Tomasz Jakub Opałka is a composer, born on 6th June, 1983, in Ostrowiec Świętokrzyski.
Composer and pedagogue, strongly connected with 20th century musical traditions.
Opałka started his musical education playing drums and piano, later adding trombone to his interests. He studied composition at the Fryderyk Chopin University of Music in the class of Krzysztof Baculewski. In 2013 he became a Doctor of Arts.
Since 2012, he has been perfecting his film score skills in Los Angeles, California, by collaborating with top Hollywood composers, such as Christopher Young (Spiderman 3, The Rum Diary, Hellraiser, Species, Sweet November, Sinister, Drag Me To Hell) and Marco Beltrami (nominated for two Academy Awards for The Hurt Locker and 3.10 to Yuma; author of the music for World War Z, The Wolverine, The Giver, Scream, Die Hard 4, Resident Evil, Carrie).
Opałka has participated in many composition courses and master classes, discussing his work with musicians such as Michael Nyman, John Corigliano, Adriana Holszky, Christopher Young, Peter Golub, Jan A.P. Kaczmarek, Richard Bellis, Robert Elhai, Daniel Carlin, and Dennis Sands.
He has won numerous awards in composition competitions; in 2010 the jury of the Wawel: Musica Festiva competition chaired by Henryk Mikołaj Górecki and Eugeniusz Knapik awarded the main prize to Przestrzenie (Spaces) for symphony orchestra. The song was performed on the 600th anniversary of the Battle of Grunwald in the Arcade Courtyard of Wawel Castle, and the concert was released on DVD.
In addition, Opałka won the Alexander Moyzes International Competition for Composers in Bratislava in 2006 (Visions of Perfect Shapes for orchestra), the Karol Szymanowski National Composers’ Competition in Warsaw in 2007 (Quadra for orchestra), the Grzegorz Fitelberg National Composers’ Competition in Katowice in 2007 (Epiderma for symphony orchestra), the John Paul II Composers’ Competition (Liść / Leaf for choir and orchestra), and others. In 2008, he received first prize in the Dolina Kreatywna competition of the Polish Television; in 2009, his symphony Horyzont Zdarzeń (Event Horizon) was awarded at the Grażyna Bacewicz International Composers’ Competition, and in the same year he was a finalist of the Tadeusz Baird National Composers’ Competition with the piece Trans-Ist-One. In 2012 Opałka was a finalist of the Transatlantic Film Music Competition, and laureate of the National Competition for Young Composers of the Polish Composers’ Union (award for Riot for chamber orchestra). In 2013, he was once again among the finalists of the Transatlantic Film Music Competition and received an honourable mention at the International FMF Young Talent Composition Contest. In 2014, he received the Best Music for Film Award during the BeThere! Animation Festival for the soundtrack of Ex Animo.
In 2011, Opałka was chosen from among 3,000 people to participate in the Berlinale Talent Campus.
His compositions have been performed at a number of concerts and festivals in Poland and abroad, such as: Łańcuch X, the Wojciech Kilar Festival of Contemporary Music, the Festival of Premieres of Polish Modern Music, the Warsaw Music Meetings, the Warsaw Autumn Festival, the Music Days in Świętokrzyskie, the Festival fur Neue Musik, COM'IN, Generacje in Warsaw, the Beijing Modern, Musica Moderna, Provinzlarm, the Jubilee of ZAiKS [copyright collective] in Warsaw, the Student Musical Forum in Warsaw, the Music Days in Kielce, the Talents Week in Tarnów, and others.
Tomasz J. Opałka’s music has been released on six CDs (Castello GT, POLMIC, Hudobne Centrum).
In her book Dźwięki, Szepty, Zgrzyty (Sounds, Whispers, Rasps), Agnieszka Lewandowska-Kąkol describes Opałka as one of the 16 greatest living Polish composers, alongside Krzysztof Penderecki, Krzesimir Dębski and Michał Lorenc.
Tomasz Opałka has cooperated with ensembles such as Sinfonia Iuventus (conducted by Krzysztof Słowiński), the Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra in Katowice (conducted by Michał Klauza), the Polish Radio Orchestra (conducted by Wojciech Michniewski, Łukasz Borowicz and Szymon Bywalec), the New Music Orchestra (conducted by Szymon Bywalec), the Gorzów Philharmonic Orchestra (cond. by Monika Wolińska, Maciej Tworek and Zygmunt Rychert), the Kielce Philharmonic Orchestra (cond. by Jacek Rogala and Mieczysław Gawroński), the Musica Festiva Orchestra (conducted by Stanisław Krawczyński), the Łódź Philharmonic Orchestra (cond. by Michał Klauza), the Kalisz Philharmonic Orchestra (cond. by Adam Klocek), the Scontri Ensemble, the Choir of the Centre for Thought of John Paul II, and the soloists: Leszek Lorent, Janusz Wawrowski, Jadwiga Czarkowska, Wojciech Herzyk, Maciej Frąckiewicz, and others. He has written music for institutions such as the Witold Lutosławski Society, the Adam Mickiewicz Institute, the Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra in Katowice, the Kielce Philharmonic, the Gorzów Philharmonic, the Royal Castle in Warsaw, the Kalisz Philharmonic, and the Centre for Thought of John Paul II.
In the 2013/2014 season Opałka was a resident composer at the Gorzów Philharmonic.
The composer successfully divides his attention between classical and film music. He is the author of more than 20 film scores, including short films awarded at prestigious competitions and festivals around the world. Many of these films appear regularly on TVP Kultura. Among the most award-winning productions are: Lumberjack (Poland) produced by the Fumi Studio and directed by Paweł Dębski, Skeleton Girl 3D (Canada), produced by Bleeding Art Industries (Grand Prix at the 3D BE FILM Film Festival, New York, 2012), Na dobry początek (Off to a Good Start) by Wojciech Klimala (participating in the Young Cinema competition at the 36th Polish Film Festival in Gdynia), and ExAnimo directed by Wojciech Wojtkowski.
Tomasz J. Opałka had already began teaching at Fryderyk Chopin University of Music in 2010, before graduating in 2011, after which he taught orchestration and led a contemporary music seminar. In addition, he worked as a visiting professor at Warsaw Film School and Łazienki Królewskie as part of the Łazienki ForMusic programme. In the years 2008-2012 he was a member of the Youth Circle of the Polish Composers’ Union, and in 2010-2012, he served as its Vice-President. Since 2012, he has been a member of the Polish Composers’ Union and since 2013 – a member of its board. Since 2007 he has also been a member of the Polish Society of Authors and Composers.
Opałka has received scholarships from the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage, the Pro Polonia Foundation, the DongSan Research Foundation, the Witold Lutoslawski Society, the Polish Society of Authors and Composers, and the City of Warsaw.
He is the author of the film score for Człowiek bez twarzy (The Man Without a Face) directed by Janusz Dybowski. In March 2007, Visions of Perfect Shapes had its Polish premiere during the fourth Generacje Festival in Warsaw. In the same year he received a commission from the John Paul II Centre for a piece for the choir and orchestra, which was then performed to commemorate the second anniversary of the pope’s death.
Tomasz Opałka is one of the four main characters of the full-length documentary Kilka pytań o słyszenie świata – Portrety Kompozytorów (A Few Questions on Hearing the World: Composers’ Portraits, 2013) directed by Maja Baczyńska.