Bydgoszcz ranks among the largest Polish cities. It is located at the meeting point of five regions, each of them with diverse culture and history. The city has always been ambiguous and therefore intriguing and attractive.

333
entities from the music
and phonography sector
operate in Bydgoszcz.

The Brda River lies at its heart and life seems to revolve around water. That is the way it has always been here. The river used to give work to those toiling on barges, it used to drive industrial development, and as a tributary of the Vistula River that also crosses Bydgoszcz, it  used to link the city with other places in Poland and Europe.

Every year Bydgoszcz organizes
15
international music festivals

Now, when the time of the industrial heyday is nothing but a memory, the river still   shapes the life of the city. Yet it is not industry that drives all the changes but culture. Thanks to the perfect duo of culture and water Bydgoszcz has been undergoing specular changes.

In 2016, in Bydgoszcz,
The
Guinness
World
Record
was broken for playing
the largest drum in the world

In this dynamically growing city industrial heritage serves as a platform for cultural development and culture itself has become the driving force behind changes in urban-planning, social and economic live and  cultural events. The varied cultural offer, intensiveness of music life and the infrastructure created with a view to serving both the inhabitants and the artists, coupled with promotion of musical legacy, all these factors have turned Bydgoszcz into the cultural leader of the region.

New sounds in Bydgoszcz

Koncert na festiwalu Drums Fusion

It is music and the institutions promoting it that have turned Bydgoszcz into a city with exceptionally vibrant cultural life. Therefore, large-scale investments have been undertaken to promote culture. Three multimillion projects are about to go underway – notably all of them related to music.

The Opera Nova is going to be extended with the fourth circle holding a new chamber music hall with nearly 500 seats as well as a screening room. Moreover, the Philharmonic Hall is just about to extend its premises. The existing hall will be connected with a new one, housing a small concert hall with 350 seats, a stage for a 30-member orchestra and a 30-singer choir.

Additionally, the F. Nowowiejski Music Academy in Bydgoszcz is to have a new campus constructed on a 3 ha plot featuring 4 concert halls, recital rooms, orchestra pits, a stage for opera and organ rooms as well as classrooms and student dormitories.

The cultural potential of Bydgoszcz remains as yet untapped and constantly evolves. The Philharmonic Hall in Bydgoszcz has risen to fame thanks to its acoustics and is considered to be one of the best in Europe. It is in this hall where one of the most prestigious piano contest in Poland takes place, namely the International I.J. Paderewski Piano Competition. Also, the Opera Nova, located at the bank of the Brda river, has been attracting the best soloist and musicians while the Bydgoszcz Opera Festival has become not only a brand recognized worldwide but also the largest review of diverse music genres ranging from opera, operetta to musical and ballet. Every year the Opera invites the most interesting theatre groups from all over the world.

Festivals

Spektakl teatralny

Annually, Bydgoszcz offers nearly 100 festivals, reviews and cyclical events, many of which revolve around culture.

The most important festivals include:

The Bydgoszcz Opera Festival – an international and also the largest in Poland review of various musical genres ranging from opera, operetta to musical and ballet.

The Bydgoszcz Music Festival – an international festival organized by the I.J. Paderewski Philharmonic Hall. It has been staging classical music, both early and contemporary since 1963.

The International DRUMS FUSION Festival – the largest and the only festival in Poland dedicated entirely to percussion instruments and percussion virtuosos. Thanks to this festival Bydgoszcz has its entry in the Guinness World Record Book - in 2016 during the 10th  edition a record was set in playing the world largest drum.

The International Contemporary Music and Visual Arts Festival Mózg - a multicultural event for artists interested in all contemporary music genres, performance, audio and video installations, in which music plays an underlying role.

The I.J. Paderewski International Piano Competition and A. Rubinstein International Piano Competition.

There is no shortage of jazz music festivals in Bydgoszcz: the most important are Bydgoszcz Jazz Festival and Bydgoszcz Jazz Academy (project by The Feliks Nowowiejski Academy of Music and Municipal Cultural Center in Bydgoszcz). Since 2013, within the frames of BJA, the academic teachers - well-known and respected masters of instruments - are presented, as well as the effects of their work with talented students, achieving remarkable results under their supervision.

The Chamber Music Festival “Muzyka u Źródeł” as well as the Bydgoszcz Baroque Scene, featuring both more traditional and up-to-date arrangements of baroque music rank among some of the most interesting initiatives. Also, the Fonomo Music & Film Festival devised an original formula combining film, music, image and sound. The Municipal Centre of Culture in Bydgoszcz features every year a several dozen of various music events, among many other, the Folk and Traditional Music Festival Ethniesy.

