Jan Mrázek grew up in Czech Republic, under a puppet government. He became interested in Southeast Asia through music: when he was about 13 years old and a student of violin at the Conservatory of Prague, he liked to listen to LPs of Javanese and Balinese gamelan, and later began to read about the music and about Indonesian culture and arts. When he was 16, his family moved temporarily to the United States, where he began to learn to play gamelan with Javanese teachers, which he later continued in Indonesia. As an undergraduate, Jan Mrázek majored in art history, focusing especially on Southeast Asian art and material culture; Japanese language and literature was his second major. As a graduate student at Cornell, he continued to be interested in a variety of arts, and wrote his dissertation on the shadow puppet theatre as it is performed in Central Java. His fieldwork involved going to and enjoying many performances, talking to people about them, and learning to perform with an old puppeteer. As a postdoctoral fellow at Leiden University in the Netherlands (1998-2001), Jan Mrázek studied the interaction between traditional performing arts and modern media, especially television. From 2001 to 2003, he taught courses on South and Southeast Asian Art (from surveys to courses focusing on textiles, shadow puppets, ancient temples, Javanese dance, and collecting and museums) at the Art History Department at the University of Washington, Seattle. He came to the Southeast Asian Studies Programme at NUS in June 2003, attracted by the location of Southeast Asia, and by the post-disciplinary possibilities of the programme. He sees research mostly as an excuse to continue to enjoy learning more about Southeast Asian arts and cultures, and in teaching he tries to encourage students to enjoy learning as much as he does, and bring their learning experience away from the academia and closer to life (by making them play music, going to performances and on fieldtrips, etc.). He continues to enjoy playing gamelan music and on occasions performing as a wayang puppeteer, and in the last few years he has been studying and playing Thai classical music and more recently, Sundanese (West Javanese) gamelan degung. He enjoys living in and travelling around Southeast Asia.
Jan Mrázek leads the Javanese gamelan music and the classical Thai music ensembles in NUS..