit organization founded in 1991, helps sponsor and organize the ISJA. The P&AYJF president is Larry Srubas, a native of Kansas City, Kansas, and an independent marketing communications consultant for Golden Trumpet Communications. “For me,” says Srubas, “the most satisfying aspect of what our foundation is involved with is not the music itself. As someone of half Polish ancestry, I wanted to make a difference in the lives of the young people of Poland. Our activities over the last seven years have allowed us to open people’s minds to new ideas, and to give them greater self-confidence through musical accomplishments.”

 The ISJA is the only event sponsored by American and Polish organizations that brings together educators, performers and students for an intense two-week academy. Numerous American and Polish concerns have lent support including UMKC, the Helen S. Boylan Foundation, and the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection, the Polish National Alliance, the Kosciuszko Foundation, and the American Embassy in Warsaw, the Ministry of Culture and the Mayor of Warsaw. Large amounts of music and supplies have been donated by Jamey Aebersold, United Musical Instruments, Wingert-Jones Music, Luyben Music, Hume Music and Funk’s Music. Support has been provided by Warren Durrett, James Knox, B. E. Smith Inc. and anonymous donors for UMKC student travel and Polish student scholarships.

Poland’s economy suffers from high inflation with its currency expected to lose one fourth of its value this year. Tuition for the 1996 ISJA was the equivalent of $200, equal to half the monthly salary of many Polish workers. This year the fee will be close to $300. Tuition only partially pays the academy’s expenses. Identifying donors to help fund the ISJA is an ongoing task for Parkinson and Srubas.

The 1997 American faculty includes Mike Parkinson, trumpet/UMKC, Paul DeMarinis, woodwinds/Webster University, Gary Wittner, guitar/University of Maine, and two UMKC alumni, Gerald Trottman, voice, composer, conductor in New York, and Sam Platt, one of Kansas City’s finest percussionists. The Polish faculty includes Wlodek Pawlik, piano, Zbigniew Wegehaupt, bass, Cezary Konrad, percussion, Krzysztof Maciejowski and Maciej Strzelczyk, violin. Maciejowski, Parkinson, Pawlik, Platt, Strzelczyk, Trottman and Wittner have served the ISJA previously.  Five UMKC students will serve as assistants: Paul Schrage, piano, Paul Roberts, piano/trombone, Matt Pittman, bass, Ryan Bennett, drums and Kyle Dunn, guitar. The Americans will be joined by Lukasz Zygmunt, a bassist from Krakow and member of the 1992 Krakow Youth Jazz Ensemble. He is one of two Polish students hoping to attend UMKC this fall. The Americans take classes with the Poles and perform concerts for the ISJA and the public.

The curriculum includes master classes, improvisation, history, theory, composition, combos, big band, vocal and string ensembles, all reflecting an inclusive approach. The faculty has maximum contact with students of all levels throughout the day. The Americans teach in English, using some Polish terminology at Parkinson’s insistence. Many students understand English and translate quickly for those who do not.

The Academy concludes with a grand finale concert by the student ensembles at the Akwarium, Central Europe’s famed club. A standing-room-only audience of proud parents, enthusiastic fans and appreciative musicians gathered last year to hear music by artists such as Coltrane, Ellington, Gillespie, Parker and the ISJA students. This event provides many students with their first major jazz performance experience. The day after the concert a formal graduation ceremony is held at the Chopin School. Each student receives an ISJA certificate and a compact disc with text donated by Jamey Aebersold.

The American participants at ISJA gain appreciation for the great changes and hardships faced by many Poles in their everyday lives. The Poles gain insight into American life that is far different from the image presented by the media. Most importantly the ISJA brings together American and Polish education, civic, church and business leaders and concerned individuals for a common cause.

As mentioned earlier, funds for the ISJA come from many sources since tuition cannot cover faculty and student assistant expenses, facilities and equipment rental and staff salaries. Donations are tax deductible through the Polish & American Youth Jazz Foundation. If you are interested in learning more about the ISJA and how you could help make a difference, contact Mike Parkinson at UMKC at 235-2905. And be prepared to meet “Poland’s most enthusiastic unofficial ambassador to Kansas City. By Dean Hampton.