Touted as a “gifted young guitarist” by the New York Times, and “a guitarist to keep an eye on” by the Washington Post, Mak Grgic is emerging as a star on the worldwide stage. An expansive and adventurous repertoire attests to his versatility and wide-ranging interests: from the Baroque and Renaissance to music of the cinema; from ethnic music of his native Balkans to extreme avant-garde and microtonal music, Mak’s extraordinary talents and tastes as soloist, collaborator, and recording artist are fueled by his curiosity, imagination, and boundless energy. As a testament to his versatility and wide-ranging appeal, in 2018 Mak was invited by legendary singer-songwriter k.d. lang to perform as the opening act for the North American leg of her Ingénue Redux Tour.
As a concert artist, he averages eighty-five performances a year — nearly two bookings per week — as both soloist and collaborator. He is a founding member and active performer in two duos—the Flamenco-style “Duo Deloro” with Adam Del Monte, and the new music-focused “FretX Duo” with Daniel Lippel, guitarist of the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE). As Young Artist in Residence with the Da Camera Society of Los Angeles, he founded “DC8,” an octet declared “an inspiring addition to the contemporary music landscape in Los Angeles” by the Los Angeles Times. Other ongoing collaborations include the JACK Quartet, Martin Chalifour (concertmaster, LA Philharmonic), cellists Jay Campbell and Joshua Roman, The Assad Brothers, and John Sant’Ambrogio (St. Louis Symphony).
In 2009 at the age of 22, Mak made his debut in Russia, performing the Rodrigo Concerto de Aranjuez with the St. Petersburg Symphony Orchestra under Vladimir Lande. The following spring, while on tour in the U.S. as a member of the Zagreb Guitar Quartet, he performed with Christopher McGuire, guitarist and artistic director of the popular Allegro Guitar Series in Austin, Texas. That summer, at the Lancaster Festival in Ohio, he performed Rodrigo’s Fantasia para un Gentilhombre with the Festival Orchestra under Gary Sheldon, as well as Boccherini’s famous Introduction et Fandango with the Festival String Quartet.
A month-long tour recently took him to China, Japan and the Balkans. Other engagements include performances and residencies at several venues in Portugal; in Castilla-Leon/Spain, at the Teatro Cervantes de Bejar; the Sarajevo Music Academy; at several venues in Slovenia; the Paris Guitar Foundation; Zurich University of the Arts, and the Hong Kong International Guitar Festival.
In North America, he has performed at the Austin Classical Guitar (in recital with Martin Chalifour); Beyond Microtonal Music Festival/Pittsburgh, the Dallas Opera (with chamber orchestra) in performances of Peter Maxwell Davies’s The Lighthouse; Dumbarton Concerts/Washington, D.C.; Kitchener-Waterloo/Ontario; the National Gallery of Art; NAMM Show/California; Strathmore Hall/Maryland; the New York Classical Guitar Society; Triangle Guitar Society/North Carolina; and numerous other venues and guitar societies across the globe.
Also an active entrepreneur and educator, Mak is director of EuroStrings, a consortium of seventeen guitar festivals in Europe; as well as Zagreb Guitar Festival; Roots & Notes Interactive Music Festival in Croatia; and the Music@Rush Hour/Los Angeles. He also serves as director of the Elemental Guitar in Santa Monica, an exciting program for youth, as well as an adjunct faculty member at Mount St. Mary’s University in Los Angeles.
An enthusiastic recording artist, Mak’s albums capture a probing and continuous exploration of the world of guitar and all its possibilities. His latest recordings, “Balkanisms“ for Naxos Music in collaboration with RTV Slovenija and “MAKrotonal” for MicroFest Records, explore a vast repertoire spanning ethnic music, microtonal, new music and early music on re-fretted instruments, such as a “zig-zag fretted Bach prototype guitar” that captures the temperaments of the Baroque period. Other albums in progress include an homage to Ligeti spotlighting gamelan-inspired guitar arrangements.
Born in Ljubljana, Slovenia, in 1987, Mak studied guitar in Zagreb with the revered Ante Cagalj at the Elly Basic Music Academy. By the age of 14, he was balancing his world champion status in karate with his love for the guitar. Throughout his high school years, he concertized in Ljubljana and Zagreb, splitting his weeks between the two cities, as well as competing in professional martial arts contests across Europe and Asia. Following an injury to his left thumb, he made the decision to focus solely on a career in music, going on to complete a bachelor’s degree with Alvaro Pierri at the University for Music and Performing Arts in Vienna.
Pursuing advanced studies in the U.S., Mak was one of the first students to apply for USC Thornton’s new Arts Leadership graduate program, which he incorporated into his doctoral studies in guitar. He has been a student of William Kanengiser and Scott Tennant of the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet, in addition to Brian Head, artistic director of Guitar Foundation of America. In the fall of 2017, he began the Artist Diploma program at USC, the first guitarist in the university’s history to be admitted to this elite program.
Mak proudly plays and endorses an array of fabulous concert guitars made by diverse craftsmen, including German Antonius Muller, Chinese master luthier Hanson Yao, Bosnian Slavko Mrdalj, Slovenian Samo Sali, as well as a historic 1966 Jose Ramirez, all of this in addition to other quirky re-fretted and remodeled guitars.