Nature is the new culture

Big Bike Orchestra

Bydgoszcz is the city that cares deeply about climate protection and therefore pro-ecological solutions have always been of prime importance here. The undertaken investments rely on renewable energy sources, including photovoltaic panels, an Olympic–size swimming pool Astoria is one of them. Municipal buildings such as  nurseries, kindergartens or sports facility also tap energy from the sun.

Culture and music in particular, have always put at the forefront the idea of sustainable development and climate protection. The Municipal Centre of Culture has taken the lead in combining music and ecology.

The Centre has launched a myriad of initiatives promoting ecological lifestyle such as Children’s Recycling Orchestra, which under the guidance of a percussionist Jacek Kwaśniak plays percussion instruments made from waste materials. The summer of 2021 is marked by the concept of the Green Zones of Culture designed by the Centre. The cultural events held in the zones provide also an occasion to promote sustainable growth and ecology, for instance the concerts of the Big Bike Orchestra - a six-member band that plays music while riding a six-person  bike, workshops on creating instruments from waste materials or competitions for children.

The flagship project of the Municipal Centre is the Spring of Festivals, i.e. five large-scale events in spring that also bring to attention the issue of environmental protection. The highlights of the Spring of Festivals include:

The International DRUMS FUSION Festival – the largest event devoted to percussion music in Poland. Such renown artists as Dave Lombardo, Cindy Blackman Santana, Jan Garbarek or Apocalyptica were its guests. The festival also features the International Percussion Forum with workshops both for percussion professionals and enthusiasts held by world-famous musicians. Since 2021 DRUMS FUSION has definitely got into ecological rhythm – green lifestyle and nature protection have set the tone for its whole program. Music events combined with ecological workshops, performances of Children’s Recycling Orchestra (playing self-made instruments from waste materials), BIG BIKE ORCHESTRA concerts, promoting the bike as the best means of transport, these are just some of the highlights that were held all over the city and established the network of Green Zones of Culture.

The Folk and Traditional Music Festival Ethniesy - one of the largest events in Poland devoted to various strands of folk music. Yet, it is not only music that comes to play here since the primeval power of sound serves to uncover the world devoid of all glitter and hype. Ethniesy affirms life, turns to the roots, tradition and the rhythms of nature. In 2021 the festival adopted the creed “NATURE IS THE NEW CULTURE”.

Music education

Warsztaty muzyczne

The Feliks Nowowiejski Music Academy, the only institution of this type in the whole region, operates in Bydgoszcz. Since 1974, in the present form since 1981, it has been educating instrumentalists, vocalists, conductors, composers, music theorists, teachers, sound engineers, arrangers and culture animators. 

It is worth noting some of the outstanding graduates of the Academy included such piano virtuosos as Rafał Blechacz, the winner of the 15th Fryderyk Chopin Piano Competition, Paweł Wakarecy, the finalist of the 16th edition of this competition, Krzysztof Książek, the laureate of the second prize at the Polish Fryderyk Chopin Competition in 2015 or Krzysztof Herdzin, one of the most renown pianists, composers and jazz musicians in Poland. The Music Academy attracts students thanks to its outstanding teaching staff, including Katarzyna Popowa-Zydroń (piano), Piotr Biskupski (percussion) or Rafał Blechacz.

Moreover, the A. Rubinstein State Music School Complex operates here and the educational offer is enriched by some private schools and classes held by other cultural institutions such as the Municipal Center of Culture, the Youth Centre Pałac Młodzieży, youth cultural centers and Integrational Music University for Children. Also, the Philharmonic Hall offers some classes aimed at pregnant women, infants and babies “Od brzuszka do uszka maluszka”, as well as the Stage of the Young (Estrada Młodych) and  the ABC of Music (Muzyczne ABC).

Bydgoszcz boasts 25 concert halls, two symphony orchestras, chamber music orchestra, seven school orchestras and 40 amateur choirs. There are as many as 18 recording studios in the city.

Andrzej Szwalbe and his pianos

Andrzej Szwalbe

Not only is there a street named after Andrzej Szwalbe in Bydgoszcz, but also his monument can be found here. Moreover, he was given the title of the Honorary Citizen and is the patron of a collection of historical grand pianos in Ostromecko. Andrzej Szwalbe is the person who has left an indelible mark on the musical landscape of Bydgoszcz. It was thanks to his endeavors that in 1953 the Philharmonic Hall was erected in Bydgoszcz. In the following years he channeled his energy into various culture-related initiatives – he originated the idea of building the Musical Theatre, engaged passionately into the construction of the Opera Nova, laid a foundation for a research station affiliated to the Institute of Musicology of the Warsaw University,  founded the Capella Bydgostiensis Pro Musica Antiqua – one of the leading Polish chamber Musis orchestras specializing in early music.

