When the next USC School of Music graduate wins a major piano competition, he or she will likely thank Mano and Brigitta Solinski.
The Solinskis are major benefactors of the School of Music's Southeastern Piano Festival held each June for top young classical pianists around the country. Many of festival alumni subsequently attend the USC School of Music. The couple, who live on Skidaway Island near Savannah, not only have provided a major bequest to ensure the piano festival's long-term future, they also support the festival's yearly operations.
The Solinskis first learned of the Southeastern Piano Festival in 2005 from a student competitor who introduced them to Marina Lomazov, then an assistant professor of piano at USC School of Music.
"We were immediately impressed by the program's focus on the students and also overwhelmed, to say the least, by the quality and performance ability of these young pianists," Mano Solinski said. "Meeting with, and hearing from Marina Lomazov about the intent of the festival and the plans for the future if funds allow, we felt an obligation to lend support."
The Solinskis are constant in their support of young classical pianists. For years they have held piano concert series at their home featuring rising piano stars and also established concert pianists, such as Jon Nakamatsu and Roberto Plano. The pianists performed on the Solinskis' beautiful Mason & Hamlin grand piano.
The Solinskis also support the Piano Arts Consortium in Hilton Head Island, which helps young musicians get started by sponsoring projects ranging from instrument purchase to competition entrance fees and encourages them to give back by performing in local communities when invited.
Mano and Brigitta Solinski were educated with musical affinity at a young age. Born in southwest Germany to a Polish-Swiss family, Mano Solinski spent his early youth at his Swiss grandfather's dental manufacturing center. The family later moved to Switzerland, where his mother's friends included an opera singer who performed accompanied recitals in their home. Brigitta Solinski spent her childhood at Lake Zug in the center of Switzerland, home to a historic country inn.
Mano Solinski became a successful CPA, business consultant, and business owner, his connections extending from Zurich throughout Europe and the Americas. His first job was for a Swiss conglomerate that sponsored the Lucerne, Switzerland Music Festival. "It was the only job I ever applied for," he recalled.
Mano worked for two industrial companies that took him to South Africa, South America, and the United States, and then became vice-director of an accounting and auditing firm. He also was the secretary-general of the Zurich-based World Organization of Hotel and Restaurant Associations.
Mano and Brigitta Solinski were also well-established educators. She attended business schools in Zug and London and worked for an international company. He was dean of a postgraduate building and civil engineering program in Switzerland and wrote a textbook and numerous articles on business economics and ethics in public administration.
Mano Solinski came to the United States during the 1970s to manage orange grove investments in Punta Gorda, Fla., before retiring to Skidaway Island. He met Brigitta in 1984, and for a time, they administered the citrus business together.
Since retiring to Skidaway Island in 2003, the Solinskis' friends and neighbors have become the beneficiaries of their classical piano outreach with a major student focus. Their house recitals have become an island institution.
"We are grateful to be able to annually contribute to the outstanding training that the Southeastern Piano Festival and the University's School of Music provide for young pianists," the Solinskis said.