Pavel Vondráček

Pianist and composer

Czech Republic



Pavel Vondráček (*1998) is a young Czech composer, pianist and keyboardist. Currently a student of Berklee College of Music, Pavel composes music inspired by a variety of genres including classical, New Age, jazz and pop. His compositions are usually described as very visual, melancholic, even mournful at times, but also very expressive as they strive for telling a story. Even nowadays, Pavel is a strong advocate for full-length albums as they offer enough space to convey a story.

“I started playing piano at the age of 3. It had a huge impact that my training was purely classical.” It wasn’t until about 8 years ago, when Pavel discovered the world of composition. As a devoted admirer of artists like Enya, Sarah Brightman or Yiruma, Pavel gained much influence from both the popular and the classical realms. “It was inevitable to be somehow involved with music. Whatever I did, it bounced me back to the music. Whenever I couldn’t do music, I felt a part of me was left over alone.”

In 2015, Pavel released his first piano solo album Lost in the Wind. Containing both piano covers of famous popular songs and Pavel’s own improvisations, it became the first attempt to get his hand on music. “I was very privileged to have this opportunity. Recording an album in a studio gave me so much experience on how a musician works, how he thinks and how the recording is done.” Disappointed by the experience at the studio, which does not provide much of artistic freedom to the musician, Pavel decided to build his own studio, designed around his specific needs.




What does music mean to you personally?

For me, music has always been there around. I can recall a very vivid memory from my childhood that always makes me very confident in being a musician. I was maybe 4, just started learning piano basics and I found what was an Enya CD then. I listened to it over and over on a very small cassette player and sensed the harmonies, melodies and the sounds of the music. Her music was my first encounter to the world of classical and popular music at the time, what somebody would call a classical crossover or even New Age. It was at that time, when I felt very connected with the music and imagined myself being in front of people and playing for them, even without knowing there’ve been many musicians doing it live for centuries. It just felt right at the time.

My music has always been very personal, I don’t write abstract compositions. That’s why I take about 3 to 4 years to come up with an album. I need a break. To gather inspiration, to catch up with people, to travel and to get into an entirely new headspace. My last album was about love, it’s telling my story from the first person. I was going through my first relationship and this was like a diary. I wouldn’t write one, I compose them instead. And as a musician and author of this music, I feel myself back in the day, when the music has been played for the first time.

Do you agree that music is all about fantasy?

I’d say music has always some hint of fantasy inside, but the most touching and personal music is always a picture of reality. Whether it is a positive feeling or not, music is a way to let the composer’s feelings transform into a piece of art. As I studied lots of classical music, I’d say this reality is what made Beethoven’s Sonata no. 14 stand out in the whole palette of his works and appeal to his listeners. The same applies to Schubert’s last piano sonatas or his 3 Klavierstücke, on the upbeat side then Chopin’s enchantingly loving Piano concertos. I am definitely not to state that each piece of music has to be real, but mainly the real music is what draws me fully in.

If you were not a professional musician, what would you have been?

This is a question I tend to ask myself very often. I know I need to work around music and I’ve always known that. The further I tried to go from music, the darker the world became and the stronger was the bounce back into the world of music. If I didn’t have a chance to be a professional musician, I would love to do anything involved with music. I’d definitely never stop recording, never stop concerting and most importantly never stop listening to music. I know I’d be even more of a dedicated listener to a wide variety of musicians.

The classical music audience is getting old, are you worried about the future?

I would be classified as a millennial and thus I’ve had many opportunities to talk about music with many peers. What I’ve brought out of these conversations is how many young people love classical music! Many of them will grow from the massively popular genres to the classical music over time. I can’t imagine many of my classical audiences listening to classical music when they were of our age and I apologize if I am wrong. On the contrary, music industry has undergone a very long transition since the era of compact discs and it created many opportunities, but also many threats. What I worry about are the opportunities open for everyone. As many people nowadays compose and record music, the statement “Only quality music will make to the market” doesn’t make sense anymore. Believe it or not, this harms not only the musicians, but also listeners willing to attend a live concert. It is very difficult to make it through the clutter and incentivize people to come.

