Agnieszka Franków-Żelazny conductor, choirmaster, teacher PhD with habilitation, is a graduate of the University of Wrocław (MA in Biology in 2000) and the Karol Lipiński Academy of Music in Wrocław: the Department of Music Education (MA in 2004) and the Vocal Department (MA in 2005). She completed her postgraduate studies in choral conducting at the Feliks Nowowiejski Academy of Music in Bydgoszcz in 2006 and the Cultural Leadership Academy at the University of Economics in Kraków in 2014.
She began her musical education at the State Primary Music School in Głubczyce, where she studied flute and piano, completing first her piano studies in 1991 and then her flute studies before graduating in 1995. She continued her education studying flute at the Ryszard Bukowski State Secondary Music School in Wrocław from 1995 to 1999. At that time she became interested in classical singing as well. She developed her vocal skills first at the secondary music school in Wrocław and later at the Vocal Department of the Karol Lipiński Academy of Music in Wrocław, under professor Ewa Czermak. She completed her master’s degree studies, graduating with Honours in 2005, specialising in the song-oratorio and pedagogical specialties. Back then ensemble singing was her major interest, therefore she started studies with the Music Education Department of the academy. She studied conducting under professor Halina Bobrowicz. Her master’s dissertation, devoted to choral technique in various styles and periods, was written under supervision of professor Marta Kierska-Witczak. She completed her studies in 2004 receiving a master’s degree with Honours. Between October 2004 and August 2006 she was a participant in postgraduate choral conducting studies, studying with the following professors: Elżbieta Wtorkowska, Ryszard Handke, Benedykt Błoński, Jerzy Kurcz and Rev.Fr. Kazimierz Szymonik.
ARTISTIC ACTIVITY AND PROGRAMMES
She began her choir adventure as a chorister of the Mixed Choir of the Głubczyce High School led by Tadeusz Eckert. From 1993 to 1999 she was a member of the Polish-German Choral Academy In terra pax. Participating in the academy first as a choir member and, from 1995, also as a coach of choir sections, she had a chance to observe the work of distinguished conductors such as Jan Szyrocki (the dicerctor of the festival and the academy), Werner Pfaff, Volker Schmidt-Gertenbach, Harold Lenselink and Don James.
In 1999 she established the Con Amore Choir of School Complex No. 1 in Wrocław, with which she worked until 2002. During its short time, the ensemble participated in Lower Silesia regional stage of the All-Poland Children and Youth A Cappella Choirs Competition in Bydgoszcz, receiving a laureate diploma at it twice (2000 and 2001) and an honourable mention at the final stage of this competition (2001). During only three years of work at the school complex and the High School No. 22 belonging to it, she was a Biology teacher, a Music teacher and the choir’s conductor, organising plenty of concerts and meetings popularising choral singing as an alternative form of spending time by teenagers.
In 2000 she founded Chamber Choir of Medical Academy (now Medici Cantantes Choir of Medical University of Wrocław), with which she won more than 50 awards and distinctions at national and international competitions until the end of 2014. She prepared the choir for many performances of vocal-instrumental works and made four recordings with them. The choir has won Grand Prizes and Agnieszka Franków-Żelazny has become a recipient of the Best Conductor Award at numerous competitions.
Since June 2006 she has been Artistic Director of the National Forum of Music Choir (formerly: the Wrocław Philharmonic Choir) established by Andrzej Kosendiak – currently one of the best European ensembles. She has prepared the choir for 18 recordings. Two of them, received the most prestigious Polish phonographic award – the Fryderyk (2017, 2019).
From January to July of 2013 she was Artistic Supervisor of the Polish Radio Choir, enhancing the re-establishment of the ensemble and reintroducing it to Poland’s musical scene.
She has performed as guest conductor and choir mistress with the Gabrieli Consort, the NFM Wrocław Philharmonic, the NFM Leopoldinum Orchestra, the Sudeten Philharmonic Orchestra, the Opole Philharmonic Orchestra, the Wrocław Soloists’ Ensemble Ricordanza, the Chamber Orchestra of the Karol Lipiński Academy of Music, the Wratislavia Cantans Festival Choir, the Silesian Philharmonic Choir, Chor der Bamberger Symphoniker, and the Schleswig-Holstein Musik Festival Choir, the Poznań Grand Theatre Chorus, the Kaunas State Choir, and the Coral Juvenil do Guri.
She initiated the Polish National Youth Choir, an educational programme, in 2013, and she has been its Artistic Director ever since. In January 2015 she was appointed Programme Director of the Choral Academy project, which enhances Polish choirs’ development from nursery schools’ choirs to teenage singers planning to work in professional ensembles. In cooperation with the best choirmasters and centres of choral conducting education in Poland the project is a unique opportunity for creating concerts, competitions, and choir and conducting workshops and conferences. It also publishes numerous methodological and repertoire materials.
As a choir mistress she has worked with such conductors as: Iván Fischer, Paul McCreesh, Krzysztof Penderecki, Jacek Kaspszyk, Andrej Boreyko, Jerzy Maksymiuk, Giovanni Antonini, Stephen Layton, James MacMillan, Alexander Liebreich, Tõnu Kaljuste, Gabriel Chmura, Zbigniew Preisner.
From 2013-2016 she was Curator of Music for the European Capital of Culture Wrocław 2016, having prepared nearly 1000 musical events integrating the Wrocław artistic community and demonstrating the remarkable diversity of this exceptional city.
RESEARCH AND DIDACTIC WORK
She has worked as associate professor at the Karol Lipiński Academy of Music in Wrocław, where she has led a class on choral conducting since 2004, a class on methodology of ensemble singing since 2018, and directed the Stanisław Krukowski choir since 2010. She is a supervisor and reviewer of BA and MA theses and a reviewer of PhD dissertations. Her habilitation dissertation discussed performance aspects of Johann Sebastian Bach’s motets.
She is often invited to join jury panels of vocal and choir competitions. Significant part of her research constitutes participation in conferences and publishing articles. She is the founder and director of The Art and Research Conference Chór wczoraj, dziś, jutro [Eng. Choir yesterday, today, tomorrow] organised by the National Forum of Music in collaboration with the music academy in Wrocław.
She is regularly invited as a vocal consultant to lead workshops for choirmasters and choirs.
She has made 16 recordings and received more than 70 individual and ensemble awards, among others: 1st prize at the National Choral Conducting Competition (2004), 1st prize at the Lower Silesian stage of the National Student of the Year Competition Primus Inter Pares (2004), the Badge of Honour Merit for Polish Culture (2008), Wrocław Music Prize (2010), Internauts’ Award in the competition Man of the Year 2011, Award of the Polish Academy of Sciences Iuvenes Wratislaviae (2012), the Bronze Medal for Merit to Culture – Gloria Artis (2014), and the Fryderyk 2017 and 2019. In 2018 one of her projects, the Choral Academy, became a nominee of The Coryphaeus of Polish Music.
She has performed in 19 European countries, and has toured in the USA, Israel and Brazil. She has conducted over 1000 choral works and almost 250 vocal-instrumental works.
Agnieszka Franków-Żelazny is a person of great musical sensitivity, well-known for her energy and enthusiasm, for whom working with choirs is an enduring passion and life-long challenge. She devotes her efforts to working with choirs in search of the best artistic quality and training young conductors and teachers dedicated to the idea of developing the taste and musical needs of future generations.