Baird’s flair for teaching was revealed very early, when, still a teenager, he taught music in a German camp and conservatory. Life in the camp also revealed his organisational talents; as he himself said, he was a “manager of a village club” at the time. Another important factor was his considerable experience as a leader of the Youth Club at the Polish Composers’ Union, when he acted as a “tutor” of young Polish composers. In addition, he was honoured, much to his great pleasure, by membership in the Honorary Board of Pro Sinfonika – Young Music Lovers’ Movement from Poznań. Baird cultivated his organisational passion in Poland as an adult man, becoming actively involved in the organisation of successive music festivals. There also came a moment when he took up institutional teaching of composition at the State School of Music in Warsaw. He began teaching there already in September 1972, but resigned after two months because of a lack of agreement concerning the conditions of his employment.
But a year after receiving his MA, he was again employed by the School as a contractual professor on the initiative of Tadeusz Wroński (the then rector). He worked in this post for three years (from April 1974 till September 1977), and on 1 November 1977 the Minister of Culture and Art appointed him full professor. In his work he focused not only on teaching the principles of composition, but also on making sure that this teaching had the right profile and that opportunities would be created for graduates making their debuts. On many occasions he called for a friendly atmosphere surrounding young artists:
I’d like to be well understood: I’m not for making things easy in life, for anyone. But young artists, more than anyone else, need help, kindness, care at the beginning. Artists’ life seen only from the outside, by television viewers and by readers of popular magazines and evening papers seems easy, simple and pleasant. In fact, it is a hermetic and complex world with its own, hard rules. Artistic professions require people to have not only talent but also character. [...] at least at the beginning these young composers, conductors and soloists need to be given more opportunities than they have now, they need to be assisted more effectively in their first, hesitant steps on their own. [...] Later they will have many opportunities to sink or swim in deep waters in any case.
In his actions he was guided by one idea: “[...] Helping young Polish artists today is our duty to the future of Polish art”.
Baird’s cultural work as a teacher was appreciated by the academic community: the Senate of the State School of Music awarded him its prize in 1978. Achievements that earned Baird this prize included his paper entitled Reflections on the methodology of educating young composers delivered at the 10th Congress of the Association Européenne des Conservatoires et Académies de Musique.
Tadeusz Baird liked to work with students. He treated them with respect, maintaining a distance appropriate for a professor. At the same time he was very kind to them. One of his students, Paweł Buczyński, remembered him in the following manner:
[...] not for a moment did I ever notice him trying to impose anything. If he interfered, he did so in purely technical matters, respecting what is given to each of us who begins to write. It’s the idea that is particular to every individual, that is unique and just needs to be clothed, shaped, given the right form, and this was his role, which he played magnificently. Often he referred to his own experiences from rehearsals with orchestras, from concerts, rehearsals with soloists, and said what would be easier to perform, how better to express what I wanted to express.
Another student, Jerzy Kornowicz, stressed his Professor’s great personality:
[...] I felt crushed, dwarfed by this man who surpassed me with his awareness, with his life experience. I can say that despite that and perhaps because of that I experienced a lot of caring gestures. They were not effusive but they were concrete. A lot of warmth for my ignorance.
This is how Kornowicz recalls his choice of this particular teacher of composition and relations with his from the beginning of his studies, in 1978:
Why Tadeusz Baird? Because for me – a young man at the time – it was a well-known name. At the same time Baird’s music had this ability to communicate, which simply [...] was getting through to me. [...] It would be difficult to imagine a greater contrast. A young, hot-headed boy, ignorant to a large extent, it has to be said, and, on the other hand – a polymath, a man with such experiences that sometimes lead to silence rather than excessive talk, and if there is some talk, the pronouncements are rather significant. [...] I remember that once we started to talk about Prokofiev, whom I didn’t like, didn’t know at the time [...] I began to criticise Prokofiev [...]. Silence fell. Tadeusz Baird said, “Jerzy, I envy you your bold views”. There were many such punchlines, comments. The older I get, the better I realise how discreetly they were said.
Baird’s methods and mode of work as a teacher are described in the following manner by the current president of the Polish Composers’ Union:
Tadeusz Baird had a very thorough, we might say classical approach to education [...] – it began with work on styles [...] The next stage was writing instrumentation for one’s works in various styles [...] He was very detailed, i.e. this feature of Tadeusz Baird’s scores is evident to this day, everything is very well written [...] the famous diminuendo all niente, a whole series of expressions that are [...] now anecdotal, but in some cases also became part of people’s technique, for instance in my case – they were an attitude one took over [...]. During lessons with him, he would never play the score with which one came to him. He would put the score on the piano with its lid closed (the keyboard was open) and he really looked at the keyboard more than he used it [...]. Sometimes neither we, the students, nor the professor felt for some reason like talking about music – we would go then to “Gama” to have some coffee [...] Wojtek Nowak and Paweł Buczyński used to frequent the place.
Unfortunately, when Jerzy Kornowicz was in his third year at the school, Tadeusz Baird suddenly died.
It was a thunderbolt [...]. Tadeusz Baird had been ill, but this illness was not the cause of his death [...]. Astonishment, a sense of facing a tragic situation. It seemed that Tadeusz Baird was beginning another important period in his life, that he was very important to us, his students, to the Academy of Music [...], his influence was growing [...]. And this element of tragedy present in [his] works was in a way fulfilled in his passing.
Indeed, the composer’s death was to some extent unexpected. This is how his wife, Alina Baird, talked about his illness and circumstances of his death:
This may have been predicted, but we didn’t realise that, because it was a cerebral aneurysm [...]. But it was manifested earlier, when during a visit to Germany he [Baird] fainted and was taken to hospital from the hotel [...]. Then, in the morning, when he woke up, he came to the conclusion that everything was all right [...], he quickly returned to Poland [...] But apart from that there were no other symptoms. He was in the early stages of diabetes, he was receiving injections [...], but he wasn’t so [seriously] ill. Of course, after the stay in Germany [during the war] and osseous tuberculosis, he must have been ailing, his heart must have been weakened [...]. But he wouldn’t have been able to swim, for example (and he was able to swim 2 kilometres), if he had had a weak heart, would he [...]? We returned from Bulgaria and the Artyszes visited [us] the following evening [...]. I made some supper and then they went home and everything was fine. During the night he suddenly felt unwell [...]. If fact, we should have called an ambulance and taken him to hospital, but there came a doctor, an acquaintance of ours, and she said that it was dehydration [...], that he needed a drip infusion and it would pass [...]. However, it didn’t pass two days later, he even had a slight paralysis on one side of his face, because it was a stroke. He was taken to a government hospital [...]. After some tests they said he needed a brain surgery, but it was not possible there [...], so they took him to the hospital in Banach Street [...]. He stayed there for two days and he felt fine [...] The following day they were to operate on him, [...] I was to come at 9.00 and find out everything [...]. I came and it turned out that they hadn’t called me at all and my husband had died [...] He was fine after Bulgaria, before that, too, a whole month at Ustka [...]. Everything was fine [...] the aneurysm must have ruptured [...].
- T. Baird, Trudno być artystą (młodym) [It is difficult to be a (young) artist], Kultura 20.5.1979 no. 20, p. 11.
- A. Skulska, Szkic do portretu: Tadeusz Baird [Tadeusz Baird: a Portrait] [sound doc.], Second Programme of the Polish Radio, 2007.