Karol Szymanowski

Karol Szymanowski (associate professor) is Poland’s leading jazz vibraphonist, a composer and arranger, and an experienced teacher. He studied percussion at the Feliks Nowowiejski Academy of Music in Bydgoszcz and jazz and popular music at the Academy of Music in Katowice, from which he graduated with honours. He is a prize-winner of a number of Polish and European jazz competitions, among them the Jazz Juniors (Krakow), Ceskoslovensky Jazzowy Festival [the Czecho-Slovak Jazz Festival] (Karlove Vary), Pomorska Jesień Jazzowa [the Pomeranian Jazz Autumn Festival] (Bydgoszcz). He was also among the finalists of the Jazz Improvisation Competition (Katowice) and Jazz nad Odrą [Jazz on the Oder River] (Wrocław).

He is busy giving concerts of mainly jazz music, but he also frequently performs with blues and ethnic music ensembles. He has appeared in most jazz festivals in Poland such as the Jazz Jamboree, Summer Jazz Days, Jazz nad Odrą, Jazz Jantar, or the Sopot Pier Festival.

His original six-mallet technique for the vibraphone has made it possible to exploit the potential of the instrument in music genres otherwise inaccessible to it. Karol Szymanowski appears mostly in duos and trios, which enables him to present the novel aspects of his six-mallet grip. He originated the idea of expanding the vibraphone range by adding the lowest octave of the marimba, which, owing to his collaboration with the French manufacturer Bergerault, resulted in creating a new instrument, the Bass Vibe.

Karol Szymanowski works also as a jazz music reviewer and propagator. He publishes articles and reviews in specialist periodicals. He is the co-author of the report Education in jazz and popular music in Poland and a book on the Bydgoszcz percussion school.

Apart from his regular teaching practice at the Bydgoszcz Academy of Music, where he is currently professor extraordinarius, Karol Szymanowski conducts masterclasses, vibraphone training sessions and workshops at major Polish and foreign jazz festivals (the International Percussion Forum in Żagań, the International Percussion Festival ‘Crossdrumming’ in Warsaw, the National Youth Percussion Instrument Competition & Summer Percussion Academy in Shanghai), and courses in percussion music organized abroad (Germany, Belgium, Holland, Spain, China). In his artistic practice he uses Bergerault instruments and customized ‘Karol Szymanowski’ mallets made by Vibrawell.

In 2014 he was awarded with the ministerial badge of merit for his service to Polish culture, and in 2016 he received an award for his outstanding achievements in percussion music.

His major published works on vibraphone playing include The Six-Mallet Technique for the Vibraphone by Karol Szymanowski (2007), Harmony in the Practice of a Jazz Vibraphonist: Voicing Four-Note Chords (2011), The Vibraphone as a Harmonic Instrument in a Jazz Band (2012), Chord Studies for Vibraphone (2014), and Polish Christmas Carols and Pastorales for Vibraphone (2017).