Josef Kapustka is a pianist and graduated from the Academy in 1997

What did you study at the Academy? Can you give us some examples of memorable experiences during your time here?

I enrolled in 1996 as a MMus student and in 1997 I was awarded a Postgraduate Advanced Studies Diploma specialising in piano performance. My course tutors were Prof. Amanda Glauert and Prof. Martin Roscoe. My year at the academy went by very fast and I had a truly glorious, absolutely wonderful time there working in a high, positive energy driven environment, experiencing the highest academic standards observed by the teaching panel, meeting Alfred Brendel, Maurizio Pollini, some of incredibly inspiring fellow pianists Tamami Honma, Petras Geniusas, Freddy Kempf, Konstantin Lifschitz... This has at the time made a very powerful impact on me and left a lasting impression to this day. Also when Sir Elton John visited the Academy in 1997 and momentarily he was credited with 150,000,000 CD's sold on his counter, I thought to myself: "Way to go, pal..."

Describe the projects you have been involved with since you left:

Since I left I have been involved in a plethora of different projects, dividing my time between Europe, the South and the North America. Most recently it has been a series of recitals (including on a period historic pianos) and orchestra concerts for 2010 Chopin Year celebrations in France and 2011 Liszt Bicentenary celebrations in the United Kingdom and Brazil. I particularly value my ongoing collaboration with the Leamington Symphony Orchestra conducted by Jenny Barrie, one of the most accomplished and socially active orchestras in this country. In 2010 I have initiated together with Marcio Selles and Martin Voll a "Bach in Rio" project – performances in Rio de Janeiro and recording of selected Bach keyboard concerti with the Orquestra de Cordas da Grota conducted by Ubiratan Rodrigues. OCG is not an ordinary orchestra: its musicians come exclusively from the notorious Rio de Janeiro favelas. Coaching sessions on a location in the Grota favela lasted from November 2010 to January 2011 and were particularly dramatic: during this period, as widely covered by the media reports worldwide , special police units (BOPE) , Policia Pacificadora, army and marine have launched a massive military operation on all of Rio de Janeiro favelas ( smoothly called a" war on gang terror" ) in what was later described as the worst drug bust related violence in a recent history and which ultimately claimed more than 100 casualties in human lives. Later this year I will be returning to Rio de Janeiro on the invitation from Maestro Ueslei Banus to perform selected Liszt orchestral works with the Conservatorio Brasileira Symphony Orchestra.

Also in 2010 I co-signed together with the organist and Baroque scholar Narine Simonian a world premiere of Gluck's "Iphigenie en Tauride" with the actual orchestra entirely replaced by the state-of-the-art, ultra complexe Allen Quantum organ. I also enjoyed enormously collaborating with violinists David Galoustov, Fedor Roudine, flutist Yuki Takahashi, singers Sergei Stilmachenko, Irina Tiviane, with whom I toured and recorded in U.S.A., Europe and Middle East; and pianist Yuko Hitsumoto. Occasionnally I would appear as an actor in theater pieces, acting out "the pianist" character (2005 Avignon Festival in Serge Valetti's "8 and a half oysters", dir. Jean Christian Grinevald); and recently on a Swiss tour of "A diva from Sarcelles" (written and directed by Virginie Lemoine) – a piece nominated to the most prestigious French theatre award Moliere 2010 of the best musical play.

What have been the most difficult challenges to overcome?

It is rightfully believed that the musical profession while being one of the most difficult on the market has simultaneously an astonishing potential of being amongst the least rewarding. It is not a secret either that modern conservatories keep flooding the saturated and somewhat fossilized professional scene with crowds of massively cloned, mostly over-trained performers who, for depressively elevated number of them, will never have a chance to enter a decent, related job as a result not of their lack of competence but a sheer arithmetic. Even a traditional competition out there doesn't seem to make any sense any longer. Therefore it is absolutely essential to establish a right, successful professional strategy from the very beginning and not let oneself to be crushed by possible lack of adequate financial standing and founding, public recognition and many other factors and difficulties that always seemed to be endemic to any artistic activity. It is not always easy, either, to maintain a self-protective shield against sometimes ill-dissimulated, sometimes surprisingly sophisticated peer-to-peer and employer-to-employee violence that seems to have become even more a standard in times of the current economic collapse, so called "crisis" – a notion so conveniently used and abused to justify all sorts of unethical behaviour. The final challenge consists thus of accepting that the return on initial physical, moral and material investment might turn sour and disappointing. "A requiem for a dream?" Not really, I would say the most difficult is not to let the doubt cast a shadow, but this is a long philosophical debate.

What have been your most rewarding moments?

We are likely talking here about a slow evolution rather than a particular moment, an extended in time venture into often painful creative process, that the lay public rarely, if at all, understands.

Confronted with the everyday burst of adrenaline that is somehow supposed to bring us closer to a very hypothetical achievement, locked within a monastic discipline that becomes a second nature, being in a state of constant intellectual awareness and inner questioning over artistic choices we might find that there exists a certain danger in finally "getting there" since there comes inevitably a question " what's next?" In a slightly perverse way, the effort itself is more rewarding than a punctual, often elusive result. Thus a comfort of having actually achieved something may prove reasonably treacherous. I feel that experiencing a satisfaction of being able to identify and overcome individual weaknesses, being able to individually contribute to a larger creative effort and ultimately gaining a genuine respect from a fellow musicians community are the most rewarding moments of the career at the time when they happen, obviously, and moreover they provide a soothing effect on a fragile, scattered artistic ego and a solid foundation for a further development.

Where can we see examples of your work?

"Bach in Rio" soundtrack available on iTunes, etc. (all benefits go directly to the Grota musical community). Photo galleries by Wilfred Paulse and Paulo Tarso:

Liszt Concerto No.1 Live with the City of Nevers Symphony Orchestra, cond. Michelle Ambrozetti:

Official Polish Government 2010 Chopin Year Worldwide celebrations page:[view]=event&tx_cal_controller[type]=tx_cal_phpicalendar&tx_cal_controller[uid]=12191

Discussion on the "Piano World Forum":

What advice would you give anyone who wants to follow a similar path?

You are a musician, which really means that besides playing your instrument you are also a fundraiser, market analyst, real estate broker, business consultant, psychoanalyst, communication guru and police negotiator with a Hollywood charisma, the latest technologies bear no mystery to you and you have got all socio-technical tricks on your fingertips. So identify, join or create and start maintaining your network very early, you will not survive without them nor on your own. The trail keeping "elite" is really a small village, so do not underestimate the power of socializing, name dropping and other story telling. Most serious agents and labels will not even notice you sent them a demo; they want you to be introduced by someone they do actually know. It is surprising how little, besides lots of luck or lots of money, it takes to have a stellar, international career launched. Take a full advantage of the internet revolution with its endless promotional possibilities and speedy communication. Never take "no" for an answer and enjoy taking all sorts of risks if you want to sip this vintage "Dom Perignon" later on. At the same time, try to understand what the others expect of you, and, by all means, comply (within reason...) Do not disrespect your public: they pay your bills and those round-the-world trips. As an artist be true, be genuine, be sincere, and be passionate. Do not imitate, it does not interest anybody, be yourself. Respect yourself, respect your colleagues, and respect the word you have given. Be faithful and decent. And last but not least: "Work hard, see large, achieve!"

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