In elementary school it is almost a rite of passage to pick up an instrument, play in the fifth grade ensemble, and terrorize the neighbors with out of tune “wahs” and “oom pah pahs” while practicing. As students graduate from playing hot cross buns, those who go onto middle school band delight their parents and school mates with classic Disney or John Williams tunes. Pursuing music in high school requires a larger time commitment; those in band spend hours on the field and in the band room. This is not the case for junior William Mrdjenovich, who has been playing in the San Diego Youth Symphony for six years.
“San Diego Youth Symphony is an organization that promotes both beginner level musicians and approaching professional positions so it supports a wide range. It allows musicians around San Diego to get exposure to higher levels of music to work on their skills,” Mrdjenovich said. “The groups range from elementary beginners to more elite people, who are going down the professional music path.”
San Diego Youth Symphony (SDYS) is not a lax commitment for the higher levels, as Mrdjenovich spends seven hours a week in rehearsal for different ensembles.
“This is my seventh year in SDYS and now I’m in the Symphony Orchestra, the Chamber Orchestra, and the String Chamber group,” Mrdjenovich said.
Despite his current musical talent, Mrdjenovich started on his instrument playing the simple version of “Ode to Joy” when he was six years old. Fast forward 11 years and he is still playing the double bass but is also now tackling complicated concertos and orchestral pieces like Stravinsky’s “Firebird” and Tchaikovsky’s sixth symphony. These challenging pieces require massive responsibility and dedication from the players.
“When you get to the higher level groups you have to be more passionate because there’s so much commitment required,” Mrdjenovich said. “I don’t mind, however, because I’ve developed a passion for the music and I can’t imagine doing anything else.” Mrdjenovich’s passion for music drives him to practice about two hours a day, finding time in between AP classes and school orchestra.
In the Symphony Orchestra, Mrdjenovich is among about 100 mixed string, woodwind, brass, and percussion players. In the double bass section, however, Mrdjenovich is the Principal, or leader of the section.
As Principal of Symphony Orchestra, Mrdjenovich has lofty responsibilities to his section.
“I have to lead my section in the bowing and mastering of the parts. I also represent my section to the entire group, and to the conductor,” Mrdjenovich said.
While Mrdjenovich spends the majority of his time immersed in music, bowings, and fingerings galore, the hard work pays off with the opportunities and benefits he has received through his music continuation.
“Through SDYS I get so many great opportunities to expand my musical abilities. For the top program, SDYS invites professional musicians, from Europe and the U.S. to come and speak to us,” Mrdjenovich said. “I’ve learned so much about being a professional musician and also how to improve my own playing.”
While he has no current plans about pursuing a musical career with any city philharmonics or symphonies, Mrdjenovich hopes to continue music in college.
“I’m planning on double majoring in music. I haven’t done much research but there are some great bass programs around,” Mrdjenovich said.
Mrdjenovich’s drive for music has pushed him to advance in SDYS from program to program. His future in music may be unclear for now, but he’s sure music will always be a part of him and his life.
“Music continuation is very important, and if you have a passion for it and want to improve your skills, then you have to stick with it for a long time,” Mrdjenovich said.