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A set of performances turns into a Utah farewell for pianist Elbieta Bilicka.

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Elbieta Bilicka became a resident of Utah through happenstance. While visiting her sister, who teaches economics at Utah State University, she found herself at exactly the right place to secure a job in teaching, eventually becoming a Faculty Associate at the Caine College of the Arts at Utah State University in Logan in May 2019.

A concert pianist by training, she was offered a position at the college in relatively short order after her initial visit in 2018, and she'd find it a nice fit for several years, balancing teaching with performances around the world. Even as COVID entered the picture, her ability to roll with things proved useful, and as classes were moved from the real world into online contexts, she was able to release music, recording a CD with staffers at USU. That album, Lights and Shadows, would come out on Centaur Records, earning critical praise within the classical music press.

She also performed through the Nova Chamber Music Series in Salt Lake City and with the Fry Street Quartet. A number of solo performances also managed to sneak through on either side of the pandemic's worst stretch. The associate professor found a calling. But another opportunity has knocked.

At the Hilton Head International Piano Competition, Bilicka performed in front of Olga Kern of the Manhattan School of Music. The latter was impressed by Bilicka's talent; conversations were had. And, before too long, a chance to study under Kern in New York City materialized. Since Bilicka already had management there, the choice was pretty clear, and she made the decision to move to New York.

Interestingly, Bilicka, a native of Poland, had already set up a series of four performances around the region, which are now serving as something of a goodbye series, as well as an opportunity to gain some funds for the move to New York. Even as those were coming into play, she found herself teaching students during a summer camp at USU for talented youth musicians from throughout the west. Some will wind up attending USU; others were simply attending for the opportunity to work directly with a performer and educator like Bilicka, who's won competitions in Asia and Europe, as well as the U.S.

The chance to study with Kern, Bilicka says, "is something that came up completely unexpected, as have many other things in my life." Her time here, she says, "was very welcoming. The people at Utah State are great, and the department's very much like a family. I'm talking about faculty as well as the students. Everyone's been very warm and nice. I've been very happy here."

Booking "goodbye" shows wasn't even a thought, as "I'd booked these concerts in advance, not even planning to leave at that time. Originally, they were to practice my competition repertoire in public, really. And that's still valid; it's just being coupled as a fundraiser for my studies. Obviously, it's a huge financial stretch to move to New York."

Still, there's sentiment involved, as "I'll be saying 'goodbye' to Utah and all the people that will come out," Bilicka says. "This will be a very emotional series for me."

This round of shows will include a 3 p.m. performance at Daynes Music Recital Hall (6935 S. State Street, Midvale) on Wednesday, June 29; a 4:30 p.m. performance at the Orem Piano Gallery Recital Hall (444 W. 800 North, Orem) on Saturday, July 2; and a final Utah show at the Ogden Piano Gallery Recital Hall (5270 Freeway Park Dr., Ogden) on Friday, July 8 at 6:30 p.m.

For further information on her career, visit her self-titled homepage, elzbietabilicka.com.

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