Professionalism and depth
Dariusz Dudek talks to Hubert Kowalski – musician, conductor and composer.
About being a Christian, I will have a great pleasure to talk to the guest of the Man-Catholic Church to Mr. Hubert Kowalski. Good evening!
Hubert Kowalski – musician, composer, vocalist, double bass player, but also a Christian. Who was the first? Hubert-musician or Hubert-Christian?
It’s hard to answer it! If you assume that Hubert-Christian was created from baptism, you can be tempted to say that the Christian was first. On the other hand, who knows whether such a small boy who has already had a talent or musical sensitivity to the moment of baptism, which God gave him… if to take into account the moment of starting musical shaping, targeting the music, then definitely a Christian was first. On the other hand, every believer, or most believers, realize that the baptism himself is not a guarantee that man is really deeply believing that he experiences his life in the spirit of faith and reality of a personal relationship with God. Hence, if you look at this, this moment of my – theologically saying – a new birth took place after the moment of advanced involvement in artistic education. This is a quite complex question, it’s hard to tell you unequivocally.
Can you tell us how this passion for music was born, what was its beginning?
Certainly, at the age of 17, I started artistic education – that is quite late – it was a key moment. It pushed me to deal with music and in some sense it opened a gateway to a new musical space, which maybe before it I sensed intuitively and picked up in emotions listening to different music, but in this educational mode, however, it becomes completely different, more close and real.
I think the musical sensitivity was shaped in me earlier in my family home. My parents are not musicians, but they always pushed me to engage in music, we went to concerts. They encouraged me to be in choirs at school. It accompanied me at home since the time I was a kid. On the other hand, undoubtedly the torque moment was going to a music school.
The passion for music has developed – thanks to parents, thanks to interests. Do you see any God’s lead? Was this a path proposed by Him?
I perceive everything as a gift of God. Life is a gift of God, talents, nature, human sensitivity, personality – these are God’s gifts. What people meet on the road, who in some sense are a reference point, target us, embraces from them, or we are with them and open us new ways. Life is very complex, consists of many elements and I perceive everything as a kind of God’s gift.
I think I have a sensitivity that God gave me. In my case, it is evident – there is no other reality, the second language that God would speak to me so much then via music. This is definitely some of His way. The question on how much I find in it and how much I answer what He has planned.
Was the music also a place where you discovered the living God?
Yes. I think that if it were not for music – although the minute and abstract it sounds – I would not discover God in the personal sense, as I know Him now.
One of my friends was delighted with the religious community, where the Liturgy of Hours was carried out in a very beautiful way – it was all sung in a really beautiful way. He said he „dropped” there, because it moved him so hard. Our other common friend, when he heard it he stated that this is not the most important thing that it was not about aesthetics, but to meet God. But every way to know God is good. One will help any – for apologizing – a plastic figure of Our Lady, and the other – a great oratory.
Honestly, we should not judge! God has its own ways to reach people. I think something is more privileged, because you see after concrete cases that something works, or – something works more and something less. These ways are unlikely! But it is definitely important that a man has always been moved by the beauty. Widely understood beauty. Hence a human beeing always had the need to create. He wanted to express himself in some way, or the depth of the spirit who felt in himself, wanted to convey in some form, including musical form. And if a man meets with such a beauty, this is very moving for him. Will it happen in him any openness to something more spiritual – this is another matter. However, a man is sensitive to beauty, and God is beautiful and it moves!
Only aesthetics are not enough. There is a danger… you can go in this direction an prepare something artistically great but without spirit in it. I call it „a religious product” – beautiful and good! Only danger is that we can only stay at the level of aestheticism.
Second danger appears when the situation is reverse. We are very spiritual. We have deep experiences, often very authentic! I do not say this with irony. They are very sincere. But we justify our lack of professionalism in the approach to certain actions in the Church, which causes us, „we produce trash”. Although it can be very authentic and spiritual! And this is also a kind of danger. Because it causes it again that we take all this reality, this space of a strong influence and movement of human hearts. That’s why I am convinced, according to what is observing in my actions that the best solution is when these both reality penetrate and develop parallel.
