Why am I in love to London? Lada Valešová - young pianist from Prague is living in London since 1994
What brought you to UK?
In January1994 I have arrived to London as an exchange student under the EU Erasmus scheme. I came to study for one term (12 weeks) at the Guildhall school of Music and Drama. It was a dream come true. I studied English since I was eight years old and had a particular affinity with English literature. My thorough musical education at the Prague Conservatoire and at the Prague Music Academy of Music meant that I was ready for the challenge and my feet were itching to go. This two and a half months at the GSMD were a turning point in my studies and I felt inspired, revived and eager to learn more. I have used my short time very actively and also applied to study at GSMD the following year. I was accepted and given a scholarship for the following 3 years, a bit of a record for a Czech postgraduate music student at that time. After I have finished my studies both at GSMD and Prague Music Academy I have been asked by the GSMD to become a member of their teaching staff; an offer which I gladly accepted.
What is the UK competition like in your profession? Isn’t it much higher than it would be back at home in proportion to the higher number of population?
The competition is fierce. London is one of the main centers of international music scene, as well as one of the most expensive cities in the world. To be able to earn your living here as a musician is already a success in it’s own way. I am proud of my achievements and my flourishing career. People back in Czech Republic often assume that by going abroad I have chosen an easier ticket. Nothing can be more further from truth. I have a tremendous respect for all my colleagues and friends who are based in Czech Republic and perform in the face of adverse financial conditions and in a difficult cultural climate. But I think they can not quite imagine what it is like to live, perform and survive here. On the other had I find more opportunities to use and nourish different facets of my talent in UK? I have always had the thirst for learning and keep meeting new inspirational people from the different fields of music and art. For example I am now involved in an exciting project with a contemporary British composer Ben Park on a new commission for the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. I also meet musicologists who have dedicated their lives to research, as well as amazing people who bring music and theatre into schools and universities. I am interested in the ways in which the body functions and in learning how to use it with utmost efficiency for the performance, and so I meet people who teach different body awareness techniques. Perhaps it is my insatiable fascination by people and life’s many manifestations, which had enabled me to always meet just the right person I was looking for. Sense of humour also helps!
What are the advantages of you working abroad? Do you think you will remain in UK permanently?
I very much appreciate the fact that I was given a chance, be it by the Guildhall as a student and later as a tutor, or by the concert promoters and agents. My perception might be wrong, but I feel it is a sense of great personal liberty, which seems to attract artist and musicians to UK and London particularly. As long as you are not breaking the law you are left alone to go about your business and to develop in a way you find appropriate. The great melting pot of London and Great Britain has seen it all many times over and you have to offer something special in order not to remain just a shadow or a fleeting memory. It is a challenge, which I find exciting.
I have been granted the permanent residency in UK but have so far kept my Czech Nationality. Ideally I would like to be in more places at the same time! I do spend up to four months of every year in Praha, where my family lives. Long term plans involve master classes in the Czech Republic and perhaps organising a Music Festival. There is an arising opportunity for me to teach for one term at the Paris Conservatoire, which would be another dream come true, and I travel extensively with recitals in Burgundy, France, and master classes in Italy and Poland taking place next year. Perhaps the most accurate answer is this: in my mind I call myself the Slavic cosmopolitan.
What do you miss most when you are in London, when you remember the Czech Republic? And what do you miss when you come here?
It is definitely my family. My wonderful parents, to whom I owe everything I am, my loving older brother Radoslav, a distinguished painter, and the oldest brother Alexandr, who lives in Switzerland with his wife. And of course my little lively black dog Fido, a rescued dog shelter orphan. But as a matter of fact I probably see my family more often and for longer than many of my British colleagues! I also miss my friends, who are all getting on with their lives. I miss the countryside, especially the Brdsko near Plzen, where my father’s roots are. I miss the occasional proper ice cold draft Pilsner beer with a big white foam hat. I miss that seemingly cosy feel that Czech Republic often presents. I miss the hearty humour born from adversity.
When I stay in Praha for a longer time without that much to do I start missing the buzz of London, it’s electrifying speed and extreme diversity. I start missing the open windswept horizons and the presence of the sea, which I love. I start looking forward to my new projects, recitals, students, and new battles. I love the Royal Kew Gardens and London’s parks museums and galleries. There is a special fragile beauty in London’s early spring, the first daffodils and crocuses and light air. It is possible that I miss an illusion of London, a concoction, which I have created in my mind and which is often distant from the reality. I have traveled nearly the whole of Great Britain, and in the words of my British friends I have probably seen more of it then they ever had. I especially love Yorkshire, where my close friends live; maybe it’s all that Jane Eyre and Bronte sisters read by the impressionable teenager…
What kind of friends do you have in Great Britain? Are you in touch with other Czechs who live here?
I have been truly blessed with the most wonderful friends as soon as I came to Britain. It is hard to put to words all the kindness and support so many people have shown me since my first steps here. Without them I wouldn’t have ever stayed. The great thing is that I also keep meeting new people, some of whom do become closer friends. But like everybody else I have my “ root “ friends, those you know you can call at three in the morning in the hour of need. My wider circle of friends is very diverse and lots of my friends are not musicians. It is important to keep a clear perspective and not to assume that music is the only important thing in the world and people who “ don’t get it “ are somehow less interesting.
I keep very much in touch with the Czech people here, especially the ones who have been living in UK for long time. One of my “ oldest “ friends is Natasha Newton, who has for more than a decade enabled Czech and Slovak students to come and perform and compete in London through the Anglo-Czechoslovak Trust. It was thanks to her that I visited Great Britain for the first time in 1991.
My other dear friend is Jarmila Karas, the founder of the Emmy Destinn Foundation. Her enthusiasm for young singers and their talents and her sense of humour are infectious.
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