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Organizers of annual holiday fundraiser opening Palos Hills studio

A new music studio in Palos Hills should be open this spring for violin, piano, harp and voice lessons and other musical endeavors.

But for sisters Kasia Szczech-Dlugosz and Karen Szczech, the studio also can be a place to change people’s moods, and even their lives.

“Performance is not for yourself, rather for the audience,” said Szczech-Dlugosz, who lives in Palos Hills. “Each member of the audience comes to a performance with a specific mood, personality, character and emotion. Your responsibility as an artist on stage is to take whatever they are feeling and convert it to what you want them to feel.”

It’s a way to separate people from their everyday stresses.

“There’s therapy when you listen to music, just on a day-to-day basis,” said Karen Szczech, who lives in Burbank. “When the audience comes to the show, it’s an experience for them, but also … some sort of relief from things stressing them out at the time. Art can change them in that way.”

That goes for members of the audience as well as the performers on stage, she added.

The sisters chose Palos Hills for their small studio, which recently was permitted a special use for parking, because it is a “middle point for their interests,” Szczech-Dlugosz said, including their shows, teaching activities and homes.

Szczech-Dlugosz is a classically trained musician who plays the piano and harp and composes music. She also has published numerous children’s teaching method books.

She’s an organist at St. Albert the Great Catholic Church in Burbank, performs duets with her sister for nonprofit galas and is an accompanist for local high schools and groups.

Karen Szczech is a composer and violinist and also children’s music director at St. Fabian Catholic Church in Bridgeview. She has also performed at various festivals and written three contemporary operas.

As first-generation Polish Americans, the sisters incorporate their heritage into their music, using the folk music traditions of their parents’ home in the southern part of Poland near the Tatra Mountains.

Their musical efforts come to a climax each year around Christmas. After Szczech-Dlugosz was diagnosed with multiple level cerebrospinal fluid leaks while obtaining her bachelor’s degree in Music Composition from DePaul University School of Music, Christmas music helped ease her pain. She wanted to share that feeling with others.

For five years, the sisters have teamed up with dozens of Chicagoland musicians and other performers to put on a Magical Keys Christmas Extravaganza at St. Fabian.

Kasia Szczech-Dlugosz, right, plays harp during the Magical Keys Christmas Pageant in December in Bridgeview. She is opening Magical Keys Teaching Studio with her sister in Palos Hills.(Kasia Szczech-Dlugosz photo)
Kasia Szczech-Dlugosz, right, plays harp during the Magical Keys Christmas Pageant in December in Bridgeview. She is opening Magical Keys Teaching Studio with her sister in Palos Hills.(Kasia Szczech-Dlugosz photo)

It’s a big production, with about 40 musicians and other performers involved in a musical comedy show in which Santa and Mrs. Claus tell the story of Christmas.

“Her whole point is to share the joy of Christmas and I feel that with the show,” said Katie Langhammer, who attends every year with her family and credits Szczech-Dlugosz with exposing her daughter to music. “Christmas wouldn’t be the same without it. She’s like a modern-day Fraulein Maria (Von Trapp, from ‘The Sound of Music’).”

Langhammer also said they had a knack for making the show appeal to the entire audience.

“As performers, they have this amazing ability to switch from Polish to English and have everyone included,” she said. “It’s inclusive, heartfelt and beautifully organized.”

This year, the production raised $10,000 for the Chicago-based Polish charity Dom Samotnej Matki, which translates to The Lonely Mother.

“We believe that where there’s children, there we help,” Szczech said. “Where there are mothers in abusive relationships with children, we help … mothers and children deserve a second chance.”

That translates to their year-round educational efforts as well. Both know the arts are often the first to get cut in schools, so they try to bring music education to more students.

“Really at the ending point, it’s all about respecting art,” Szczech-Dlugosz said.

Palos Hills Mayor Jerry Bennett said the studio was a good thing for the city.

“Any time we can enhance the arts in the city of Palos Hills we’re certainly in favor of that,” said Bennett. “Those types of smaller schools do a lot … they can provide the type of teaching and learning that is important for the community.”

Janice Neumann is a freelance reporter for the Daily Southtown. 

Janice Neumann , 2024-02-06 16:29:26

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