You also have the experience of conducting various teams. Do you try, in addition to professionalism, give a formation for people who are involved in those groups that you lead?
If this applies to the functioning in the womb of the Church, if I take for a workshop songs with liturgical, evangelizing, or any other purposes, one which has the content of the Lord God, I cannot imagine such a situation that I would not pay people’s attention, that one part are the vocal skills – if we talk about vocalists – and the other part is a personal understanding of what is passing on. Singing man passes some content.
People come to such a workshop and are with me only on the weekend: Friday, Saturday and the whole ends with a Eucharist on Sunday. I see a change in their face, I do not have anything to hear from them, I see a change on their faces.
After all these years, after hundreds of such workshops, which I have conducted, I smile myself in the spirit… because I am at every next meeting again intrigued by God and I talk to myself: So God, what this time? What will we do with them? What effects will there be? How will it work at all?
You, as a conductor are a leader for these people. This is another very important thread that accompanies me personally and many other men nowadays – a man as a leader, the one who leads, who helps in the growth of others. Do you consider your job as being a leader?
The conductor must be a leader! A conductor who is not a leader and does not have certain features, wouldn’t be a good conductor! Thanks that, this profession (conductor), is very difficult.
I have a comfortable situation that I have such an experience in the Church. I understand that I have brothers and sisters with me. I mean, I realize that for me, as a leader to guide them, the key is to love them. I must love them. What does it mean for me, more specifically? For example, I have some humility and a certain respect for those who have very small skills.
There is something very deep and spiritual happening. You do not even have to say or define it. Something like this happens, that someone sees suddenly that he respects other one as a man. I mean, human identity is not in his skills. Skills are the fruit of his identity as a human. And every man we encounter is completely different. Everyone we encounter has something unique, which God made in him, which I will never have. The art of my actions, but this is the general thinking of the Church, it consists in the fact that, that in the community of brothers and sisters, we should help another to discover what it is – what his gift is. And this is what happens in these artistic activities!
We must learn to choose. Choose what is really important for us. We must have a goal. A man must have a goal to seek.
There are a lot of these goals and their variety is big. Depending on whether its action applies to family, marriage, community, life in the Church… these goals are different! This is an extremely extensive issue. I think, however, that something crucial for a man, who believes, is being authentic. I used to hear such a sentence spoken to me, until I do not know if it’s good to talk! I heard when I conducted such reflections in the form of a lecture. (I treat it as a compliment. Very interesting, no one has ever told me earlier! I heard it from a man, which is worth emphasizing!) This man thanked me for the statement and was very pleased that I am not so fanatic. And it wondered me… I realized it was a bit of time since I heard that something is in it. A man cannot be fanatic! It means to understand it well, I think it must be perceptible in it that he combines the sky (heaven) with the ground (earth).
A normal man. Not an idealized one. Only a man who shows that even in a non-standard reality in which he operates a place for God to work. We can hear here the words of St. Paul – let Christ live in me. Just do so much. And to be authentic in this. This is the art. Do not fall into some wrongly understood „departure”.
Then, it seems to me, that a man is a guarantor of authenticity, truth and security.
To make somehow a conclusion of our conversation… I think you have to emphasize that you have to try, pray, take a variety of activities, meetings, conversation, so that we would have really deeply believing men. Behind this is the call: courage! Courage! Because it happens very often so, that men have a problem of functioning in the Church. It is very similar in the musical space.
And then men are born God’s warriors, in a very good sense. Those, who really protect reality around themselves. They do not have to have super spiritual „departures”, make miracles, do some spectacular activities. When they are convinced and have personal experience of faith, Christ begins to live in them and it pushes them in such a way that they live in a normal way, but the strength of their deposits is incredible. I think, that this is it, that you have to wish yourself. And by the way, I have to wish myself that men will take courage to match women in music structures in the Church.
And hopefully it will happen that way. All who would like to join musical bands in Poland, and not only in Poland – we warmly invite you to join them. Mr. Hubert, thank you for the conversation and for many valuable reflections. And I wish you courage!