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Jakub Zahradník



Childhood and Studies

Jakub was born on 5th March 1994 in Prague into an artistic family. His father, Václav Zahradník (1942 – 2001), was a famous conductor and composer who left behind extensive and in many ways innovative work in popular, jazz, incidental and classical music. His mother, Jaroslava Kubištová, used to be a journalist and up to now she still writes fairytales and adapts fairytales for radio.

Since very young age Jakub has been showing special musical talent, he started to compose at the age of six and a year later he started learning to play piano at a music school. After elementary school with special English lessons, he studied for two years at a grammar school and then he went over to the Prague Conservatoire, to Professor Oldřich Semerák at the department of composition, where he graduated in 1986. Jakub’s compositions were appreciated in school competitions. He graduated with orchestral suite The Albatross and runner and thesis Lyrics in Czech Choir Compositions.

During his studies, Jakub initiated and became the soul of many artistic projects. Apart from music he has been cultivating also his literary talent and made use of the fact that was born an organiser. He could be seen as the organiser of summer underground festivals, underground magazine publisher, founder of theatre ensemble or declamatory group – his interests were spreading.


Entering into Practice

At the end of his studies, Jakub was earning his pocket money as a répétiteur.  After graduation, he accepted an engagement in a newly established pop group Balet and played around 200 concerts a year. This group was very popular in Czechoslovakia of that time. Further experience Jakub gathered in the Czech Television Orchestra, which was a big band conducted by his father. He wrote arrangements for the Orchestra, music for theatre and for radio fairytales. At this time, he worked also as a studio musician.

The year 1998 brought a great change in Czechoslovakia; the Velvet Revolution, the collapse of socialism and the opening of the state borders meant that Jakub was able to go abroad to gain new experience. For two years he lived in Ansbach and Nuremberg, Germany, and played keyboard with local hard rock group Monroe, but to earn his living he had to work as a labourer in a factory producing plastic parts.

After his return home, he worked as a stoker before he succeeded in finding engagement in commencing Prague musical boom of 90’s. In the 90’s Jakub worked successively in musicals Pippin (1993) Jesus Christ Superstar (1994–7), Nunsense (1997– 8), Pump Boys and Dinettes (1998–9), Starci na chmelu / The Hop Pickers (1999–2000) as a piano player, conductor, arranger, and at the end also as a producer. At this time, Jakub also led Czech Musical Server (2001–3) and organised Showcases for young talents.

Apart from musical practice, Jakub was at that time fully engaged also in literary activities: He was an editor in chief of Poetic Review Obratník (1994–6), which he founded together with Roman Polák, he published his poetic debut Close your Eyes and Dream, (1993), initiated and published generational almanac Broken Thread, (1996), wrote many expert articles about music and poetry and organised countless literary evenings.

His cooperation with Roman Polák resulted in the founding of Poetry cafe Obratník in Smíchov, Prague, where he proved to be a great programme manager. In the period of four seasons under his dramaturgy (2002–2005), there were produced about 450 different performances. Apart from others, he also introduced there his playlet Gerojši or cabaret show The Poets’ Napkin, which was broadcasted by the Czech Radio.


Interpreting His Own Music

In 2000, Jakub decided to dedicate himself mainly to his own musical works. He started to cooperate with soul singer Pavla Kapitánová and he composed chansons for her. (In the Czech environment “chanson” means a song with deeper, weighty content.) Jakub performed with Pavla or alone in Germany, England, Spain and the Czech Republic. They published CD A Life Alone, (2002), CD The Alchemy of Life, (2004), single Twice about love, (2007), CD Exile Street, (2007). Jakub also published a collection of song lyrics A Graceful Cheroot, (2003) and selected poems The Song of a Hot Stone, (2007). For one year he taught at The Prague Consevatoire interpretation of music genres. At the same time, he founded and for four years directed Original Chanson Festival and Children’s Choirs’ Contest. In the summer of 2007, Pavla Kapitánová died in a car accident. Jakub continued on his own by recitals of piano improvisations. Those are recorded for example on 2CD Listen, (2008) or in his book-CD about historical pianos Forte or Piano? (2010).

In 2009, Jakub put together a group and composed a repertoire for it. Its’ tour With Rhyme and Reason could be seen in the Czech Republic, Germany and Austria.  He also continued in organising evenings of music and poetry in different Prague clubs and his need for humour led him to a production of performances with crazy piano trio Pianosaurus Rex and to Bards’ Cabaret. Apart from that, Jakub was in 2006–2010 engaged as a secretary in Okrašlovací spolek Terezie (Beautifying Association) Terezie in South Bohemian borderland. Under his leadership, they helped to renew a tradition of a wake, make contact with former exiled German inhabitants, get in touch with a neighbouring Austrian association and initiate renovation of a ruined local church.


