April's Featured Faculty: Dr. Marek Szpakiewicz

Written by Regina Ender

Dr. Marek Szpakiewicz’s gift for the cello has not only earned him well-deserved recognition within APU’s School of Music, but he has also been honored by world-renowned musicians. Yo-Yo Ma said Dr. Szpakiewicz’s “energy, motivation, earnestness, and generosity of spirit are evident through his work.” As an assistant professor and the director of string studies and chamber music at APU, his widely-recognized desire for excellence brings out the best in his students, whom he prepares for the competitive world of professional classical music.

Originally from Poland, Dr. Szpakiewicz’s work has earned him international notability. He obtained an advanced degree in cello performance from Lodz Music Academy in Poland before moving to the United States. After earning his Graduate Performance Diploma from Peabody Conservatory at John Hopkins University, Dr. Szpakiewicz earned his M.M. and DMA from USC’s Thornton School of Music.

In 2008, he was given the high honor of permanent residency in the United States as an Extraordinary Ability Artist. He has also been recognized at the local level when Los Angeles County’s Board of Supervisors honored him for his work organizing a benefit concert for earthquake victims in Japan. To give back to the music community, Dr. Szpakiewicz has held three benefit concerts to raise funds for children's-sized cellos for the Soma Children’s Orchestra in Fukushima, Japan. The group was founded in 2012, a year after the devastating Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. The disaster touched Dr. Szpakiewicz’s heart and he immediately became connected with the orchestra to lend a hand and bring help and resources to the children who had endured this difficult time. He held one benefit concert for them in 2015 and continued the tradition in 2016. In October of this year, he will go to Japan to host more recitals that benefit the orchestra.

In addition to his work as a performer and philanthropist, Dr. Szpakiewicz has also done orchestration collaboratively with Polish composer Jan A.P. Kaczmarek. One of his most renowned scores as an orchestrator was for the movie Finding Neverland, which received the Academy Award for Best Original Score in 2005.

As a professor, Dr. Szpakiewicz’s instruction lends itself to great triumphs for his students. Last spring, Dr. Szpakiewicz wrote an article in String Along, a publication of the Los Angeles section of the American String Teachers Association, discussing his experience and approach as a cello instructor at APU. In 2011, one of his students won first place in an international competition in Chile, which he recalls as one of his favorite memories from his time teaching at APU. Many of his students have gone on to acclaimed institutions including Juilliard School, Peabody Conservatory, New England Conservatory, Manhattan School of Music, and USC Thornton School of Music. As an instructor, he said he loves seeing his students express their feelings through music and learn to find their own voices as artists. In addition to watching his students become expert musicians, he ultimately wants them to be empathetic and passionate people.

Words of Wisdom: “Follow your passion and keep your mind open for opportunities. And don't forget to keep practicing hard!”