Close-Up: An Interview With Pianist Klaudia Kudełko

Talented pianist Klaudia Kudełko joins us on Close-Up Culture to chat about her debut album, mental health, inspiring others, and much more.

Klaudia has been featured as one of BBC Music Magazine’s Rising Stars in October, and selected by Charlotte Hawkins as one of her Young Classical Stars.

Hi Klaudia, welcome to Close-Up Culture. We’re a few months removed from the release of your incredible debut album, Time. How do you reflect on the experience of making and releasing your first album?

Thank you so much for having me. It’s been two and a half months and I am so happy this album is finally out. I’ve been working on it for a very long time and the moment I released it, I felt like it’s not only “mine” anymore, but it belongs to people who want to listen to it and enjoy it. Releasing a debut album is a once in a lifetime experience for every artist and I will definitely remember it forever. I’m grateful for how it’s been received and streamed around the world, but I also can’t wait to write more projects.

Being a public figure and the strains of a career in music can be extremely emotionally taxing. How do you take care of your mental health?

I think the best way to take care of one’s mental health is therapy, but there are also other ways to maintain this on a daily basis. Things that I try to implement that helped me take care of my mental health are things like setting clear boundaries between work/practice time and relaxation time, taking breaks, exercising, and meditating. I pay close attention to what I feed my brain and soul on social media, who I follow, who I watch every day, what movies and books I consume, etc.

Beyond that, I pay attention to what kinds of people I have around me and how I feel after seeing them. Do I feel empowered and strong or insecure? All of the things I mentioned are very important. Yoga is something that improved the quality of my life and especially sleep during a very busy concert season. I had trouble sleeping after my shows because my adrenaline was always very high.

What would be your advice to other young musicians who are trying to find their way in the industry?

I think we are all trying to find our way in this industry, but if I were to give advice to other young musicians, I would say stay true to yourself and listen to your intuition. I felt like this always helped me navigate life. Even if my intuition was wrong, at least it was my mistake. I also can’t talk enough about the importance of building your own brand as a musician. 

Who are some of your biggest inspirations?

My biggest inspirations in the piano world are giants of the XXth century pianism. I truly admire their interpretative autonomy, lyricism and unique interpretations. Names like Cortot, Sofronitsky, Cherkassky, Friedman, Sokolov – they are all incredible. What also inspires me is the modern world and amazing women in the music industry who are trailblazers and are changing the narrative.

The music industry is saturated and fiercely competitive. How do you try to stand out?

By believing in my purpose as a musician rather than competing with others. I also understand how important branding is, whether it’s on social media or in the music industry. I live by my core values as a musician and if someone finds it interesting – that’s all I can ask for.

You are one of the leading artists helping to make classical music more accessible to young audiences. Is this something you are conscious of and strive towards?

Thank you, it became my mission as a classical musician to make classical music more accessible to audiences around the world. Not only that, but with that access comes a need for understanding it. I think that classical music is a very specific genre where the more you listen, the more you understand it and like it. When I was starting my musical education as a seven-year-old girl and even in my early teenage years, I didn’t understand why people listened to Schubert and now I can’t live without his music. There’s nothing wrong with admitting that. 

Understanding different musical languages and historical backgrounds of the pieces are crucial to experiencing the emotionally complex but also healing nature of classical music. That’s one of the reasons why I started speaking to audiences during my performances. Not too much, but just enough to bring my interpretation closer to them and the knowledge I have spent months if not years learning. I noticed a tremendous difference in how the pieces were received and after my concerts that was one of the first things people acknowledged – “I didn’t know those were the circumstances of composing that piece, that helped me experience it better,” for example. One of the principles of making classical music more accessible is not expecting the audience to know everything, but rather sharing with them our outlook on this music as artists. There are no better or worse listeners.

What influence do you hope to have with your voice and music in the coming years?

Influence is a very serious word and it comes with a lot of responsibility. With that being said, in the coming years, I would love to connect more people with the transcendence of music. I do believe it’s possible. The masterpieces written by amazing composers are already enough and it’s a privilege to be able to be a person between the composer and the audience.

What are your plans and ambitions for the future?

I would be the happiest if I could be given the opportunity to never stop developing my piano skills and artistry. To be able to perform in many places around the world and record more music is also on my list. I have been thinking of moving forward with composing more original works and sharing them with the world. That is my biggest hope for the future. When it comes to the future of classical music, I know it’s bright. With so many inspiring people around, I know it will stay here for a long time and future generations will be influenced by it.

Title photo by Olya Helga

Check out Klaudia’s website – https://klaudia-kudelko.com/

Listen to Klaudia’s debut album, Time – https://vibe.to/time

Follow Klaudia on Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/klaudia.pianist/

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