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Piano Recital at St. Casimir Church

On Sunday, February 1st, we drove through the snow to St. Casimir's to see a piano recital by the renowned young pianist and composer, Mr. Konrad Binienda "in tribute to Frederic Chopin on his 205th birthday." We met Mr. Binienda's parents, Prof. Wieslaw Binienda, Ph.D., who is Department Chair and Professor of Civil Engineering at the University of Akron, and Mrs. Maria Binienda, an attorney who is Vice President of the Polish American Congress at the national level. We learned that they immigrated to the United States from Poland in 1982 due to the attempts of the Soviet Union to put down the Solidarity movement. We asked Prof. Binienda how he likes Northeast Ohio and he said that in terms of the weather it is a lot like Poland and compared Lake Erie to the Baltic Sea. They became United States citizens in 1985 and Konrad was born in 1988 in Akron.

Prof. Binienda is very proud of his son's accomplishments so he sat down and told us about them. Konrad's first piano instructor was the noted Professor Pat Pace (now sadly deceased) who worked with him from age 6 until age 12. He first studied with Professor Gerardo Teissonniere at the Cleveland Institute of Music when he was in high school. Now he is back at the Cleveland Institute of Music earning his doctorate in piano performance but he also holds a Bachelor of Science in Physics from Harvard University and in his "free" time he likes to study nuclear engineering. We would have to readily agree with Prof. Binienda that Konrad is a very multifaceted young man since he also enjoys skiing, sailing soccer, and tennis.

Prof. and Mrs. Binienda also have a daughter who came to the United States along with her parents when she was 3 years old and has the honor of being a graduate of both Yale and New York University Law School and now has a job with the World Bank.

We asked Konrad what his ultimate goal might be and he told us that after he earns his doctorate he would like to secure a position with a reputable university with a good physics department so he could continue his studies. During the recital, Konrad played seven pieces written by Chopin including "Polanaise in A-flat Major, Op.53" and his playing was nothing short of stunning and emotionally stirring. We also liked it when Konrad played a short classical piece that he had composed himself.

We understand that an article about Konrad recently appeared in the "Plain Dealer" and later in February he will participate in the National Chopin Competition in Miami, Florida. We certainly extend to him our best wishes.

Konrad's mother, Mrs. Maria Binienda told us that Konrad was raised in both the United States and Polish cultures. We asked her to describe her talented son in a short statement and she said that he is a pianist who wants to preserve the "Polish cultural position" because he loves Chopin and Polish folk and national music. She added that Konrad is a composer, too, and his work includes orchestrations for contemporary and solo pieces. When we told her that we worked for Ms. Margaret W. Wong who wanted us to attend as many events as possible in all of the different ethnic communities of Cleveland, Mrs. Binienda told us to keep at it because "we need that broadened view."

Another nice person that we met at this program was Dr. Katherine Gyekenyesi Gatto, Ph.D. from John Carroll University where she is the Director of Women's and Gender studies. Her parents were Hungarian but she was born in an Austrian Refugee Camp in 1945 and immigrated to the United States in 1951 with her family. In her earlier years back in 1965, she was one of the very first students to graduate from Cuyahoga Community College. Dr. Gatto told us that she is very familiar with the work that Ms. Wong does and greatly admires her.

As the program wrapped up, our friend Mr. Joe Feckanin, a parishioner of St. Casimir's, spoke for a moment and reminded everyone that Konrad Binienda generously donates his time to St. Casimir's by playing the organ there every other Sunday. Mr. Feckanin then said that Chopin, himself, was a citizen of Warsaw and his heart belonged to Poland but his music belonged to the world. Along these lines, he went on to say that "Konrad is a citizen of Northeast Ohio but he loves his Polish roots and we want him to share them with the rest of the world."

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