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The Classical Music Project Polish Connection

Author: Katarzyna Litak, M.D.

Michal and Liz Sobieski, the driving forces behind the Classical Music Project, have embarked on a new musical endeavor. Comprising of talented musicians with a deep passion for compositions from the 17th to the 19th centuries (including renowned composers like Bach, Beethoven, and Mozart, among others), the project aims to revitalize and bring this music to life. Through meticulously crafted programs, they seek to engage and provoke thought while offering an intimate and captivating musical experience. Their ultimate goal is to create a connection with each member of the audience, providing a delightful and celebratory celebration of live music. Our interaction with Michal and Liz Sobieski shed light on their vision and the motivations behind the inception of the Classical Music Project.

How long have you been thinking about it, and why?

After contemplating the idea for several years, our project faced a setback due to the COVID pandemic. However, when Yaniv Segal, who was conducting the Minnesota Orchestra in the Twin Cities, visited, we took the opportunity to have lunch with him following the concert. During our conversation, Segal shared that he had been collaborating with his mentor, an esteemed Beethoven scholar, on re-orchestrating various compositions by Beethoven. One piece that caught our attention was the Sonata for Orchestra. Intrigued, we requested a recording, and when we finally heard it, we were utterly amazed. We knew then that we had to find a way to perform this extraordinary piece ourselves. Subsequently, the BBC National Orchestra of Wales recorded the Sonata for Orchestra for the NAXOS label.

In today's cultural landscape, we have noticed a decline in the presence of traditional Classical Music, specifically music composed in Europe from the 17th to the 19th centuries. Larger concert halls are programming these works less frequently, and audiences are missing out on experiencing them. However, we believe that there is potential for a revival, especially among younger generations who may be ready to rediscover the inherent value of this music. When skillfully performed in an intimate, beautiful, and acoustically pleasing setting, it has the power to captivate and enrich listeners' lives. We aim to create awareness and appreciation for this timeless music, as we believe it holds tremendous significance.

How long did this take you?

Our journey towards our upcoming concert on April 23rd began a year ago. As we brainstormed ideas for the program, we pondered what other pieces would complement the Sonata for Orchestra. Then, one fateful day, Liz went about her errands while Classical MPR played Beethoven's 4th Piano Concerto. In that moment, inspiration struck like a light bulb illuminating our minds! This exquisite concerto, a cherished favorite for years, felt like the perfect addition to the program. Yaniv shared our enthusiasm and agreed that it would work splendidly. With excitement, we approached Nachito and asked if he would be willing to perform the concerto, to which he wholeheartedly replied, "Yes!"

From that point forward, we dived into the preparations for the concert. We diligently searched for and secured a suitable venue, assembled the orchestra, and meticulously attended to every little detail, including the creation of a logo and website. Now, we find ourselves in the exhilarating phase of the process, where the real fun begins—immersed in rehearsals and diligently preparing for the concert.

Tell us about your partners:

Sam Grabarski, an esteemed co-founder of the Classical Music Project, holds significant influence and shares a Polish background. Alongside his wife, Lisa, Sam is a major donor and avid supporter of the upcoming concert. Having received training as a classical musician at the renowned Juilliard School in New York, Sam embarked on his musical journey. However, his career path gradually guided him toward Arts Administration and development. With notable positions such as heading the Minnesota State Arts Board and Minneapolis Downtown Council, Sam now circles back to his classical roots, taking up the role of principal bassoon and returning to the stage to perform in this concert.

The Polish Connection:

Michal Sobieski, born in Warsaw, Poland, possesses an impressive musical background that has shaped his career. He graduated from the Warsaw Academy of Music under the tutelage of Irena Dubiska, a renowned violinist. As a student, Sobieski's talent was recognized when he emerged as the winner of the National Competition of Baroque Music in Lodz, Poland. He further honed his skills at the Franz Liszt Academy in Weimar, Germany. After completing his studies, Sobieski became a member of the Warsaw Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra and served as the leader and soloist of the esteemed Polish chamber orchestra, Con Moto ma Cantabile. Sobieski embarked on extensive tours throughout Poland, captivating audiences as a soloist and recitalist, all under the auspices of the Warsaw Philharmonic Concert Bureau. In 1970, his exceptional talent earned him a Special Diploma of Honor at the Jean Sibelius International Violin Competition in Helsinki, Finland. Following this recognition, he was invited to pursue post-graduate studies at Indiana University, studying with Josef Gingold, who had been impressed by Sobieski's performance at the competition. In 1979, Sobieski and his wife Elizabeth moved to St. Paul, Minnesota, when he joined The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra. He remained a valued member of the SPCO until his retirement in 2013.

