Wanda Harasimowicz Wilk
Promoter of Polish music
by Gilllian Olechno-Huszcza
Wanda Harasimowicz was born in 1921 of Polish-American parents in Hamtramck, Michigan. In 1943 she graduated from Wayne University in Detroit with a Bachelor of Music degree, specializing in Music Education. She taught for 5 1/2 years in public schools in Detroit before moving with her parents to Los Angeles, California. She enrolled in a Master's degree program at the University of Southern California but interrupted her studies to become a critic teacher at Emerson Junior High School in conjunction with the UCLA Teacher's Education Program. She also performed as a pianist in various charity benefits and Polonia functions.
In 1952 she married Dr. Stefan Wilk, and in 1994 they celebrated their forty-second anniversary. In 1955 she resigned her teaching position to become a full time wife, mother and homemaker.
After her daughter Diane graduated from USC with a degree in architecture, Wanda returned there in 1974 to finish her Master's degree. She chose as her thesis the compilation of a bibliography on Polish Music. She discovered a total lack of material at USC and other libraries throughout the USA, so she enrolled in a summer session at the Jagellonian University in Krakow in search of appropriate references. She graduated in 1976 from USC with a Master of Music degree. The same year, in support of her husband's medical career, she became President-elect of the Queen of Angels Hospital Auxiliary. A year later saw her elected as Program Chairperson of the International Committee of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, a position which she held for three years. In 1980 she received the Mayor's Certificate of Appreciation for her participation in the Polish Cultural Exhibit at the California Museum of Science and Industry in Los Angeles, for which she organized the music section of the exhibit and presented seventeen musical programs.
In 1981 she secured the sponsorship of the USC School of Music for a Szymanowski Centennial. There she established the Friends of Polish Music and organized a week-long series of symphonic concerts, recitals, lectures, discussions, a banquet and an outdoor festival, with the participation of experts: artists, musicologists and students from England, Poland and various parts of the United States.
Under the auspices of the Friends of Polish Music Wanda initiated an ongoing monographic series on Polish Music History. Since 1982 five monographs in the series have been published. Between 1983 and 1984 she prepared a traveling exhibit on Szymanowski which was shown in 24 university libraries throughout the US and Canada. In 1983 she received the Perspectives' Award from Perspectives Magazine in Washington D.C., and also the Directors' Award from the USC School of Music in Los Angeles.
Never one to rest on her laurels, Wanda established the Polish Music Reference Center (PMRC) at USC in 1985 with a joint endowment gift from her husband and herself. She was appointed Director of the PMRC by the Dean of the School of Music and in this capacity was invited to give lectures at the Music Center, local universities and music organizations, and to Polish American organizations of the American Council of Polish Cultural Clubs (ACPCC). In 1988 she was awarded the Polonia Award from the Southern California Chapter of the Polish American Congress, and a Gold Medal from the ZPK (Polish Composers Union).
In 1992 she became the faculty advisor for the Mu Nu Chapter of Mu Phi Epsilon in Los Angeles, the International Honorary Fraternity which she had joined in 1942. Also that year she received the Torchbearers' Award from the University of Southern California. In 1992, again jointly with her husband, she established a new foundation Ars Musica Poloniae and under its label produced a compact disc entitled Riches and Rags, which featured Polish women composers as performed by pianist Nancy Fierro.
Wanda is indefatigable. She is planning many more monographs and compact discs and is looking into joining the computer information super highway in order to bring knowledge of Polish music to the forefront of musical life in America, but also throughout the world.
From: Polish Americans in California, vol. II. National Center for Urban Ethnic Affairs & Polish American Historical Association. California 1995.