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Serbian Pianist Mina Gajić, a Confluential Voice in Classical Music

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Serbian Pianist Mina Gajić, a Confluential Voice in Classical Music

The word “eclectic” is often overused as a buzzword in music reviews and descriptions of personal music tastes, but Serbian pianist Mina Gajić’s wide range of musical influences can truly only be described as eclectic. From her performance of Mozart’s much-loved Fantasias on the trio recording Sonic Alchemy to her expertise in traditional Balkan folk songs alongside Zachary Carrettin on violin in their duo recording Confluence, Mina Gajić has demonstrated her ability to perform centuries-old music with a colorful history. At the same time, she is equally as comfortable playing covers of pop and rock songs and integrating influences from more modern genres into her sound as an artist. “The music has always inspired me, from Beyonce to Willie Nelson, and from Cyndi Lauper to Sigur Rós,” she comments.

While traditionalists in the classical music community may be reluctant to embrace modern influences, Mina is challenging this dogmatic approach to music by showing the new possibilities that come from dissolving the barriers between musical genres. “Classical audiences are sometimes hesitant to explore new sound worlds, and contemporary audiences don’t always know if they’ll enjoy hearing ancient music,” she observes. “Bringing these worlds together has been challenging but supremely rewarding, and audiences love the live experience of time travel across the world in sound.”

This approach has only recently become popular, as 21st-century classical composers are increasingly more defined solely by their time period and choice of instruments than their adherence to genre conventions. John Cage is one example of the avant-garde, experimental nature of 20th-century classical composition. Mina has paid tribute to his approach by performing his prepared piano works with percussive objects such as nuts, bolts, screws, wood, and rubber in her piano strings, creating a unique mix of piano and percussion sounds.

Mina’s mission to transport audiences through time musically is most evident in her work as creative director and performer at the Boulder Bach Festival in Boulder, Colorado. In one Boulder Bach Festival recording, she plays a harpsichord concerto from the early 1700s. On the other hand, the Festival is also comfortable playing music from Bach to The Beatles, as its performance series Across Time Across Cultures demonstrated. In the live show and album Bach UnCaged, Mina Gajić and Zachery Carrettin also showcased their variety of influences in performances of Indonesian-influenced works alongside 18th-century musical works reimagined on electric violin.

As an immigrant woman from Yugoslavia, it seems apt that Mina’s musical interests are international and exploratory in nature. Some of her earliest childhood memories involve singing Balkan folk songs with her mother and harmonizing as a musical duo. Music was an escape and a form of family bonding for the young Mina, who still carries memories of living through three months of bombing in Belgrade, Serbia. Mina turned her early love of music into a lifelong passion, becoming a concert pianist, touring internationally, and eventually earning a doctorate in Musical Arts.

Most recently, Mina’s passion for music has led her to record Re/fractions, another duo recording with Mina Gajić on piano and Zachary Carettin on acoustic violin. The album features compositions from four Icelandic composers, including Maria Huld Markan Sigfusdottir, who has worked as a collaborator and orchestrator for Sigur Rós. It is scheduled to be released in October 2024.

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