Classical Music Composer

Jakub’s “English” song cycles (Five Sea Songs, The Melly-Belly Songs) as well as his Czech songs, which were successful especially on Christian Radio Proglas, aimed through a fusion of folk, blues, jazz and classical music to music with spiritual content. In 2010, he composed vocal mass Missa Egrensis. The result was very encouraging. He followed with madrigals Questionmarks, melodrama “Fairytale”, cantata Elements, fantasy The Time Pit, and a musical theatre piece Red Hanrahan’s Tales based on a novel by W. B. Yeates.

From the year 2016, Jakub hits the road again with his new solo program consisting of his piano improvisations, songs and poems.

Kateřina Drewsová, Prague, January 2016

jkb at čmh


2016 - solo performances

2010 – present – classical composer:

  • CD One Music (PUMP 2015)
  • Red Hanrahan Tales, musical theatre (since 2014, unfinished)
  • The Time Pit, fantasy for harp and string quintet (2014)
  • Elements, cantata for young children (2013)
  • “Fairytale”, melodrama (2012, second version 2014)
  • Question Marks, madrigals (2011)
  • Missa Egrensis, vocal mass (2010)

2011 – 2012 – dramaturge of music & poetry evenings in Prague club Jiný Kafe

2009 – 2011 – songwriter, performer – With Rhyme and Reason - concerts in the Czech Republic, Germany and Austria with own group

  • CD Concert in the Bethlehem Chapel (PUMP, 2014)
  • CD The Melly-Belly Songs & Five Sea Songs (PUMP 2013)
  • With Rhyme and Reason (PUMP, 2009), promo DVD
  • Top hits on Christian Radio Proglas

2005 – present – recitals and performances with piano improvisations

  • book + CD Forte or Piano?, (PUMP, 2010)
  • 2-CD Listen (PUMP, 2008)

2000 – 2007 – toured with original chanson programme A Life Alone with singer Pavla Kapitánová, concerts in Germany, England, Spain and the Czech Republic

  • CD Pouť přes vyhnanství / Exile Street, (Produkční centrum Fr. Rychtaříka, 2007)
  • single Dvakrát o lásce / Twice About Love, (Produkční centrum Fr. Rychtaříka, 2007)
  • CD Alchymie života / The Alchemy of Life, (bibi töntrager, Norimberk, 2004)
  • CD Život sám / A Life Alone, (self-published, 2002)

2004 – 2007 – organized Original Chanson Festival and Children’s Choirs Contest in Prague 5

  • set of 4 CDs – recordings from the chanson festivals (Produkční centrum Fr. Rychtaříka, 2007)

2002 – 2005 – programme manager of Poetry cafe Obratník and 2019 - 2012 of Špajz, Šatlava and Jiný Kafe

  • original cabaret show Ubrousek básníků / The Poets’ Napkin (broadcasted by the Czech Radio, channel 2)
  • crazy piano trio Pianosaurus Rex, The Bards' Cabaret
  • playlet Gerojši, etc.

2001 – 2003 – editor in chief of The Czech Musical Server

  • organizer of musical Showcases and The Musical Map of Prague

1999 – 2000 – professor at The Prague Conservatoire

1999 – 2000 – keyboard player in the rock group Daryl Green

1994 – 2007 – publishing, editorial and organizational activities in poetry

  • Zpěv rozpáleného kamene / Song of a Hot Stone – selected poems (Protis, 2007)
  • book of song lyrics Ztepilé viržínko / A Graceful Cheroot, (Protis, 2003)
  • Přetržená nit / Broken Theme, generational almanac, (Obratník, 1996)
  • Poetická revue Obratník / Poetical Revue Obratník, editor in chief (1994 – 1997)
  • Zavři oči a sni / Close your Eyes and Dream, analecta, (Obratník, 1993)

1993 – 2002 – engaged in commercial musical productions in Prague

  • Starci na chmelu / The Hop Pickers, (1999 – 2000) – arranger, pianist-conductor
  • Benzín a mejkap / Pump Boys and Dinettes, (1998 – 1999) – producer, pianist-conductor
  • Jeptišky / Nunsense (1997 – 1998) – pianist-conductor
  • Jesus Christ Superstar – (1994 – 1997) – pianist (played about 700 shows)
  • Pippin (1993) – pianist-conductor

1990 – 1992 – lived in Germany, keyboard player in the hard rock group Monroe

1988-1990 - member of The Czech Television Orchestra (big band) – keyboard player, arranger

  • wrote numerous arrangements and incidental music works
  • professional session (studio) musician

1986 – 1987 – engaged in the pop group Balet - keyboard player

1985 – 1986 – worked as a répétiteur

1980 – 1986 – The Prague Conservatoire, department of composition

  • graduate’s work: Albatros a běžec / The Albatross and the Runner, suite for chamber orchestra