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From Poznań to Boston: Marianna Matyja shares insights into her experience contributing to a Grammy-nominated album

Marianna Matyja is a Polish musical artist currently pursuing studies at Berklee College of Music in Boston, United States. Matyja’s collaboration with fellow graduate Víctor Badillo from Mexico resulted in a nomination for one of world’s most prestigious music awards – the Grammy.

March 19, 2024 - Zula Rabikowska - Articles and Commentary

Matyja’s music career started when she was six years old, when her parents decided to enrol her in a music school after she started singing at the Poznań Opera House. She was the first person in her family to study music and from an early age imagined herself as an internationally recognized musician. About her determination to succeed in the music industry, she says that “as a child, I imagined myself as a star on a big stage making huge shows around the world.” Over a decade later, she began her music career in the United States and her collaborative student work has already seen her be nominated for a Grammy.

Matyja’s dreams of becoming an international music star were accompanied by an outstanding determination to train: “There were times when I spent more time at school than at home, sometimes even 13 hours per day. At the weekends I often had additional cello classes, and there were moments when I considered dropping out because the pressure and school expectations were so high.” Her dedication to finish music school in Poland was coupled with the ongoing support of Matyja’s parents, who championed their daughter’s career. They helped her pick cello tutors, drove her to practice and fully supported her decision to move to the US.

As a teenager growing up in Poznań, the odds were against Matyja, who was in high school when she decided to take a leap and move to America on a scholarship: “I couldn’t tell my plan to anyone in my school in Poland, because no one believed in me there. There were very few people who believed in my abilities, and it was mostly my parents and my brother who encouraged me to pursue my dreams and goals. I saw many of my talented peers drop out due to the pressures and the demanding education system.” Nevertheless, studying music in Poland equipped Matyja with great technical skills that allowed her musical talent to flourish after moving to Boston: “I experienced incredible change in the education system, which allowed me to grow as a musician, and I opened up myself emotionally and finally felt connected to my instrument which I always loved.”

Matyja was very enthusiastic to move to the United States to study music and fully embraced the friendships and collaborations which arose from the opportunity. Matyja frequently collaborated with Víctor Badillo, a fellow music student at Berklee originally from Mexico City who specializes in song writing, producing and recording engineering. “When I moved to the USA, I didn’t know anyone, but I quickly became friends with Victor and now I see him as my older brother. We continue to work together, even though he has moved to a different state,” said Matyja about their friendship and professional relationship.

Matyja’s contribution to the project, which received a Grammy nomination, started during her second semester at Berklee in 2022, when she recorded a cello solo on one of the album’s standout tracks, “El Amor Perfecto”, which was produced by Badillo. Matyja explains that it is a love song, which requires your heart to be in the music: “It’s hard to describe the emotions that come up when you are playing. You can feel the playing, the emotion, and the music all happening together simultaneously. It came naturally as I worked on the emotional aspect of it.” Matyja found a nourishing support network of peers and tutors at Berklee, who encouraged her to believe in herself and her talent. Matyja is currently studying contemporary writing and production and her first album is ready for release this spring.

Matyja is a music producer, cellist, DJ, songwriter and composer, who was originally trained as a classical cellist. She now uses the cello to fuse different genres together. She incorporates the cello for different projects, performances and collaborations, and her new album merges together her classic experiences with pop, electronic and disco music. Matyja’s inspiration comes from the world around her and from her connections with different people: “I love listening to different stories, experiences and ideas, it moves me to create new versions of them by sound. For me, music should make you feel free and in your own world.”

In the last decade, the music scene in Poland has changed tremendously, highlighted by new genres and the diversity of its artists. Success has been achieved by the likes of Sara Zofia Egwu-James, who won the fourth series of the Polish talent show The Voice Kids; Anja Pham, a musical artist with Vietnamese and Polish roots; Ifi Ude, an independent Polish music artist with Nigerian origins; and the Marita Albán Juárez Quartet, a Polish jazz group from Peru. Regarding the music scene in Europe and Poland, Matyja has mixed opinions. She recognizes that Poland has a diverse music scene with rich cultural heritage, influenced by traditional folk music and classical compositions, and different artists rising to fame. In recent years, she has also observed growth in contemporary genres such as pop, hip-hop and electronic music. Nevertheless, Matyja explains that the music industry in Poland faces challenges in terms of financial investment and infrastructure, especially when compared to the established market in America: “As a professional musician, making money in Poland can be challenging, and there is also a noticeable gap in terms of salaries when comparing how artists earn in the USA.”

Being nominated for a Grammy very early on in her career has been a monumental moment for Matyja: “being chosen to represent Poland at the Grammys means a lot to me. I am proud of where I am from, I am proud of my experience and strength that I had during this journey, and I cannot wait to see what is coming next.”

As a child and teenager, Matyja attentively watched the Grammy Awards every year in the middle of the night and with every show she wished that one day she could be part of that world. “Even today, I can’t quite believe that I can call myself a musician who is a part of a Grammy nominated album. I worked very hard and finally it happened.” Upon graduating, Matyja hopes to move to New York or Los Angeles and encourages everyone to tune into their dreams and creative desires: “I hope my story will inspire others to believe in themselves and help them find inner determination. I believe your dreams will come true but only if you see them as goals rather than just dreams.”

All photos courtesy of Marianna Matyja.

Zula Rabikowska is a visual artist and writer based between London and Kraków. Zula was born in Poland, grew up in the UK and her practice is influenced by her experience of migration. In her work, she explores themes of displacement, belonging and gender identity. Zula holds an MA in Photojournalism and Documentary Photography from the London College of Communication, and since then she has been largely focusing on exploring the idea of gender, her own journey of migration and the meaning of home. Zula also works as a lecturer at Kingston University and co-founded the Red Zenith Collective, a platform for womxn and non-binary creatives from Central and Eastern Europe. For more content visit her website or instagram.

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