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Meet Krysta Close of USC Polish Music Center in Exposition Park

Today we’d like to introduce you to Krysta Close.

So, before we jump into specific questions, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
When choosing where to pursue my undergraduate degree in classical voice, USC’s Thornton School of Music jumped out at me partially because it contained this rare and unknown gem: a Polish Music Center. Having a Polish mother who adored music, this seemed like an easy choice, although I barely utilized the PMC while I was a student. It wasn’t until I graduated and was offered a job there that I truly discovered the treasures therein. My work at the PMC is different every day—supporting scholarship around the world, restoring priceless pieces of musical history, fanning the spark of young musical talent into a flame, and much more. This work, plus a subsequent USC Masters degree in public diplomacy, has helped me solve the puzzle of how my lifelong interests in bridging cultures and languages best synthesize with my training as a musician.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
The challenge of being a rare institution, serving a seemingly niche audience, is that you are sometimes hard to see. However, Marek Zebrowski and I have worked tirelessly as a team to make the PMC known and to serve a wider group of interests beyond just Poles or Polish-Americans.

Please tell us about USC Polish Music Center.
Although the PMC is unique in many ways, probably our greatest distinction is our incredible collection of archival material. Our Manuscript Collection was established at the same time that the Polish Music Center was, in 1985, with a gift of five musical manuscripts by Witold Lutosławski—one of the foremost composers of 20th-century music not only in Poland but in the world. In the time since, not only has this Collection expanded to include manuscripts from over 80 contemporary Polish composers, but the PMC Archive has swelled with collections of five important figures from Polish music and history: Henryk Wars [Henry Vars], Bronisław Kaper, Roman Ryterband, Zygmunt Stojowski, and Ignacy Jan Paderewski. These collections encompass not only original musical manuscripts, but also rare printed scores, letters, photographs, books, personal items and more. The quality and rarity of these collections has led to an almost decade-long collaboration between the PMC and State Archives of Poland, who regularly send internationally accredited scholars and preservationists to work with our archival materials.

The work of the Polish Music Center includes much more than just our Archives, however. The PMC organizes concerts at USC and throughout California, including the Paderewski Festival in Paso Robles, as well as scholarly conferences and other events. Online since the 1990s, the vast PMC website provides information about contemporary Polish composers, traditional dance and folk music, current events in Polish music, as well as in-depth musicological analysis via the Polish Music Journal. We also have an extensive library of published scores and books, many of which do not exist elsewhere outside of Poland.

What were you like growing up?
One of my defining characteristics since childhood has been a deep desire to consume languages and explore cultures. Although I grew up in Wisconsin, my mother was born in Poland and raised in Brazil, and the languages and cultures of these countries were omnipresent in my childhood, in both overt and subtle ways. I would often drill my mom to repeat numbers in the many languages she knew, obsessing over the shape of her mouth and striving to recreate the same in mine. While most little girls listed doctor or ballerina as their desired future occupation, I proudly told people I wanted to be a diplomat at the UN—an admission that, along with being very outgoing, often earned me the description of “precocious.”

Contact Info:

  • Address: USC Polish Music Center
    837 Downey Way, STO 120
    Los Angeles, CA 90089-0851
  • Website: https://polishmusic.usc.edu/
  • Phone: 213-821-1356
  • Email: polmusic@usc.edu

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