Ignacy Jan Paderewski (1860-1941) was a world-renowned Polish pianist, composer, and statesman. Paderewski’s technical virtuosity, musicality and entertaining performances gave him international appeal, and he is widely considered one of the greatest pianists of the 19th and 20th centuries. In addition to his music career, Paderewski played an instrumental role in securing Polish independence at the conclusion of World War I.
Paderewski visited and performed in Raleigh, North Carolina, and the surrounding area on several occasions. The first of these performances occurred on the notable date of January 23, 1917, the day following President Woodrow Wilson’s first public statement in support of a free and independent Poland, a statement made at the express request of Paderewski only a few days before. Almost one year later, on January 8, 1918, President Wilson issued the famous “Fourteen Points,” of which the Thirteenth Point expressly provided for a free and independent Poland. The last of Paderewski’s performances in Raleighoccurred April 28, 1939, mere months before Germany invaded Poland and began World War II.
Paderewski’s life and music continue to inspire musicians around the world. More broadly, his legacy demonstrates, in part, the power of music to bridge international divides and promote meaningful change.
The Ignacy Jan Paderewski Festival of Raleigh was founded on May 14, 2014, for the purpose of celebrating Paderewski’s visits to North Carolina and promoting the music that inspired him. The Festival is dedicated to the preservation of piano music with specific emphasis on the musical heritage of Poland, Hungary, and France. Specifically, the Festival organizes periodic piano festivals in Raleigh, North Carolina and the greater Triangle region. The Festival will generally be planned to coincide with one or more anniversaries of Paderewski’s birth and the four dates of his appearances in the Raleigh area. The Festival will include guest performances by notable musicians and lectures by those who have studied Paderewski’s musical and diplomatic contributions or been associated with them.
The Festival is headquartered in Cary, North Carolina, a suburb of Raleigh which was the birthplace of Walter Hines Page, one of the founders of the publishing firm of Doubleday, Page & Company. Page was United States Ambassador to the United Kingdom during the period of World War I when Paderewski was a major figure in promoting the rebirth of Poland in the English-speaking nations.