Honorary Director, Polish Music Reference Center
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 several years in public schools in Detroit before moving with her parents to Los Angeles where she enrolled in a Master's degree program at the University of Southern California. While Ms. Wilk interrupted her studies to become a teacher at Emerson Junior High School in conjunction with the UCLA Teacher's Education Program, she continued to perform as a pianist at various charity benefits and Polish functions. In 1952 she married Dr. Stefan Wilk; in 1955 she resigned her teaching position to become a full-time wife, mother and homemaker.
When her daughter Diane enrolled at USC in the School of Architecture, Ms. Wilk returned to the USC School of Music to finish her Master's degree. She chose as her thesis the compilation of a bibliography on Polish music and discovered a total lack of material at USC and other libraries throughout the USA. In order to find the appropriate references and learn more about the Polish music literature, she enrolled in a summer session at the Jagiellonian University in Krakow. In 1976 she completed her thesis and graduated from USC with a Master of Music degree. 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 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 artists, musicologists and students from England, Poland and various parts of the United States.
Under the auspices of the Friends of Polish Music Ms. Wilk initiated an ongoing monographic series on Polish music history. Since 1982 five monographs have been published. Between 1983 and 1984 she prepared a travelling 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, DC and also the Director's Award from the USC School of Music in Los Angeles.
In 1985 Ms. Wilk established the Polish Music Reference Center (PMRC) at USC with a joint endowment gift from her husband, Dr. Stefan Wilk, and herself. She was appointed the Director of the PMRC by the Dean of the School of Music and in this capacity was invited to give lectures at the Los Angeles Music Center, local universities, music organizations and Polish-American associations, including the American Council of Polish Cultural Clubs.
In 1988 she and her husband were awarded the Polonia Award from the Southern California chapter of the Polish American Congress, and a Gold Medal from the Polish Composers' Union (ZKP). She is a honorary member of that organization. In 1992 she received the Torchbearers' Award from the University of Southern California. In 1996, her devotion to Polish music earned her the highest state award from Poland: the medal Polonia Restituta.
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, performed by pianist Nancy Fierro. She wrote the first monograph in the Polish Music History Series (Karol Szymanowski, 1982) and became the Editor of this series. She is also the author of articles about Polish women composers, and many other subjects pertaining to the history of Polish music. Her texts frequently appear in Polish-American press. In 1994, Ms. Wilk initiated the creation of this web site, devoted to Polish music.
In 1996 Wanda Wilk retired as Director of the PMRC, becoming the Center's Honorary Director and continuing her activities as the President of the Friends of Polish Music. She still devotes much of her time to champion the cause of Polish music, both nationally and internationally.