In Mak Grgic's home country of Slovenia, music is a big part of public education. But when Grgic pulled himself away from his love for sports and martial arts to actually decide which instrument to play, the choice wasn't that obvious.
"I really didn't want to play the guitar," said Grgic, who is now 26 years old. "Piano would be cool, violin would be cool. My dad said the piano is too big and the violin is too squeaky."
So, the guitar it was.
"Plus later on you can sing along!" said Grgic. "Which didn't happen."
Instead, Grgic turned to classical guitar, at which he has excelled. After studying with Ante Cagalj in Zagreb, he earned his bachelor's degree with Alvaro Pierri at the University of Music and Performing Arts in Vienna and has now completed his master's degree and is working on his doctorate at the Thornton School of Music at the University of Southern California, where he is a student of William Kanengiser of the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet.
Next Saturday, he will open GuitarSarasota's 2014 season with a concert at St. Paul Lutheran Church.
His program that evening will feature tunes from Grgic's upcoming CD, titled "Cinema Verisimo."
"It's an album of, let's say, audiovisual memories, films from post-World War II Hollywood," said Grgic. "Some of the music I will play was either written for a particular movie or chosen for the movie.
"The whole point behind the album was to bring together two things: people's love for popular films and people's love for classical music."
Thus, listeners will hear Grgic's interpretation of a theme from "Raging Bull," "The Godfather," "Gallipoli," "Chariots of Fire" and "The Deer Hunter."
Just one track on the CD was written specifically for the guitar, which meant Grgic faced the daunting task of transcribing orchestral music for the guitar, which has its own range and limitations, especially that of how long a note can be sustained.
It was particularly tricky in interpreting Italian composer Pietro Mascagni's Intermezzo from "Raging Bull."
"That was difficult because the actual original score was a very lush orchestra where the string section sings. To relate to that and then to be able to translate that singing quality, that was really difficult," said Grgic.
MAK GRGIC. GuitarSarasota. 7:30 p.m. Jan. 25, Fellowship Hall, St. Paul Lutheran Church, 2256 Bahia Vista St., Sarasota. Tickets are $25, $20 for GuitarSarasota members, at the door or online at guitarsarasota.org. Student rush tickets $5 15 minutes before the concert.