Alexander Zonjic to play at jazz seriesWritten by Betsy Woodruff | | email@example.com
A complete stranger helped propel Alexander Zonjic into a successful career as a jazz flutist. He walked up to Zonjic on the street and offered to sell him a flute.
“He was just some guy,” said Zonjic, who was 21 at the time.
He had already made a name for himself as a guitarist in a rock band and was visiting his parents in his hometown of Windsor, Ontario.
The man wanted $50 for the flute, but Zonjic only had $9. That was good enough, and he bought the flute.
Zonjic said he had no aptitude for playing the flute, adding that it is a difficult instrument to produce any sound on. But he wanted to master it.
“All of a sudden, I was obsessed with studying and obsessed with practicing,” he said.
Eight months later, he successfully auditioned for the University of Windsor’s music program and studied the flute there. He fell in love with playing classical music.
Zonjic grew up in a poor, working class family in downtown Windsor. Both of his parents emigrated from Europe in the early 50s. His father doubted his ability to support himself by playing music, but his mother encouraged him to do what he loved.
None of his family members were professional musicians, though he had an uncle who played several instruments by ear, including the accordion. He said he thought it is likely musical talent runs in his family, but none of his family members had the luxury to pursue it.
John Patterson, producer of the River Raisin Jazz Festival and president of the Monroe County Convention and Tourism Bureau, said that Zonjic was found by jazz legend Bob James at Baker’s Keyboard Lounge in Detroit. The two toured around the world together for a decade.
Since then, Patterson said that Zonjic has performed with some of the greatest musicians alive, including Kenny G, Jeff Lorber, Rick Braun, and Earl Klugh.
He has had a successful solo career, Patterson said. Zonjic has performed at Carnegie Hall, been a soloist for the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, and released 12 solo albums. He is also the artistic director for a number of music festivals, including the River Raisin Jazz Festival in Monroe and Jazz on the River in Trenton, Mich. He also has his own syndicated radio show.
He said aspiring musicians should expect to work hard.
“On a lot of levels, we don’t consider it a real job,” he said. “It’s your passion; it’s what you love to do. You can avoid a real job. You can’t avoid real work. Most people who love what they do are working three times harder than anybody.”
He added that while many people are naturally musically talented, those who work hard are more likely by far to have successful careers in the business.
“At some point, you need to lock yourself up and learn how to play,” he said.
He has been performing in Toledo for years said he loves playing here.
“It’s one of the great old music cities; it’s got a great heritage,” he said.
He will perform for the Maumee River Jazz Series presented by Old Navy Bistro on June 16.