Harpist Elisabeth Plank teaching in Katowice
I was invited by Anna Scheller and Elżbieta Korelus to teach and perform at the Karol Szymanowski Academy of Music in Katowice, Poland (19–21 January 2024); it was my first time to teach as part of the Erasmus+ scheme, and it couldn’t have been a better experience.
As I had been to Katowice already twice before—performing at the NOSPR concert venue—I already felt quite at home there. It was a wonderful opportunity for me to get to know the city and its musical life from a different angle altogether.
The Academy is a very impressive building, a mix of old and new architecture paying tribute to the typical historical brick buildings in Katowice. I decided to stay in one of the modern and comfortable apartments within the institution to really immerse myself in the experience. It is also very practical and saved me from facing the slippery streets and the freezing cold. Besides that, I enjoyed seeing how the lights, moods, and sounds of the Academy changed within a day and varied from day to day; it was also very fascinating to experience such a “loud” building in complete silence in the dark of the night.
I arrived in a snowy Katowice, discovering—to my pleasant surprise—that in Poland, Christmas decorations are kept up until February.
Over the course of three days, I taught thirteen harpists in one-on-one lessons, gave two workshops, and performed a recital myself.
All activities were part of the “II Katowickie Spotkania Harfowe” harp festival: they were open to the public and also attracted harpists from Bielsko-Biała, Częstochowa, Bydgoszcz, Sulejówek, and Warsaw—both students and professionals—as well as other instrumentalists and interested audience members.
A surprise for everyone involved was that a team from the TV station TVP3 suddenly showed up in the classroom; they were covering the events and interviewing some participants and me.
All students from the Academy received two lessons, while the young visiting harpists were given one lesson each, an opportunity for them to get to know the Academy and for the Academy to attract potential future students. I was very happy to see that the participants were also listening to the other lessons.
My workshops on warming up and on performance training were also streamed live, so they reached an even bigger audience.
My recital on 20 January 2024 took place in the beautiful and historic Bolesław Szabelski Auditorium. For my programme, I decided to stay away from the typical harp repertoire, instead presenting a stylistic mix of music by Vienna-based composers spanning three centuries.
Sitting in the train back to Vienna while writing this text, I am feeling exhausted but at the same time also strangely energised and very inspired by the past days, and I am definitely looking forward to the next occasion to be part of the Erasmus+ scheme.
For me it was very interesting to see many different pedagogical approaches manifested in young harpists and to get to hear different repertoire.
I believe it is important to create good bonds with your colleagues within the small harp world, supporting and learning from each other.
I really enjoyed the exchange with my colleagues, talking about our goals and visions as pedagogues, and also sharing the difficulties we sometimes encounter and discovering that those are (fortunately? unfortunately?) the same everywhere.