300 years of music in two hours


As a teenager, Spencer Kryzanowski was completely stoked with hardcore punk rock and heavy metal bands, and spent long hours experimenting with distortion.

“I’d put the keyboard through a tube amp. It had a distortion function and it completely altered the sound of the keyboard,” said Kryzanowski, who along with friends formed a loose heavy metal band.

Today the graduating music student from the University of Alberta’s Augustana campus is still buzzed about the keyboard. But he’s adopted a more fine-tuned, classical approach.

The 23-year-old pianist hosts a free recital at Don’s Piano Showroom this coming Saturday to fulfil requirements for his bachelor of music degree.

The solo program ranges from Bach, Beethoven and Liszt to Camille Saint-Saën, Nicholas Howell and George Gershwin.

Kryzanowski grew up in St. Albert graduating from Bellerose Composite High. He speaks highly of the school’s interdisciplinary approach and particularly of long-time music teacher Karen Labahn.

“She’s a great person and strong advocate for the arts. She recruited me to accompany on piano for the school’s musical theatre performances.”

His musical journey started as a chorister in the internationally recognized Cantilon Choir’s primary choir at the young age of seven.

Under the baton of artistic director Heather Johnson, he moved up the ranks and travelled to the Llangollen International Music Festival Eisteddfod in Wales. Kryzanowski’s choir won silver in the world competition.

At the age of nine, his grandmother presented him with the family piano, an heirloom passed on from her grandmother.

“I always wanted to play and I was always tinkering on it.”

The following year, Kryzanowski started piano lessons but quit several times “because I had trouble sitting down for longer than a half hour.”

By Grade 12 the pressure to focus on a career surrounded him and he shifted direction to the bachelor of commerce program at the University of Alberta.

“A week into studies and I realized it wasn’t for me. I was sitting in a 500-person economics class and it lacked the energy I needed.

“I realized music was for me. It wasn’t about the paycheque. It was about me enjoying music and sharing it. At the end of the day the paycheque didn’t matter.”

He auditioned for both the Augustana and University of Alberta fine arts programs.

“What really made me want to come to Augustana was Dr. Milton Schlosser. He’s a very remarkable, very personal and very inspiring instructor.”

An appealing performer, Kryzanowski performed at the St. Albert Chamber Music Recital Series as an emerging artist during the second season.

Today his recital selections cross the spectrum of moods and textures.

Beethoven’s Piano Sonata Op. 28, The Pastorale is very abstract.

“I consider myself very expressive and I excel at romantically centred works. This work evokes beautiful scenic images and it’s very lyrical.”

Another choice, Camille Saint-SaĂ«n’s The Swan from the popular The Animals was originally written for cello, but transcribed by Leopold Godowsky for piano.

“It’s very majestic and lyrical at the same time.”

Franz Liszt’s Sonnet 104 was inspired by Petrarch’s sonnet of the same name.

“It centres on an individual grieving and not sure why he’s grieving. It’s very virtuosic and requires highly developed technical playing.”

Kryzanowski also performs the world premiere of Nicholas Howell’s Ring Around the Rosy, a short work in four movements with dark themes borrowed from the Black Plague.

The program ends on a jazzy note with Gershwin’s Three Preludes.

“It’s an intimate and challenging way to end my studies. The different pieces complement and contrast very well. I go between different regions of the world and between 300 years of material.”


Spencer Kryzanowski
Saturday, March 28
Don’s Piano Place
8 Riel Dr.


About Author

Anna Borowiecki

Anna Borowiecki joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2000. She reports on local people and events in the arts, entertainment and food industry. She also writes general news and features.