KAŇKA, JAN (b. 1977)

Composers' own words: "Here I am going to write about my musical background. I was born on December 17th 1977 in Sokolov. I spent my early years in Chodov. After that, my parents bought a house in Horní Slavkov. It is a small town in west Bohemia with the rich mining history. There, I was going to infant school (school for kids at the age three to six years). Mrs. Ryba, the director of this school was a wife of the director of elementary school of arts. She was singing with us children often while she was playing the piano. She cooperated with her husband as they had chosen their talents. So I was chosen, too. I wanted to play violin but my parents bought me a recorder. My first teacher was Mr. Sýkora, a good man. As my elder sister saw I was going to school of arts she wanted to go too and chose the trumpet. While I was playing recorder for two years I decided to switch to the trumpet like my sister did. I see it in front of my eyes like it was yesterday: They took me to the depository of instrument and were searching for the trumpet to borrow. There was old junk in the shelves covered with dust but no trumpet. OK, I was told, you will play this. And they passed me a baritone. My teacher on baritone was Petr Icík. He was a good man, too but was somewhat lazy and did not know much about the brass instrument's playing technique. I was eight or nine years old and was struggling with my baritone. The valves never worked and I was told it was my fault. I was very unhappy and wanted to quit. Fortunately, my mother spoke to the director of the school, Zdeněk Ryba, and the school borrowed me a valve trombone. It was great! I was playing duets with my sister and we had a good time together. We were also sitting next to each other in the school band. In the same band was playing violin Dalibor Kaplan, a boy who had a big influence on my person. The base of this orchestra were violins. Zdeněk Ryba was a violin player of Symphony in Karlovy Vary and he was writing for us the nice and clever arrangements of for example Sonny, Hungarian Dance no. 5 by Johaness Brahms, the melody of the cartoon movie The Smurfs and many others. For the talents of this band were the solos written and I was one of them. I really fell in love with music at that time and decided to go to the conservatory, when I grow up. My four years older sister decided so, too. But Petr Icík was not able to prepare her properly and sent her to the entrance examination to the conservatory without telling it to Zdeněk Ryba, the director of the school. My sister was not accepted and when Zdeněk Ryba came to know what had happened, he grow very angry and Petr Icík was fired. We had a new teacher, Jan Čížek. He is still playing trumpet in Karlovy Vary Symphony Orchestra. This man told me that if I really want to get to conservatory I have to switch from the valve trombone to the slide trombone. I was 13 years old at that time and it was not easy for me to accept the qualities of the slide. To me it seemed rather clumsy as I had had a good valves technique. And I also had to learn to read the bass clef (before I played the treble clef in Bb).
Jan Čížek taught me how to breathe properly and helped me to get rid of bad habits. I was for example playing with my cheeks inflated. He also sent me to Vlastimil Eichler, a professor of Plzeň conservatory for consultations. On the first lesson I was with my mother. We had been waiting in his classroom no.19 till the rehearsal of the trombone duet was over. The two boys were playing so excellent! I hung my head because I knew I was so much worse then they were. When I started to play, it was terrible. I wonder why Vlastimil Eichler had invited me to the doors open day of Plzeň conservatory. "What will it be like?" asked my mother about that day. "The door will be open here." answered he. It was at my eighth grade of the elementary school. After the finishing of the school year I spent a month in the covalescent homes in Mariánské Lázně because of the previous kidney surgery. In this town lived one of Eichler's students Jiří Bichá (now he plays trombone in the State Opera in Praha). Vlastimil Eichler told him to give me the lessons there. So did he and it helped me a lot together with the work of Jan Čížek. Next year I was accepted to Plze Conservatory. I couldn't wait until the last (the ninth) elementary school year was over. A day or two before the school year started, Dalibor Kaplan was at my home. I had not seen him for some while before and I was staring at him in amazement. He wore the shabby black coat and there was something weird with his face. It was full of acne and ..... there were no eyebrows! Later while we were talking about it he told me he had a strange idea to shave it away. At that time my father worked in Germany, my mother was in Greece and my sister left for the USA (my mother did not know it yet). I was fifteen and home alone for the long time. My sister should have helped me with the start in Plze but she wasn't there anymore. Maybe she was the person who had asked Dalibor Kaplan to help me. I had known Dalibor for the longer time. We played in the art of school band and both of us had ATARI computer. We were exchanging games but there wasn't a close contact. He was three year older so it is no wonder. But from the moment of his visit we became a close friends. Dalibor showed me the students dormitory and as he took me to the school the gate-woman did not want to let me in. After we had conviced her that I am a new student of Conservatory, she yelled at me: "Don't be a friend of this one!" Dalibor fascinated me. He was wearing his violin in the ragged green cover with painted logo of the Ghostbusters (It was a movie with Bill Murray) on it. He did not went to school often. Instead of this he was spending his time in the hired flat and was composing and recording his own music on four track recorder and the ATARI computer. He was in his fifth grade, made a graduation (of the forth grade) in a alternate date. After he passed it, he left for Praha where he was studying the pop singing. We spent in Plze together only about one month. From here on we were mainly together on weekends in Horní Slavkov. When I saw how easy and amusing was to compose the music I started to do it myself. I was mainly writing the pop songs.
Another person who deeply influenced me was Vlastimil Eichler my conservatory professor. He was a member of J. K. Tyl theatre orchestra in Plzeň. To manage the both works (playing and teaching) he had to teach all Monday (in the theatre is Monday a day off) and on the other days in the week he was teaching before the rehearsal which was usualy from ten AM to one PM and between the rehearsal and show which usualy started at seven pm. I had three hours of the trombone a week. I had for five years a trombone lesson from 7 AM. When I went there for the first time I met Vlastimil Eichler at the school door. I greeted him and he, instead of greeting me back, told me, "At this school we have a habit that the student is coming sooner then the teacher does." From this instant on I was there every day at 6:30 AM. That was the time when the school caretaker opened the building. Vlastimil Eichler had his theory that the only useful think that you can learn at the conservatory was playing the instrument. He was pressing really hard on us. When the student did not work properly and did not develop he usually left the school by himself or was thrown out. The first year of school was terrible for me. Everything was wrong and as I was leaving the school building I was often surpised that the sun is always shining and I enjoyed to take a breath of the fresh air. In the second school year Mr. Eichler recomended to me to switch to the bass trombone. He borrowed me an old king and later my parents bought me a Bach bass trombone with independent valves. In the mean time I started playing in Taras band, we played jazz and funky, we were playing several of my songs, too. I was composing and arranging and playing in many orchestras and band, you can see it in my Vita, I made made Bc. degree at the AMU in Prague by Jiří Suaický, a great man. Now I am freelance trombonist and teacher in Music school in Klatový. I am trying to be as good teacher as my teachers were."