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Ursula Kwasnicka

Conductors & Musicians / Ursula Kwasnicka
Ursula Kwasnicka

Ursula Kwasnicka, harpist, was born Urszula Kwaśnicka in Szczurowice, Poland in 1943. She started her musical life on the piano at the age of five, began harp studies in the fifth grade and credits Ewa Węgrzyniak as her inspiration to become a harpist. She attended the School of Music in Bytom and while at school she became the harpist with the Silesian Opera in Bytom from 1959-1961. Her paternal grandfather had come to America in 1904 and worked as a tailor in New York City. In 1962 Urszula came to America with her family. Her musical talents were immediately recognized and she received a full scholarship to study with the French-American harpist, Marcel Grandjany, at the Manhattan School of Music. From 1962-1968, she received both a Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts degree. In 1966, she also won First Prize in the second American Harp Society Competition and her reward was a Carnegie Hall recital.1

“Miss Kwasnicka coaxed a remarkable variety of sounds from the solo harp, and her zestful playing gave the music precisely the right blend of fun and fantasy”. N.Y.Times

Following her debut recital at Carnegie Hall on October 1968 she went on a recital tour throughout the United States.

She was also a member of Leopold Stokowski’s American Symphony. When Grandjany, who also taught at the Juilliard School of Music, passed away she joined the faculty of the Juilliard School of Music for one year.

She became a member of the Honolulu Symphony in 1968 and the following year received a fellowship from the French Government to pursue her career in France. She studied harp with Pierre Jamet, professor of the Conservatoire Superior in Paris. In 1970 she became a prize winner at the International Harp Competition in Israel and the following year she had her solo recital debut at the Salle Gaveau in Paris. That same year she went to Poland and gave recitals at the Academy of Music in Warsaw and at her alma mater, School of Music in Bytom.

Ursula returned to the United States in the summer of 1971 and joined Syracuse Symphony Orchestra as a principal harpist. During her tenure with the SSO she performed Mozart’s Concerto for flute and harp, as well as Debussy’ Dances Sacred and Profane.

Presently she is on the faculty of Hamilton College where she had been teaching harp for over twenty years.

She was married to late Dr. Soriano Uy So and they have two children, Mark and Agatha. Mark is an avant-garde composer, presently residing in California, whose compositions Ursula has performed several times. Agatha is polyglot; she speaks Polish, Spanish and Mandarin. Agatha spent four years in China teaching English and working as an editor for the Chinese news paper. She brought a black cat from China  named “Solo” that became Ursula favored pet.

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