Ignacy Jan Paderewski had the unusual distinction of being a successful pianist and a politician. Born in 1860 in a small Russian village, Paderewski enrolled in the Warsaw Conservatory in Poland at age 12. Soon after graduating, Paderewski traveled to Berlin, Germany, to study music composition. In 1884, he moved to Vienna, Austria, where he gained popularity for his brilliant piano performances.
Also a fervent patriot, Paderewski was active in the Polish National Committee during World War I. In fact, Paderewski was the Polish Prime Minister, and he signed the Treaty of Versailles in 1919 that officially ended the war. By 1922, he retired from politics and devoted his life to music.
Paderewski toured the United States, performing at famous venues including Carnegie Hall, Madison Square Garden, and even the University of Wisconsin Stock Pavilion. Paderewski’s Stock Pavilion concert was held in 1928 for a capacity crowd.
According to an oral history given by former Wisconsin Union director Porter Butts, the Paderewski performance was held in the Stock Pavilion because at that time, the building offered the best acoustics on campus. The Wisconsin Union Theater was just being built that year, and many other concerts were held in the Memorial Union’s Great Hall or in Music Hall. However, the acoustics of those auditoriums were not favorable to a concert pianist, which is why the performance was held at the Stock Pavilion.