Even after his retirement, Sobieski continues to lead an active musical life. Since 2016, he has served as the concertmaster of the Rochester Symphony Orchestra in Minnesota while also holding the position of concertmaster for the Minneapolis Pops Orchestra for over 25 years. Sobieski frequently showcases his talents as a soloist and chamber musician, collaborating with various musical organizations both within the region and beyond.

Another influential co-founder of the Classical Music Project, with a Polish background, is Sam Grabarski. Sam and his wife, Lisa, play a significant role as major donors and ardent supporters of the concert. Sam, a classically trained musician, pursued his musical education at the prestigious Juilliard School in New York. He began his career in the field of music, but eventually shifted his focus towards Arts Administration and development. Previously holding leadership positions at the Minnesota State Arts Board and the Minneapolis Downtown Council, Sam now returns to his classical roots to perform as the principal bassoonist.

Adding yet another Polish connection to the mix, Yaniv Segal, the conductor for this concert and co-composer of the Sonata for Orchestra, has a personal tie to Michal Sobieski. Yaniv's mother was a violinist colleague of Michal's at the Warsaw Academy of Music and the Lyceum Muzyczne in Warsaw. Yaniv himself has garnered critical acclaim from a young age, excelling in his roles as a conductor, composer, actor, and violinist. With his talent and vision, he has been recognized as a rising star who is redefining classical music, as highlighted by Esquire Magazine.

Lastly, we have Steinway Artist Ignacio "Nachito" Herrera, an extraordinary musician known for his mastery of Afro-Cuban jazz and classical music. Nachito has been honored with Emmys, Grammys, and Minnesota Music Awards for his exceptional contributions to the musical world. He has graced the stage alongside the Minnesota Orchestra and made his solo debut at the age of 12, showcasing his immense talent and versatility.

More about Ignacio "Nachito" Herrera and Yaniv Segal on the Classical Music Project website.

The concert:

Prepare yourself for an extraordinary and unparalleled musical event—the inaugural concert of the Classical Music Project. The carefully curated a delightful all-Beethoven program that promises to bring a smile to your face and fill your heart with pure joy.

First, on the program, brace yourself for an awe-inspiring experience as 33 immensely talented professional instrumentalists from the Twin Cities come together to deliver the Minnesota premiere of Sonata for Orchestra. This breathtaking transformation of Beethoven's Sonata No. 7 for Piano and Violin into a symphonic masterpiece will dazzle your senses, igniting a kaleidoscope of orchestral colors that will leave you spellbound.

For this remarkable performance, the project is honored to welcome back the legendary Steinway Artist Nachito Herrera, one of the world's most esteemed Afro-Cuban jazz musicians. Returning to his conservatory music roots, Nachito will grace the stage with his virtuosity, performing Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 4—a work of unparalleled command and sheer beauty. Prepare to be captivated as his fingers dance across the keyboard, breathing life into this beloved concerto.

The rising star conductor, Yaniv Segal, will guide this musical journey with finesse and artistry. Hailing from a family deeply rooted in the world of classical music, Yaniv, the son of Michal's esteemed colleague from Warsaw, Poland, brings a wealth of talent and passion to the podium. Not only will he conduct this extraordinary concert, but he is also the co-composer, alongside Garrett Schumann, his mentor and a Beethoven scholar, of the Sonata for Orchestra. This concert offers a unique opportunity to experience classical music masterpieces in an intimate and beautiful setting. For those already familiar with Beethoven's works, be prepared to witness the premiere of a new Beethoven composition, exclusively performed for the first time in Minnesota. And for those new to Beethoven's repertoire, be prepared to be enchanted as Nachito's fingers gracefully fly across the keys, bringing the captivating melodies of Beethoven's 4th Piano Concerto to life.

Practical Information:

The Classical Music Project presents Beethoven RE*imagined

Sunday, April 23, 2023 - 3:00 PM

Westminster Hall, Westminster Presbyterian Church

1200 Marquette Avenue, Minneapolis, MN 55403

Tickets: $50 Premium Seating / $20 General Seating

To purchase tickets, please visit: or call the Dakota Box Office at 612-332-JAZZ (5299).

Parking: Attendees have the option of parking in the Westminster Garage beneath the Church, entrance on Alice Rainville Place, for $10


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