In a world filled with conflict and dispute, the pieces of Maestro Valentina’s music on the organ or piano can be shown to provide treatment, or a humanitarian message through a language understood by everyone. Maestro Valentina, a professor at the Kuwait Institute for Musical Arts, is one of the founders of the Music Department at the Islamic Monuments House, and the first person to introduce and play the organ in Kuwait during 2006.
Can you tell us about yourself, Maestro Valentina?
After completing my studies at the Academy of Music and the University of Frederic Chopin in Warsaw, the Academy had suggested I work as a leader of the Academy orchestra, in addition to my work as an assistant professor. This was a great challenge for me as I had been a fresh graduate, and because the orchestra of 106 musicians were composed of colleagues who were only a few years younger than me.
Through your work as a professor at the Higher Institute of Musical Arts, do you believe there are efforts in Kuwait in support of music and classical music in particular?
During 2003, my first visit to Kuwait was my first contact with the Arab and Islamic World. I had been raised in the west, and coming to Kuwait was quite unexpected. Every building, every mosque, and every corner was exciting or new to me. I had arrived to Kuwait upon an invitation from the Ministry of Higher Education, as he had sought out to hire professional musicians. They brought me here as a professor of piano and a specialist in chamber music.
At first, I was very surprised with the lack of theaters in the region. I was hoping to continue doing what I enjoyed, as I had worked many years at the Academy of Music, one of the largest academies of Poland and Europe. There, I had organized concerts and trained musicians, and also found myself really embracing music.
I tried to find something to do for two years, as I had an urge to play music and find those who shared the same passion. Someone had told me that a sector of the society was interested in music, and I had heard that they frequented the House of Islamic Monuments. I went there several times on a mission to meet the official, Her Highness Sheikha Hasa Salem Al Sabah. Once I met her, I presented her with my achievements and tried to convince her that the Midan Cultural Center would be a good venue for reviving such musical activities.
Sheikha Hasa was in awe by one of the tracks, as she had thought the music was being played by a large orchestra, and not just by me. I rejoiced at the interest of Sheikha Hessa, who accepted I bring the first Italian-made organ to Kuwait. On September 15, 2006, I had brought the musical instrument to Kuwait.
There were decent musical events that had taken place involving Arab and Indian music, along with folklore. However, within the last 5 years, things have changed. Among the tasks I had to take on, I strived to find people who had a taste for classical music and a passion for it as do I.
I presented the organ and played the first piece on December 26, 2006. The audience was inclusive of the former British Ambassador in Kuwait, Stuart Link. At the end of the concert, the Ambassador asked me to join him on a venture, in which we decided to establish a committee to activate the musical life in Kuwait.
We held our first meeting on January, 28. It was not a formal meeting nor official ceremony, but rather a party for listening, attended by a number of Kuwaitis and foreigners who embraced an interest in music. The opinion of people on my music is very important to me, so I distributed a questionnaire to the attendees to survey the extent of their understanding and impressions of the music. Parts of these reactions have been posted on my website.
Have you found any talented, young Kuwaitis at the Higher Institute of Music where you teach?
There are many young, talented people; however, they are too late for studying music and dealing with musical instruments at the age of 16. This is 10 years too old for a person to actually decide whether they are gifted or talented with music. I suggested that the Ministry begin organizing music lessons at school during an early age, starting from the age of six. In fact, Kuwaitis should consider teaching music to children. The Kuwait Music Institute is only the beginning for studying music, but then again, I know many Kuwaitis who have travelled to Egypt and Europe to study music.
What about your activities in Kuwait?
I am happy because these activities began in the autumn of 2006, and I have always tried to maintain my level of performance. As is known, this profession, just like sports, needs a lot of practice so that my performance levels do not become affected. Therefore, I play and train on a daily basis. I have many projects, and every project requires hard work and a lot of efforts. When I was in Europe, I would organize 35 musical concerts at a time. However, over the last two cultural seasons, I have decided to return to leading the orchestra. My dream is to set up a professional orchestra in Kuwait. This requires logistic and financial assistance. Although there are many talented people in Kuwait, this job requires much organization.
What about the audiences that frequent the Midan Cultural Center Functions where you organize musical concerts?
The majority of the audience that has attended the Midan Cultural Center was expatriates. During my first concert, I found that the audience had consisted of 40 different nationalities, mainly foreigners working in Kuwait and from the diplomatic sector. The audience differs in the types and themes of their music choice. Generally though, the Kuwaiti audience attending our activities has been increasing. I deal with the organ as an orchestra in order for the audience to enjoy. I am also on a search of finding new musical pieces, including Arabic music.
Since you are Polish, what have you seen distinguishes Polish music from the rest?
Polish music is very rich and includes both classical and traditional music. Some traditional music consists of historical and dramatic music inspired by war. The Polish Christmas music is considered the richest of the world. Furthermore, the national music is very rich as well. Poland takes pride in its seven national dances that have existed over the last seven centuries.
As a Maestro, what do you find attractive about Arabic music?
Arabic music is very important and complex in its terms of rhythm. I have heard several Arabic songs in festivals in Europe, particularly in Italy. I love hearing the traditional musical instruments such as the ancient Arab string instrument “Kanun,” the lute, and the flute. Each musical instrument has its own characteristic, advantages, and preparations as well.
What are your forthcoming goals?
I am now preparing for two concerts and am trying to attract a wider audience through a musical program which focuses on varying themes and time. My last concert was organized in December, and it was quite a challenge for me because the pieces had been written by a contemporary Polish composer. I was pleased that the public had understood my feelings and music. Nonetheless, I believe what is important is the way an artist lines a program, because music is like a play, it has a beginning and an end. It requires both talent and continuity in terms of both the playing and listening. The program I usually choose is by one composer which consists of a number of different pieces. My professor Mariann Sawa, who had passed away in 2005, composed 5 magnificent musical pieces for me. Beautiful music is that with which an interaction can last through centuries, as is the case with the music of Bach and Chopin. I hope that this will also apply for the music of my professor Mariann Sawa.
I have studied music and have tried to show the people of this world the beauty of music. People suffer and exchange feelings, they feel pain, and the same blood runs in their veins. Music is not related to origin or affiliation- good music is clear and it speaks one language understood by all. The objective of music is to spread peace and bring people together.
Maestro, what is your dream?
My dream is the dream of every human being - I hope peace will prevail in the world and conflict will end. I also hope that more attention is directed toward music, and the organ instrument can become popular within Kuwait and the Arab World. Finally, I hope to set up an orchestra in Kuwait.
To listen to the music of Maestro Valentina, visit her youtube page at www.youtube.com/organinkuwait?feature=mhee
First Published in Men's Passion Issue #37 February 2012