Young Careers: Petr Smetáček

Petr Smetacek

Young composer / pianist Petr Smetáček has discovered many paths to life-long learning about music.

Musician / composer Petr Smetáček updates us on his latest classical compositions – and the unexpected benefits of being a music arranger.

The 29-year-old composer has just completed a new suite for flute, piano, and string quartet.

Speaking from the Soul (Hovory z Duše) premieres tonight, Sept 10, in Ústí nad Orlicí and Sept 14 in Duchov. It features Vlado Urlich, Andean flutes; the Melody Quartet; and Mr Smetáček, piano.

As if that’s not enough, he’s also just finished “the biggest composition in my life,” a 10-minute piece, From Autumn to Winter (Od Podzimu do Zimy) for small orchestra. He entered it in the Archioni Plus Composers’ Competition, which specified the parts: flute, B-flat clarinet and trumpet, guitar, piano, four violins, two cellos and a double bass. (Results have not been announced yet.)

Although Mr Smetáček has mastered a number of instruments (piano, percussion, trumpet, voice, bagpipes), “It was the first time I wrote for strings,” he says, “so the most important experience was the new knowledge [gained] about instrumentation.”

In 2010 Mr Smetáček completed his six-year study of composing at the Jaroslav Ježek Conservatory, under Karel Růžička Sr (“and I cannot even imagine a better teacher,” Mr. Smetáček notes).

And to his surprise, now he’s also learned that the arranger’s task is also “the best school” for teaching a composer how to write music.

“You can hear what you wrote,” he explains.

Petr Smetacek

Afro-Cuban music is one of Mr Smetáček's favorite genres.

Taking Notes
He continues, “I can see in other groups that the arrangers are never studying music notation enough, because they need much more time with musicians at rehearsals for them to learn their parts. I spent a lot of time studying notation, so in my groups, [I write out] the musicians’ parts very carefully – readable and clear. And they appreciate it very much.”

He works in not only the classical style, but also in Afro-Cuban (he plays piano and percussion with the band Los Rumberos), jazz, and Czech folk music. “Everything complements each other and helps me be a better musician. Especially for composition, it’s a huge advantage. I ‘know’ a lot of instruments personally.”

Mr Smetáček has founded a number of Afro-Cuban groups, and says being a band leader is “the biggest school of my life. You need to learn how to communicate with musicians, concert organizers, and the audience … and how to organize everything.” That includes selecting and leading the musicians, handling promotions and logistics, writing and rehearsing the repertoire, and conducting concerts, as well as performing in them.

“I started like a shy youth who knows nothing,” he confesses, “and now, after about 10 years, I am much more self-confident. I know what I know. I have everything prepared for the musicians, and they like to cooperate with me. This is an honor for me.” — oo

– Mary Matz, editor of Opus Osm

Photo Credits: Petr Smetáček

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