Thanks to his effort the Palaces and Park Complex in Ostromecko boasts a sizeable Collection of Historical Pianos. The collection was started in 1970 to give guidance and instruction to the students of the Academy discovering the history of the instrument. Working together with Dr Beniamin Vogl, Szwalbe amassed a unique collection of instruments dating chiefly from the 19th and early 20th centuries. There are only three collections of this type in Poland that feature almost all types of pianos.

The Palaces and Park Complex in Ostromecko serves as a perfect example of a creative application of industrial and cultural heritage of Bydgoszcz, with particular emphasis on music. Apart from the Historical Piano Collection, the Complex also features the Sommerfeld Warehouse – with instruments manufactured in the factories in Bydgoszcz, including the Sommerfeld factory, which in the interwar period used to be the largest piano and grand piano producer in Poland. Bruno Sommerfeld built a worldwide career selling children pianos Baby Grand to England, Holland, France, Argentine, Palestine and Ceylon. The Sommerfeld Warehouse also features wind instruments as well as an sizeable collection of accordions produced by the Bydgoszcz Accordion Factory. An extreme rarity, the Carmen accordion with the serial number 0001 is on  display there.

It is worth noting that in the Old Palace in Ostromecko artists residence programs, aimed particularly at local artists, are held. Grzegorz Pleszyński, a painter, and Małgorzata Grossman, a writer, were the beneficiaries of this initiative.

The birthplace of yass and alternative music scene in Bydgoszcz

Koncert zespołu muzycznego

Certainly all those who are music-lovers are no strangers to the music club Mózg.  It has become an iconic place on the map of the city, and in the 90s became home to a new music movement – yass. It was invented by the musicians from the Tricity and Bydgoszcz such as Tymon Tymański, Jerzy Mazzoll and Tomasz Gwinciński. The album Tańce bydgoskie released in 1992 by Trytony group is considered to be the first yass album.

The club Mózg was the home venue, if not a mecca, for yass enthusiasts. The most renown and established yass formation include:  Miłość, Trytony, Łoskot, Mazzoll & Arhythmic Perfection.

It is worth noting that Mózg constituted the first music center in Bydgoszcz following the systemic transformation. It serves as yet another example demonstrating how the industrial history of the city provides a springboard for its ongoing cultural development. The club is seated in Gdańska 10 Street, where before the war - the soap factory and after the war – the movie projector repair facility had their premises.

Still, there is much more to the music scene in Bydgoszcz than Mózg and yass. For over 40 years the Bydgoszcz alternative music scene has been prominent in the city. It all started with Abaddon and Variete at the Jarocin festival. Then evolved in the nineties and beginnings of the 21st century with such bands as Something Like Elvis, 3moonboys and various formations awarded Paszport Polityki – an annual award presented by the weekly, granted, for example, to Kuba Ziołek (Alameda, Stara Rzeka).

There are also some other phenomena that distinguish Bydgoszcz on the Polish music scene – undeniably one of them is rap music. In this context it is worth mentioning Bisz and his musical collaborations that frequently top the music charts.

Culture in factories and industrial heritage of Bydgoszcz

Spektakl w przestrzeni pofabrycznej

The river used to be the chief driving force behind Bydgoszcz development. Not only did the flowing water power the mills’ wheels grinding grain but also accelerated the development of the whole city. Yet with the end of the industrial era Bydgoszcz did not come to a standstill. On the contrary – this post-industrial heritage contributed to developing a new infrastructure – this time the cultural infrastructure. The shut-down factories and  production halls, former plants, river barges that used to be tightly  interwoven into the city landscape got a new lease on life. But without the aid of culture, this wouldn’t happen. The Water, Industry and Craft Trail TeH2O  – is the thematic trail that unites the history of 15 places that are organically revolving around the concept of water. On the route the following places can be found: the Mill Island – revitalized green area in the city center which literally brought the river back to the inhabitants. Culture has taken up this space with great confidence – the Island is home to the District Museum, Leon Wyczółkowski’s house and superbly renovated Rother’s Mills, which have become a new cultural hub in Bydgoszcz and a state of the art exhibition space. The Mills have just embarked on the project “Węzły – miasto w sieci” which revolves around the industrial heritage of the city and formative role of the river.

TeH2O trail also includes the Bydgoszcz Canal, Exploseum, Museum of Soap and History of Dirt  (the only one in Europe) and Lemar’s barge. The barge, under the auspices of the Municipal City Centre, has become not only a historical highlight and attraction on water but also an authentic Museum of Skippers’ Legends and a venue for various cultural events including concerts on water, art exhibitions, meetings with artists and creative workshops for children.

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