Jan Andrzej Paweł Kaczmarek’s road to stardom in the world of composing Hollywood soundtracks did not begin in Konin (100km east of Poznań), where his mother took him to dreaded piano lessons in the hopes that he would one day be a famous opera singer. Having failed all final exams, Kaczmarek was labelled the music school’s biggest disaster and advised to take up a different career path, which he dutifully did…for a while. Dreams of travels and smart suits in the diplomatic corps brought him to the Law Department of Poznań’s Adam Mickiewicz University. Quickly disenchanted with the mundane reality of studying the law, Kaczmarek skipped to Wrocław in 1975 to join a “soul-searching” workshop led by one of the 20th century’s most influential playwrights, Jerzy Grotowski. This month-long quasi-religious, para-theatrical experience seems to be the point that made J.A.P. the composer.
Back in Poznań, an inspired Kaczmarek and his friend, Grzegorz Banaszak, would write and play music in campus toilets – good acoustics and reminiscent of the candle-lit confinement of Grotowski’s laboratory. Their Eighth Day Orchestra, for that is what this duo, later trio, called itself, began by accompanying the performances of the legendary Poznań theatre group from which it took its name, eventually moving on to independent road tours abroad. When in 1989 Kaczmarek got a scholarship to the US, little did he know he was gone for good.
Barely able to pay his rent, and sustaining his wife and four children on gold cards, J.A.P. kept up appearances, drank cocktails with millionaires, and wondered how many days were left till bankruptcy. Slowly but surely, first theatre, than the film industry, propositions began to roll in. Music for the films Unfaithful, Dreamer, Lost Souls and a number of Agnieszka Holland pictures make up his portfolio. With over 30 soundtracks under his baton and an Oscar for the score of Finding Neverland on the mantle of his L.A. home, Kaczmarek found his way back to Poznań in June 2006 for the premiere of Oratorium 1956 – a composition commemorating the bloody Poznań uprising of 1956.
A little trivia: Kaczmarek is the only musician known for using an unusual instrument which is actually a self-revamped Fischer’s fidola (a type of zither).