Statements in support of the International Summer Jazz Academy from Polish, Ukrainian, and American participants

Weronika Depak – 2023 ISJA student, pianist, and accordionist.
Attending the International Summer Jazz Academy was a life-changing experience for me. My day began with a masterclass with pianist Joachim Mencel and ended with crystal-pure  improvisations at the evening jam sessions. I participated in the least experienced combo led by Michael Parkinson & Grzegorz Motyka, the ISJA directors. Everyone in the group gained from this experience which helped us know much more about how to play jazz better. There were also great lectures and workshops. It was easy to communicate because we all spoke the same language
– music! Regardless of ability and experience, everyone worked hard and behaved professionally. Working with pianists Joachim Mencel and guest artist Dominik Wania inspired me, and getting to perform with our combo twice at the conclusion of the ISJA was thrilling, especially at Club Piec Art. I really enjoyed the ISJA, and I hope I will be able to present my own music next year as dreams come true. Thank you!

Błażej Drobniuch – 2023 ISJA student, pianist, and guitarist.
Participating in the International Summer Jazz Academy was an unforgettable experience; I have attended nine times. The chance to learn from esteemed professors from the USA was a dream come true, and the nightly jam sessions in the heart of the city were always super fun. Collaborating with talented musicians from across Europe opened my eyes to new musical horizons and gave me friends for life. The intensive 7-day workshop pushed me to grow as an artist, culminating in a student concert where I could proudly showcase my progress. This academy is not just about music; it’s a journey of inspiration, connection, and self-discovery.

Jan Dubielak – 2023 ISJA student, pianist, and violinist.
Before attending the ISJA, I looked at jazz as only a music genre that was not highly respected in the small town where I grew up. After attending the ISJA three times, jazz became an integral part of my life. The ISJA provided me with tons of priceless information, ranging from the art of jazz violin and piano, to arranging and composing, to band leading. The ISJA offers multiple opportunities for musical growth. All teachers have great experience with an amazing amount of knowledge to share. It was also a great occasion to interact and gain inspiration from other students as we developed during the Academy. The ISJA encourages students to get rid of issues with self-esteem, providing motivation to develop and study over time. It allows students to thrive not only in playing the instrument, it changes the view that one may have on music and, what is most important, it awakens the jazz artist inside a jazz student. Participating in the ISJA has been a life-changing experience for me, and I am sure this is the case for many others!

Lou Goldford – former ISJA student assistant from Webster University. New York composer, doctoral degree candidate at Columbia University.
I was twice an ISJA student assistant and remember those years fondly. It was my first time going abroad, and everyone was so welcoming that I caught the travel bug and have been living in different countries and making music ever since. Being an expatriate musician and meeting others is such a privilege and an honor and is seriously the best way to become an international citizen.

Marija Czerkas – 2022 ISJA student, alto saxophonist from Ukraine.
I really enjoyed participating in the International Summer Jazz Academy. This is a very valuable experience for musicians, beginners to professional performers. The teachers explained the material well in classes and played masterfully at the jam session. I gained a lot of experience in music and performance, met different musicians, and was very pleased with everything. I also want to express special gratitude that I was able to attend the ISJA for free, since I am a refugee from Ukraine.

Tomasz Kudyk – ISJA alumnus, former faculty member, and teacher of students attending the ISJA; Penderecki Academy of Music faculty, leader of NEW BONE jazz quintet in Poland.
I was a student in 1994 at the first ISJA, it was a great time for me. Jazz became my passion at that time, and I continue my adventure with the trumpet as a teacher and leader of the jazz quintet NEW BONE. My participation in the ISJA was important in many ways: among the faculty were great musicians from the United States. I got to know Michael Parkinson and others outstanding teachers. We received books with exercises and scales for the basics of improvisation, one of which I continue to use! For every musician the ISJA is a great way to learn about jazz and many 
things which are so helpful. I really recommend the ISJA to everyone; if want to know what jazz is, join the ISJA! 

Joe Meyer – former ISJA student assistant from Webster University.

St. Louis jazz percussionist. My experience at the ISJA was truly a transformative one in my life as it was my first time out of the United States. It united musicians from all over in our one common goal of learning and playing jazz. The backdrop of Krakow was perfect in that we all came together in such a historic, beautiful, and cultural place. I made friendships that I carry to this day because of the ISJA, and for that I am grateful. It is truly a treasured experience in my life and career as a musician.

Zac Minor – former ISJA student assistant from Webster University. St. Louis saxophonist and music educator.
My time at the jazz academy in Krakow provided me with an abundance of knowledge regarding music, travel, life, and
the virtues of being a professional. Due to my time and experience at the academy I also discovered a deep fondness
for the history and culture of Poland. Going to Krakow was incredible and I highly recommend it to others.

Agata Pisko – ISJA alumna/student assistant. Current ISJA voice teacher, performing artist-
educator in Graz, Austria.

I had the honor to be a part of the ISJA several times during its history: as an organizing director in 1995, student
teaching assistant in late 90s and early 2000s, and then as an instructor of vocal together with superb Polish and
American artists. There is space for growth at this workshop, there is respect for sharing and being vulnerable, without
judgement, and an openness for new voices and creative ideas. I have always wanted to be a part of such a
community, especially in my beloved city of Krakow. And here I am – my dream has come true!

Paul Schrage – former ISJA student assistant from the University of Missouri-Kansas City. San Francisco based pianist and conductor.

My time as an assistant at ISJA was, aside from my formal conservatory training, the most formative experience of my
musical life at the time. For four years, I was treated as a musical and teaching peer. I rehearsed and performed with
musicians I greatly admire; I began learning how to teach, which sparked my goal of joining a collegiate faculty; and I
began learning how organizations are run, which has served me very well as a conductor. Even now, 25 years later, I
look back on those four summers with much fondness and gratitude.

Randi Shanker – former ISJA student assistant from Webster University. St. Louis saxophonist and music educator.

The opportunity to attend the ISJA as an assistant was the most unique learning experience and the highlight of my studies at Webster University. While in Krakow I played alongside students in combos, helped run the nightly student jam sessions, performed a concert broadcast via Radio Krakow, made connections to international musicians, and grew in ways beyond counting. We were also able to explore Krakow, shop in the city square, learn about the city’s history, people watch, and try new foods. Almost 20 years later, and I still talk about memories of the experience. I hope many more students will have the opportunity to attend the ISJA.

Kuba Soczek – 2023 ISJA student, trumpet.
I attended the 2023 ISJA, my first experience with a summer jazz workshop. During the ISJA, I gained many new skills, had numerous performing opportunities, and met many wonderful people, including students like me and the faculty. I recommend the ISJA to anyone who wants to know more about jazz!

Dominik Wania – ISJA alumnus. ECM ® piano artist, recipient of the Fryderyk Award and 2021 Outstanding Polish Jazz Artist, Penderecki Academy of Music faculty.
I participated in the first ISJA in 1994 in Krakow with a faculty of American and Polish faculty. Since this was my first jazz workshop, I didn’t know what to expect and I was afraid whether I would be able to cope with my limited playing and English skills. My fears were completely unnecessary because during the first few days, I felt an extremely friendly atmosphere without competition and true support from the faculty. The knowledge gained during the first ISJA was crucial in my later education and career. During the workshops, friendships were established with lecturers and 
participants, some continuing to this day. I attended the ISJA several more times and thrived in this great environment for learning, listening, and performing.