Jerzy Bojanowski Collection (c. 1932–1960)


Mr. Bojanowski was born in Kamienskoie, Poland in 1893 and studied music at the Musical College in Warsaw (1907–12), the Music Academy of Vienna (1913–14), Vienna University (1913–14), and Kharkoff University (1915–16). He held many conducting positions in Europe, mostly notably with the Warsaw Grand Opera (1918–19 and 1928–32) , Civic Opera of Poznan (1919–25), Dresden Philharmonic (1924), Torun Opera (1925–27), Lwow Opera (1927–28), and the Warsaw Philharmonic (1928–32). Mr. Bojanowski was the Associate Chairman (Prezesi Stowarzyszenia) of Zwiazek Artystow Scen Polskich (ZASP) from March 30, 1929 to April 17, 1930.

Bojanowski came to Chicago in 1932 at the request of the Polish government. William Seabrook, in his 1938 book These Foreigners, describes the circumstances of Bojanowski’s immigration in this manner: “Here had been this Bojanowski four years ago approaching the height of his career, already famous throughout Europe, and the idol of Poland’s capital. His government had sent him as a guest conductor to the World’s Fair in Chicago [where he reportedly conducted the Chicago Symphony Orchestra]; then asked him to remain in America as an attaché of the consulate to promote friendship and cultural relations between the two democracies.” (p. 247)

On September 11, 1937 Bojanowski married Frances Welzant in Lincoln, Lancaster County, Nebraska. They eventually settled permanently at the Hotel Astor on Juneau Avenue in Milwaukee. Bojanowski was affiliated with the Polish Fine Arts Clubs of Chicago and Milwaukee and had many Polish friends and colleagues in the United States.

WPA Federal Music Project

For several years Bojanowski conducted the Wisconsin Symphony Orchestra, which was part of the WPA’s Federal Music Project. Bojanowski wished to make the group a permanent one, but his efforts never succeeded.

In late 1942 there was a move to use the existing Milwaukee Sinfonietta as a basis for a permanent orchestra. The city was divided into two factions, one that wanted  Bojanowski to conduct, and one for Julius Ehrlich, the group’s founding conductor. In 1948 the Milwaukee journal printed an article which stated, “It is an open secret that the community simply does not possess the talent for a full-size [permanent] orchestra.” But Bojanowski would keep trying for many years.

The  New Grove Dictionary of American Music (“Milwaukee”) states that the MSO was not officially founded until 1958. It also states that after WWI Milwaukee was home to the only Polish opera company in the US. The group presented the American premiere of Halka by Moniuszko. While not mentioned in Groves, Bojanowski conducted the opera which was performed at Marquette University.  Bojanowski also conducted the American premiere of Moniuszko’s opera Halka in Chicago.

In 1940 Bojanowski began directing the Music Under the Stars Symphony Orchestra.  By 1949 attendance at the Music Under the Stars concerts was declining and talk of canceling the program surfaced in order to cut the city’s losses. The local papers surmised that dissatisfaction with Bojanowski and his formal programs was leading to the low attendance figures. By 1949–50, Ricahrd Davis, music critic for the Milwaukee Journal, rarely had anything nice to say about Bojanowski. Editorial letters found in the collection ask Davis to “stop picking on Bojanowski” and to be more objective. Bojanowski was let go for several months in 1949 but late in the year the Park Board met and by a vote of 4:3 Bojanowski was rehired. However, in 1950 there was a formal search for a new conductor.  The candidates were Bojanowski, Julius Ehrlich, and someone from New York. The situation apparently was not resolved. In January 1952 the Park Board  voted again and Bojanowski  was ousted by a vote of 4 to 1. In 1953 Bojanowski formed the Milwaukee Chamber Symphony Orchestra and had some affiliation with Marquette University.

Bojanowski died on September 10, 1983 in Milwaukee of congestive heart failure.


Approximately 500 items of correspondence, personal and business, English and Polish (c.1932–1952)

Approximately 200 newspaper clippings, primarily Milwaukee papers, c.1942–1960

Approximately 100 concert programs, various ensembles, many with duplicates (c.1934–1960)

24 black and white photographs (12 of Bojanowski alone)

1 manuscript for a carillon piece for Marquette University (four copies)