You can discover the wonders behind the music of Polish composer Frederic Chopin (1810-1849) and his innovations to the piano world at two Rock Island concerts this week.
Pianist Andrzej Kozłowski of Rock Island’s Sound Conservatory will take the stage at the Rock Island Public Library Watts-Midtown Branch auditorium for a free community performance on Thursday, August 17.
The free concert featuring the Juilliard-trained, Rock Island classical pianist is Thursday from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the library branch at 2715 30th Street. The event was rescheduled from an earlier planned performance. All ages are welcome, and there is no charge.
Kozłowski (who runs Sound Conservatory at 1600 2nd Ave., Rock Island) will play works from Frédéric François Chopin, including his Ballade No. 1 & 3, Scherzo No. 2, and other shorter works.
As a pianist, Kozlowski has dedicated his career specializing in the music of Chopin. Andrzej is often referred to as a sentimentalist with a very spontaneous urge, collaborating his personal life adventures into his interpretations. His music is often defined to be cinematic and programmatic.
Kozlowski first opened the Sound Conservatory music school and store on Rock Island’s 3rd Avenue in March 2022, quickly outgrowing the space, and that summer leased the historic building at 1600 2nd Ave., doing extensive renovations to the ground floor. The business has expanded to feature several concerts on the small stage, with many acclaimed artists across a variety of genres (including Laurence Hobgood, John Daversa & Tal Cohen, and Bill Campbell).
“We’re bringing world-class performers right here to downtown Rock Island,” he told a meeting of the Rock Island Kiwanis Club Monday.
The largest music academy in the Quad Cities, with well over 220 students studying a variety of instruments, Sound Conservatory specializes in selling pianos at affordable prices, and a piano rental program (unique in the area), with good-quality instruments for just $50 a month.
Working to assist downtown
Kozlowski wants Sound Conservatory to be part of the revitalization of downtown Rock Island.
“We are Rock Island residents, here in the Broadway district and we want to figure out a way we can help in the revitalization,” he said Monday. “With the number of families we have coming in, we have heard from local businesses that they have seen our customers check out their business – such as Huckleberry’s, Healthy Harvest, Brick & Motor, Colman’s Florist.”
Leasing the building from the YWCA, the one-stop music shop needs a completely new roof. The original quote was at $250,000, but later bids have been closer to $125,000, Kozlowski said.
“This for us, as a new business, is impossible financially,” he said. “We have invested all our profits back into the expansion of our business – instrument acquisition, hiring more staff.”
Many people have told Kozlowski he should just move to a new building, but he appreciates the history of the former Illinois Theatre, built in 1901.
He doesn’t want to see the same fate for his building that met the former 1897 Rock Island County Courthouse, which was torn down this past April.
“An incredible architectural structure, a piece of history – whether it had good or bad history behind it, history is history,” Kozlowski said. “We need to teach it whether it’s good or bad. And tearing down a building like that is taking away history.”
If Sound Conservatory abandons its current site, he said the current owners are not interested in preserving it and it will continue to deteriorate.
“One of the reasons we picked this building was because of its history,” Kozlowski said. “We have brought the building back to its original purpose, the arts. We want to preserve that part of history for downtown Rock Island. We are looking for help.”
Kozlowski wants to buy the three-story, 122-year-old building from the YWCA for a proposed $205,000, but is faced with a major issue regarding the 30-year-old-plus roof. He said he can’t get a mortgage on the building until the roof is fixed, and the YWCA can’t afford to do it, as they’re in the process of completing fundraising for its new $19-million facility at 5th Avenue and 17th Street, Rock Island.
In 1929, the interior of 2nd Avenue structure (which had been a movie house) was largely gutted for conversion to a Montgomery Ward department store. In its later years, the building was occupied by a furniture store, until 2005, when it was taken over by the YWCA.
In July, Kozlowski started an online GoFundMe campaign, which has raised $10,000 so far. Among his plans for the building are to create a 450-seat concert hall on the second floor. The current ground-floor space (once pianos are moved) for concerts can seat a maximum of about 120.
That would also help attract more world-class artists to perform in Rock Island, he said.
“We hope this will stimulate the economy of downtown Rock Island,” Kozlowski said. “People would not only come to see performances at our venue, but go to dinner at Huckleberry’s, Soi 2, El Patron, or any of the other restaurants we have downtown.”
There has been some concern over Sound Conservatory (as a for-profit business) doing fundraising, he said.
“We aren’t asking for money for our business. We’re asking for financial help to save this building,” Kozlowski said. “Our business is growing rapidly, but we are not in the financial position to make that kind of up-front cost for a roof.”
Sunday night concert
He will perform a similar Chopin concert this Sunday evening, Aug. 20, at 6:30 p.m., to help raise money for this effort.
“We do plan on setting up more events, outside of this concert,” Kozlowski said. “We’re acting fast. As winter approaches, the concerns we have about the leaking roof is that water getting into the cracks will start to freeze over and will cause structural damage. We want to get on this before we face bigger costs and it gets to the point of being beyond repair.”
Sound Conservatory is not among the more than $7 million the city of Rock Island plans to spend to redevelop the downtown area. Kozlowski said that even if he qualified for grant funding, he couldn’t get any since he doesn’t own the building.
“We can’t become the owners of the building until the roof is replaced and our mortgage company says we can move forward with the closing,” he said. “No lender wants to risk lending on this building, because it’s considered an economically distressed zone.”
He also emphasized that if the online fundraising doesn’t meet its goal, all the donations will be returned. “Money will not be withdrawn/used until we are 100% with making this happen,” the GoFundMe page says.
“We have no intent of withdrawing the funds unless we go through with using them for the building roof repairs,” Kozlowski said Monday. “We don’t need them as the business. We need them for the building. We’re not trying to use the money for anything else.”
On Sunday, for the Chopin concert, a cash bar and food will be made available by the Holiday Inn. Tickets are $15, available HERE.