Faculty of Music
Honorary Laurier degree awarded to Janina Fialkowska
With innate grace and confidence Janina Fialkowska took the stage yesterday (June, 5, 2013) to receive an honorary Wilfrid Laurier University Doctor of Letters and to address the 2013 Faculty of Music graduating class.
Janina, who has numerous professional and personal accomplishments, chose to expose her own self-doubts in the early years of her career, knowing that sharing how she overcame these challenges would resonate with students. She told the story of a time where she had been praising a friend’s work saving children as a nurse. Her friend simply explained that she saved children so their lives could be filled with the quality and beauty, exemplified in things like Janina’s performances as a concert pianist. This reignited Janina’s passion for her work and furthered her conviction of the importance of the arts in everyone’s lives and the value each of us brings in our daily work.
Janina’s warm spirit, beautiful stories, and words of wisdom will continue to inspire the class of 2013 as they move into a future as graduates, always remembering that their actions can enhance the quality of life of those around them.
Janina Fialkowska graduated from the University of Montreal at age 17 and won First Prize at the CBC National Radio Competition for Young Performers the following year. In 1974 she was awarded a special prize by Arthur Rubinstein and he became her mentor. She quickly garnered the attention of major orchestras and conductors worldwide and has since played with such North American orchestras as the Chicago Symphony, Cleveland Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra, Montreal Symphony Orchestra, Toronto Symphony Orchestra, National Arts Centre Orchestra, Vancouver Symphony, and Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony. In Europe and Asia she appears with such prestigious orchestras as the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam, Halle Orchestra, London Philharmonic, BBC Symphony, Scottish National Orchestra, Warsaw Philharmonic, French and Belgian Radio Orchestras, Israeli Philharmonic, Osaka Philharmonic and Hong Kong Philharmonic, under the most renowned conductors in the world.
She has premiered important works by leading contemporary composers and, most notably, the Chicago Symphony invited her to premiere a newly-discovered Piano Concerto by Franz Liszt in 1990. Her critically-acclaimed discography continues to grow and includes the complete Chopin Etudes, many releases of music by Chopin, the 12 Transcendental Etudes by Liszt, a Szymanowski album, the Paderewski Piano Concerto, three Liszt Piano Concertos, and the Chopin-inspired piano concerto by Canadian composer, John Burge.
In 1994 Ms. Fialkowska invited five prominent Canadian pianists to join her in a project to bring low-cost, high-calibre concerts to rural and small-town Canada. Each pianist was to devote 10 days yearly to this project. The pianists travelled across Canada and in the far north and in 10 years played for over 100,000 Canadians in small, sometimes remote communities. After their 10-year commitment, the pianists reunited as Encore Six, which evolved into Piano Plus in 2005, adding singers and other non-keyboard musicians to the roster of outstanding Canadian performers engaged in this project.
Ms. Fialkowska responded in a most extraordinary way to the devastating reality of a cancerous tumour in her left arm, which brought her career to an abrupt halt in 2002. She resumed her career by performing concertos for the left hand, which she transcribed to play with her right hand. After successful surgeries, including a rare muscle-transfer procedure, she engaged in intense physical therapy to recover the use and strength of her left hand. Two years later, through incredible determination and hard work, she made a triumphant return to a “two-handed” career which continues to flourish to this day.
The local community has been enriched by Ms. Fialkowska’s many appearances in the region, including the almost annual, always sold-out performances with the Kitchener-Waterloo Chamber Music Society. She has performed with Laurier’s Penderecki String Quartet several times, and has given recitals and recorded two CDs with Faculty of Music member, Daniel Lichti.In 2001 Ms. Fialkowska was made an Officer of the Order of Canada, and in 2012 she was presented with the Governor General’s Performing Arts Award for Lifetime Artistic Achievement in Classical Music.