We had the good fortune of connecting with Dominika Dancewicz and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Dominika, what is the most important factor behind your success?
By “success” I understand the continuous presence of any musician’s artistic project on Houston’s art scene. In this context it is important to say that the most important factors behind my music projects, concerts and recordings is very hard work, perseverance, creativity, constant drive, unstoppable development of ideas. Being a musician today involves not only honing one’s craft and keeping in good shape, but also putting yourself “out there”, forging relationships with other musicians and “cross pollinating” across art genres.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I’m a Houston-based violinist, and till recently (or more precisely – till the beginning of the pandemic in early 2020) my main creative outlets were two professional ensembles: Axiom Quartet (string quartet) and Duo Dramatique (violin and piano duo). I’m the founding member of both, and between these groups I would be normally performing dozens of concerts every season. I’m a classically trained musician, so it’s easy to see me as someone who performs very rigid kind of repertoire, in a certain kind of venue, and within certain defined format. But from the very beginning of my career I strived for a more creative and inclusive approach to performance. I brand myself as a “passionate” performer, where I pour the passion and understanding of the music I play straight onto the listener. I design most of my concerts as stories, where there are verbal introductions to each work, but also there are threads of connection between the pieces of music and their history, their meaning and context to the audience. Through my various artistic projects: recitals in traditional concert halls, performances in “strange” venues like in the magnificent Cave Without a Name in the Texas Hill Country (100 feet underground!), recitals in art galleries and video projects – I simply try to transmit my love and passion for music and spread knowledge about its connection to our everyday lives. Was it always easy? Certainly not. I arrived in the United States from my native Poland back in 2001, and I started from absolutely nothing. I was doing my Master’s Degree at Rice University, not knowing the language very well, trying to deal with school and very slowly building my connections and friendships that would finally build the foundation of my career here. The single most important thing in building my career (apart from being as good a violinist and professional musician as I possibly can) was building these connections with people. Being friendly, supportive, but also curious of others’ ideas, careers, innovations, developments. We all have much to learn from each other and to inspire each other with. My personal brand called “Blondviolin” which I use on my website and social media, is an expression of who I am as a violinist, musician and a person. I try to be as inclusive and diverse in my perception of the world as I possibly can. I have various interests that are certainly not limited to music. I love the arts in general: I frequently visit art exhibits and openings, I love theater, film, good books. I also stay informed about current news and politics. As much as difficult the current world situation is, I think it’s our human duty to participate in the collective effort to make it better. I am particularly proud of my recent projects that developed mainly because of the limitations of the pandemic and the inability to perform in the traditional venues for big audiences. I started a collaboration with the wonderful local photographer and videographer Pin Lim, who created series of videos presenting Houston’s artists. I was fortunate to record the very first video of Pin’s “Sounds of The 713” series, in which I perform the monumental “Passacaglia for Solo Violin” by the 17th Century composer H.I.F. Biber in the empty hallways of the Spring Street Studios. The project was featured by the Houston Chronicle Pages Magazine, and it can be viewed on our Youtube channels. Another project I embarked on was a solo violin concert which was hosted by Houston’s Archway Gallery. This concert was an unusual endeavor for me, as it is fairly challenging to put yourself on stage alone, without any “backup”. I was lucky to be able to collaborate with John Slaby, one of the directors at the Archway Gallery, who supported me in this project. We had to plan very carefully – because of Covid we made the event available in-person to only 30 socially distanced people, while still streaming it online. I performed an exciting and diverse program to a sold out house, and the event was a big success and quite a joy. I am very grateful to be able to find inspiration, challenge and artistic fulfillment even in the current situation. All that thanks to amazing, supportive and creative people who are graciously willing to collaborate.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I would have a very specific itinerary for anyone visiting Houston. As a lover of arts, I’d take them to places that spotlight this aspect of our city. First stop – the incredibly impressive Museum of Fine Arts campus, with the newly opened Nancy and Rich Kinder Building. Its impressive architecture and absolutely stunning art collections displayed there would be a fantastic introduction to Houston’s refined cultural side. Next stop: the Menil Collection campus in Montrose area, one of Houston’s iconic spots. Architecturally the Menil building (designed by Renzo Piano) is unquestionably a masterpiece, and the collections featured there are continuously inspiring and impressive. The whole campus is peaceful and impeccable. Assuming that the current pandemic is finally gone, as a musician I would absolutely have to invite my guests to one of many performances, concerts, dance events, plays happening in Houston on any given night. Be it a Houston Grand Opera production at the Wortham Center downtown, or a symphony concert in Jones Hall, or – better yet – one of many of my own performances. You can catch me perform with the Axiom Quartet or with my piano partner of Duo Dramatique in the intimate Cullen Hall located in the campus of the University of St Thomas in the heart of the illustrious Montrose district. How about checking out one of many intimate, superb shows by Houston’s local Opera in the Heights? Aside from diverse and exciting art scene, food is definitely something to experience in Houston. I am a lover of simple food and good coffee, so places like Brasil, Blacksmith or Siphon would be my places of choice when grabbing a quick bite. One of my all time favorites breakfast spots is Morningstar located in the Heights, serving great coffee, doughnuts, and a selections of simple but delicious foods (their biscuits are unbeatable). Houston also offers some recreational spots, of which the most iconic is definitely the Bayou Park, with its net of trails along our local bayou. While there, I’d introduce my visitors to the Buffalo Bayou Cistern, one of the most unique places in the city. This former drinking water reservoir is now a significant architectural landmark with periodically changing art installations. My visits to the Cistern have been always unforgettable.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
There are so many friends and colleagues who inspire me and who push me to constantly grow! If I were to choose one today, it would be the photographer and videographer Pin Lim of Forest Photography, the creator of various series of videos promoting Houston creatives (musicians, poets, dancers, etc). His video series “Sounds of The 713” features local musicians, and I was lucky to record the very first video of the series with the performance of Biber’s “Passacaglia for Solo Violin”. This project was very inspirational to me, and it started a lasting collaboration between Pin, myself and my colleagues of Axiom Quartet. I am grateful to everyone I am still able to make music with – Axiom Quartet, Duo Dramatique, the Performing Arts Program of the Houston Airports “Harmony in the Air”, which features our local groups at both Hobby and IAH airports regularly. I am also grateful to our listeners, fans and supporters who continually encourage us to keep being present on the digital “art scenes”, and to push on with our projects regardless of the circumstances.
Rahim Quazi, Mark Chen, Roger Moore, Pin Lim