Saying that Marek Jablonski was one of Alberta's finest piano
teachers is easy. There are scores of former students who'd be
willing to line up to attest to that. But nailing down exactly
what it was that made him special is not so easy. The reasons may
be as varied as the number of students who had the chance to
experience his wisdom and dedication.
"He was a very unique teacher, in the sense that he really
respected you as a player and as a person," is the assessment
of Ayako Tsuruta, a student of Jablonski's at the University of
Alberta until the teacher's failing health resulted in Tsuruta's
taking over the teaching of Jablonski's other students. "And
this comes across from day one—in fact, from the minute that you
Jablonski, who died of cancer at the age of 59 on May 8, 1999,
was born in Krakow, Poland a scant two months after the Nazis had
overrun Poland in the blitzkrieg that initiated the Second World
War. His studies on the piano began in his native land at the age
of six. Arriving in Edmonton with his family at the age of 10,
Jablonski the piano student studied with Gladys Egbert of Calgary
and Randolph Hokanson at the Banff Centre for the Arts—the school
where, years later, it would be Jablonski's master classes that would draw
students from all over the world. Tsuruta, who obtained her
bachelor's degree from Juilliard and her master's from Yale, was
one of them.
"My very good friend, who also graduated from Yale—I spent
three years hearing him talk about Mr. Jablonski, and I figured
this was one person that I must give a try," she says.
"That experience at Banff turned out to be incredible, and
when I realized that he taught at the University of Alberta, I had every intention of continuing my
education into the doctorate program, and it's no coincidence that
I came to Edmonton."
U of A Department of Music sources show that students from
Rumania, Poland, Japan, England, the US as well as from all over
Canada, came to learn from Jablonski. He was so renowned for his
teaching in the latter part of his life, however, that it's
sometimes easy to overlook the fact that, in his halcyon days,
Jablonski was a concert pianist of the first rank. That aspect of
his career had an auspicious beginning. As a 22-year-old student
at Juilliard, he won the grand prize in its national competition
(1961), performing Chopin's Concerto No. 1 with Zubin Mehta.