Jan Kaňka was born on 17th December 1977 in Sokolov, Czechoslovakia and he spent his formative years in Chodov and subsequently in Horní Slavkov, a small mining town in West Bohemia. It was there he gained his first musical experiences, being introduced to brass instruments in his very early life.
When he was 13 he moved onto the slide trombone, having previously played the valve trombone, initially taking lessons with Jan Cízek. Later he studied with Vlastimil Eichler, professor of trombone at Plzeň Conservatory, continuing his studies under Eichler when he gained admission to the conservatory.
In his second year of study Jan Kaňka was encouraged to take up the bass trombone. He also began composing. During his time at the conservatory he performed with many musical ensembles, such as Plzeň Opera Orchestra, with whom he toured Japan, Plzeň Philharmonic Orchestra and Václav Hybs Big Band, in a multitude of musical styles from jazz and funk to serious music.
He went on the complete a BC (doctorate equivalent) under Jirí Susicky at the AMU (Academy of Musical Arts) in Prague and is now a teacher at Klatový Music School and a freelance trombonist.