Miroslav Bukovský

The story of a unique jazz musician, Miroslav Bukovský, who was born in Czechoslovakia in 1944 and emigrated to Australia in 1968, where he and as compositions became a jazz sensation. He had a significant impact on the teaching of jazz at Australian universities.

Miroslav Bukovský with his musical instruments.

Miroslav’s father was a dissident. The resulting persecution from the Communist Party also affected his son, Miroslav, who had to study jewellery in order to be able to enrol in university.

Throughout the 50’s, the communist regime saw jazz as an expression of capitalism and support towards American culture. Interestingly, in the 60’s this opinion changed. After Paul Robeson, an Afro-American musician and member of the American Communist Party, came and toured the Eastern Bloc, the regime realised that American jazz music could also be the creation of the working class and started to support it more.

While still in home country in 1967, Bukovský graduated from Janáčková Conservatorium in Ostrava with honours. He chose to attend Janáčková Conservatorium because at the time it was the only university that tough jazz music. Then, in 1968 he fled Czechoslovakia by train to former Yugoslavia. The regime intensified persecution of his father, who stayed in the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic.

The beginnings in Australia were hard, but as early as 1969 Miroslav had already made contacts with musicians in Sydney and began to play in various groups and clubs. In 1974 he joined the band of famous Australian singer, Marcia Hines, where he would play for the next 5 years. In 1974 he joined the Music Faculty at the Conservatorium in Sydney, where, one year later, he co-founded the first jazz music course in Australia. He teaches at the jazz faculty of ANU to this day, and still actively performs.

Miroslav Bukovský is considered to be one of the leading jazz composers and teachers and has long been considered one of the best trumpeters in Australia. The jazz musician, constantly and playfully trying different line-ups and compositions, co-founded many bands e.g. Moontrane and Ten Part Invention. In 1991 he founded the band, Wanderlust, which consisted of 6 leading jazz musicians who had already earnt recognition in their own right. Throughout the 90’s, the group extensively toured Australia, Asia and Europe and was awarded an ARIA in 1993.

In 1999 an offer to teach full-time brought Miroslav Bukovský to Canberra, where he joined the Canberra School of Art and Music (later ANU School of Music). Pan Bukovský had an enormous influence, not only on the boom of the jazz scene in Sydney in the early 90’s, but also on jazz boom in Canberra known as the Canberra Jazz Renaissance. Bukovský, with his unique compositions, had a profound impact on the jazz community. Every song sounds different according to how each musician approaches it.

Bukovský admits that he will always consider himself to be a Czech, even though he partially became Australian. He never forgot about his home country. Since 1989 he enjoys returning to the Czech Republic and feels good there. He compared this feeling to the feeling when you put on an old pair of boots. When he is in the Czech Republic is takes the opportunity to visit his father. In the 90’s he went on many tours around Europe and even performed at the birthday celebrations of former president Václav Klaus. In 2019 he returned to the Czech Republic to perform at the first jazz club to be founded in the Czech Republic, Reduta.

According to Bukovský, the difference between the Czech and Australian jazz scene is enormous. Prague is riddled between jazz clubs, which rode the wave of cultural tourism. Jazz in Australia is not as popular in Australia. Besides a few exceptions, jazz musicians in Australia are not able to make a living just by playing in clubs. They always had to supplement it with other work.

In 2012 Bukovský composed a song inspired by one of the most famous paintings in the NGA, Jackson Pollock’s Blue Poles, and has performed at the Capital Jazz Festival in recent years. After many successful projects, he is still musically active and he plays a very significant role in the jazz community to this day.

Miroslav Bukovský (on the right) performing at the Embassy of the Czech Republic in Canberra during a reception for the 15th Anniversary of Accession into the EU.

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