Taking a break from his math professor duties at Appalachian State University, Witold Kosmala traded calculus lessons for a violin to join three generations of his family to play with the Millennial Choirs and Orchestra at Carnegie Hall in New York City earlier this month.
Kosmala explained that the Millennial Choirs and Orchestras is in its 12th season, and consists of more than 5,000 participants in California, Arizona, Texas, Utah and Idaho.
“The primary purpose of MCO is to fulfill the need for more refined music education and performance in our communities, with focus on God and country,” Kosmala said.
The trip originally was going to consist of three concerts — one on July 12 and two on July 13. However, the borough of Manhattan experienced a power outage on July 13 and one of the performances was cancelled. Still, Kosmala said the MCO singers were able to entertain the public outside the doors to Carnegie. The six Kosmala family members played in lead stands of MCO on July 12.
For the performance, Kosmala was joined by his father Jerzy Kosmala, his sisters Weneta Kosmala, his neice Kasis Kosmala-Dahlbeck, his nephew Stefan Kosmala-Dahlbeck and his son Konrad Kosmala. Weneta, Kasia, Witold and Konrad performed the violin while Stefan and Jerzy were on viola.
Witold Kosmala said it was an amazing experience to perform on the stage that is typically a highlight of a musicians career. The sound the orchestra and singers were able to create would give you “chills on your back,” he said.
“It was an honor and a blessing,” Witold Kosmala said.
Originally from Poland, the Kosmala family moved to America in 1967. Witold Kosmala and his siblings were taught to play the violin by their father Jerzy Kosmala — who is a violin professor at the University of California at Irvine and is an internationally acclaimed vioalist.
Jerzy Kosmala has concertized throughout Europe, the former Soviet Union, Canada, North and South America, Asia, and South Africa, and has recordings on Orion, Vox/MGM and Centaur labels. He is a permanent jury member of virtually all the most prestigious international competitions. His son, Witold, said his father was always practicing the craft and was an amazing teacher.
Witold Kosmala was actually filling in for his brother Andrzej — who typically plays violin with the MCO — at the New York Tour. Andrzej Kosmala could not attend the performances, and Witold was then asked to take his brother’s seat.
To be invited to participate in the venture was really amazing, Witold Kosmala said, as most people have to audition to be able to perform with the group. He said he was notified in March that he would be playing, and received the music for the performance months later — some of the music even a week before the tour.
Witold Kosmala received a full music scholarship to the University of South Florida and now serves as a professor of mathematics at Appalachian State University. He was recently presented with the Albert Nelson Marquis Lifetime Achievement Award by Marquis Who’s Who. He said his most memorable musical performance was when he played violin alongside his sister (Weneta Kosmala) with the Rome Festival Orchestra in Italy, when he later got to meet Pope John Paul II.
Taking the violin seriously at the age of 13, Witold Kosmala said he became committed to the instrument and it became a passion. He played throughout high school and college, but chose not to make it his career. He said a career musician has to practice constantly.
“If you miss a day, you get like a week behind in abilities,” Witold Kosmala said. “You need to practice for hours just to stay at that same level, otherwise it goes away.”
Instead, he moved to Boone in 1984 and became a math professor. He said he decided to go into the field of math because at the time he still had a hard time understanding English, and math came easy to him. Witold Kosmala is now a professional skier and enjoys cycling and being outdoors. He also still enjoys playing the violin.
He taught his two sons and two daughters, that he shares with his wife Vanessa, to play the violin as well — most taking up the instrument at the age of 4. One of his sons, Konrad Kosmala, played alongside him at Carnegie Hall at the New York tour.
Stefan Kosmala, Weneta’s son, is not a stranger to the Carnegie Hall where he performed has performed twice previously. At age 17, he is a recent graduate of San Clemente High School in California and will be starting viola performance studies at University of California at Los Angeles. His mother has made her orchestral debut at age 9 — performing with the Lake Placid Symphonietta and is the former concertmaster of the Rome Festival Orchestra.
At 21 years of age, Kasia Kosmala-Dahlbeck (Weneta’s daughter), made her Carnegie Hall debut at the age of 11 by winning First Prize in the Alexander and Buono International String Competition. She has performed solo internationally including a Mendelssohn Violin Concerto with MCO in California and Arizona. She has also performed twice at Carnegie Hall and is a pianist, singer and composer.