What’s brewing with… Ivan Turkalj

Ivan Turkalj is a passionate and versatile cellist, with an interest also in technology and organisation. Which brought him to work for Music Traveler and Klassikal alongside his musical career. Ivan Turkalj majored in cello performance and instrumental education, and is a member of two ensembles, the New Piano Trio and the Erlkings.

Cellist und Smart-User Ivan Turkalj auf der Bühne, Foto © Igor Ripak

Ivan Turkalj on stage © Igor Ripak

Smart: Ivan, what kind of music do you play?

Ivan Turkalj: That’s hard to pin down. I move between jazz, classical music, Baroque music, cabaret – the New Piano Trio, for example, consists of piano, cello and violin, but with this traditional arrangement we create a whole new sound. We could talk about it for ages. It’s no use. You have to hear it! (laughs) We don’t play a specific genre but contemporary music that challenges both musicians and audiences, while at the same time being joyful and entertaining.

Besides playing music, I’ve always been interested in technical stuff. I take over most of the organisation and management in the ensembles I play in.

How did you get to work with Smart?

When I moved from Switzerland back to Austria, a few years ago, it became clear that I would not only be working as a self-employed musician, but that I’d have to juggle several other employments, too.

Portrait Ivan Turkalj © Andrej Grilc

Portrait Ivan Turkalj © Andrej Grilc

I considered several options, like founding my own company and employing myself. When I heard about Smart, it soon was obvious that this was the right solution for this kind of ‘mixed employments’. In January 2017, I was employed by Smart.

And you have been continuously employed ever since 2017?

Yeah! And I have recommended Smart very often to others, because I think it’s a really good solution. It might be a little more expensive than being self-employed, but to have this peace of mind, that the money will arrive in my bank account and I don’t have to give it a second thought; the safety of these contracts and the possibility to pre-invest money – it’s all worth it.

What role does the community aspect of Smart play for you?

These things take time to grow. Smart is relevant because it offers a service and solves problems – the next step will be to build a community. It’s very similar with Music Traveler: The actual goal is to enhance exchange between musicians, but with the concrete benefit of sharing rehearsal spaces.

For me and my colleagues, for example, Smart makes such things as VAT, visa or secondments much easier. I play in foreign countries a lot. I’d have to employ a lawyer to check on all these things, and I’d have to deal with SVS because of the infamous A1 form, among other things. (laughs) 7.5% is a good price for that. It’s good value for your money. There have been two or three incidents when I was really happy about Smart backing me, like when I had to cancel playing at a festival due to illness – I still received the money because I was employed at Smart.

What’s your professional life like between the ensembles, concerts and the start-ups?

Ivan Turkalj mit New Piano Trio, Festspiele Mecklenburg Vorpommern © Oliver Borchert

Ivan Turkalj and the New Piano Trio © Oliver Borchert


I work about 30 hours per week for Music Traveler and Klassikal. In the mornings, I practice for two hours, that’s my musical fitness, and then I perform 50 to 60 times a year. My family is teaching me weekends. (laughs) I used to perform up to 160 times a year before. With the New Piano Trio, we don’t rehearse regularly, but meet up for intensive rehearsal weeks. Because of that, we can meet half an hour before the concert and just play directly.

This works, because we all really master our musical crafts. Crafts is a broad concept, but it’s the basis for being able to express what you want to express. As soon as the curtain lifts, I simply enjoy!

Addendum March 2020:

In late summer 2019, we met in a café – almost unthinkable now. What’s your view on these ‚Corona times‘?

What should I say about this as a musician? Without a safety net, these are fatal and existence-threatening times, hitting me and all of my colleagues alike. With Smart, I am lucky to have an organisation who supports me and who will fight by all means for their members. It somehow feels as if Smart was created exactly for this situation. It’s a solidarity dream that all Smart organisations, in the nine European countries they are active in, are now teaming up to be there for those most at risk!

For the time after Corona, I hope that certain structures will be reconsidered and that it will result in better cohesion and more collaboration. Less individual accumulation and more creation in common. Like in Corona times, being there for each other in an unprecedented way!

Interview & text: Xenia Kopf

Cellist und Smart-User im Café Wortner © Xenia Kopf

Ivan Turkalj at Café Wortner © Xenia Kopf