As owner of Park Cities School of Music, 41-year-old Eva Brandys can’t imagine subjecting her students to the sort of rigid and rigorous practice regimen she endured as a child studying piano in communist-era Poland.
She began playing at age 8 under the tutelage of a professor who often hit her hands as a form of discipline. Another “yelled and screamed and swore at me,” she recalled. “The vocabulary he was using I probably should not have heard at my age.”
Brandys would practice for up to a dozen hours each day, sometimes until her fingers bled from exposure to the cold temperatures inside the aged building’s unheated classrooms. To combat the chill, she’d dangle her hands above steaming cups of tea stationed at both ends of the keyboard.
“You just had to grow a thick skin,” she explained. “No one cared that you cried.”
Yet Brandys credited that tough training for helping her achieve the success she enjoys today as an accomplished musician who has performed around the world, as well as her triumphs as a businesswoman.
On June 4, Brandys will co-headline the Polish Crossroads Piano Concert at Sammons Center for the Arts.
The homage to Polish folk music will also feature Poland native Liam Furdyna. The Dallas-based pianist will play a concerto by Frederic Chopin, as well as an original piece penned by Brandys that the two will perform together.
Violinist Mark Landson, founder and director of the Open Classical performing arts organization in Dallas, will also take the stage.
“It’s the music of native people,” Brandys explained. In Poland and throughout Europe, “People from the villages and from the countryside have their own type of music and melodies that are very recognizable.”
Brandys grew up not far from Krakow, Poland. In 1997, years after the fall of communism in Eastern Europe, she received a full scholarship to study music at Dallas Baptist University. Following graduation, she attended SMU and earned a master’s degree in music pedagogy and education.
For a while she worked at Dallas/Music, a school formerly located in Snider Plaza, where she learned about the business side of music. From there, she decided to open her own performing arts schools.
In 2010, Brandys founded Park Cities School of Music on Inwood Road. These days, she spends most of her time there as a music mentor for teachers and students. Nearly a year ago, she co-founded and became director of Lakewood Conservatory of Fine Arts on Gaston Avenue.
Her business endeavors do not come without challenges. Teaching music to today’s technology-obsessed kids is particularly trying, she said.
“Here, suddenly instead of looking at a computer screen, you’re looking at the old-fashioned sheet of music, and you have to create a sound. It’s actually something that if you don’t play the keys in a certain way, it will sound bad … so it’s really interesting how it needs to be taught.”
Her primary focus at both schools, she said, is “making sure … [students] understand that making music and creating the sound is more than playing notes. It’s actually within you not to be afraid to show those emotions, not to be afraid to express yourself.”
Brandys practices what she preaches. “Whenever I write something, it’s something personal — almost like a biography, but it’s in music. Instead of words, you have notes,” she explained.
Late last year she released her first album, self-titled Eva, which she will perform at the Polish Crossroads concert. One of the tunes, called Far Away, was penned shortly after she arrived in North Texas.
“I had just come to this country and I was extremely homesick, and [the song] was inspired by that,” she recalled. “I was imagining myself landing back in Krakow and just seeing the landscape.”
Brandys’ music is “emotionally charged because it is written from the heart based on my experiences,” she said. It has even brought tears to the eyes of audience members at some of her performances. “It’s just the most touching thing ever to see that.”