What do you envision the role of music to be in the 21st century? Do you see that there is a transformation of this role?

Getting back to the answer above, I think music is transforming into a service. I am a conservative person and even though I love the freedom you have… You can listen to anybody, anywhere!... But at the same time, musicians are forced to add more communication channels with fans, spend more time on social networks, which costs them time and energy. Music as such has been and will always be a unique form of expression. It touches people like nothing else, it calms them down like nothing else. Music has always been successful at healing and most recently, music is gradually becoming more important as a means of calming. Our civilization definitely needs music like never before and that’s a positive sign to us, musicians.

Do you think that the musician today needs to be more creative? What is the role of creativity in the musical process for you?

Creativity has always been there in different ways. As much as classical composers constantly conjured to push the boundaries of their era requirements and form features, composers today can explore many unforeseen paths and follow them down the road. The importance lies in not following the crowd, which now turned to pursuing the extremes in dissonant music. For my compositions, I need to gather a lot of inspiration. I am not an analytic composer and I take time to gather inspiration. At some point, I’d have a very strong urge to sit at the piano and play. That’s when I compose the most of my music. I won’t be prepared to compose in less than 2 years and when it comes, I write an entire album in a very short period of time.

Do you think we as musicians can do something to attract the younger generation to music concerts? How would you do this?

I have always tried to find a way to attract younger people to my concerts. My friend, a wonderful piano teacher and occasional pianist, has a theory, stating that “a musician has to have everything to be successful. Talent, diligence, devotion, love for music, love for performing and look good on stage.” It is the last point she made that made me think of what the younger generation looks for the most. They don’t care that much if you do a humble interpretation of Beethoven or a very messy one, they want to have this visual experience as well. It doesn’t have to be just the performer, but also the stage and details. Even regarding the classical music, which has been performed in a very uniform halls for decades now, we should utilize new media to enhance the pleasure. If done reasonably, it doesn’t distract from the music. It does exactly opposite. That is the reason why my recent Love Stories Tour utilizes features like colored uplighting, candles or haze. I try to merge the advantages of both classical world and the popular realm to bring a new experience. That means I play my own music together with Chopin, Beethoven or Schubert, side by side, etc.

Tell us about your creative process. What is your favorite piece (written by you) and how did you start working on it?

I’ve touched the topic of my creative process in various questions above, so I’d tell about my favorite piece. Needless to say that I love them all. Each of them is special, original in its own regard. Each one of us would probably have their own favorite piece. My personal favorite at the time would be Prélude-Fantaisie. A very classical piece of music, this composition was a touch of euphoria when working on my next album. I still can’t fully understand how complex the composition is, it emerged as an improvisation.

Can you give some advice for young people who want to discover classical music for themselves? Do you think about the audience when composing?

I’d recommend starting with the most popular compositions and going deeper and deeper into the classical world. It is “boring” for people, who are not yet prepared for it, it requires the listener to grow, to broaden their perspectives and gain experience. Understanding classical music is a skill, not a genetical disposition. When they reach this point of “listener expertise”, I cannot emphasize more going out to a live concert. YouTube has been a wonderful tool to watch people play, but nothing could replicate the untouchable atmosphere of a live concert. I always want to express myself, thus my main concern is the content of the music, not the listener at this particular time. I start to consider the listener-friendliness very soon after I complete the album and have to arrange the compositions in a particular order. When I think very thoroughly about the listener experience is during my live shows. Generally speaking, ordinary concerts outside of the album tour are always focused solely on the listener. Album tours are different. That’s where I need to combine the listener experience with the music from the new album to properly showcase it.

What projects are coming up? Do you experiment in your projects?

I spent many years preparing the release of my first original piano album called Love Stories and haven’t really found time to actually promote it. The album deserves the promotion, it is a special album and the work I really am proud of. Apart from the album, in December 2019 I launched Love Stories Tour, my first ever concert tour. I played 2 crowded concerts in the Czech Republic, had a wonderful feedback from the audience and shot a live video on the tour. I took a small break now before having a few concerts in the US, then coming back to the Czech Republic for a much bigger concert tour in May and June 2020, which should finish around fall 2020 with concerts in some of the European cities.