About Marina Arsenijevic
Marina Arsenijevic is a Serbian-born pianist who fled the former Yugoslavia in 1999 and has since performed widely in the U.S. and Serbia. She is also a composer who features her own Balkan-flavored crossover music in her concerts and recordings.
Arsenijevic was born in Belgrade, then in Yugoslavia, in 1970. She attended the University of the Arts there, studying piano with a Russian instructor. Before the NATO-led war to dislodge Serbian dictator Slobodan Milosevic, Arsenijevic was a glamor girl of Yugoslav classical music, performing under rock-concert lighting on a transparent piano; some called her the "Balkan Madonna." For a time, she performed simply as Marina. She experienced various hardships before deciding to flee the country; she had to take refuge in a basement when bombs disrupted her rehearsal with the Serbian National Philharmonic Orchestra, and she was once forced to play a concert, at the behest of the Serbian military, within earshot of front-line fighting. She performed her composition Kosovo, which interweaves Christian and Muslim melodies, despite opposition from Serbian government officials. Her concerts have often included her own music, which she has described with various terms: classical crossover, Balkan soul, or ethno-classical. It also has elements of jazz, New Age, and instrumental pop.
Returning to Serbia for a concert tour after the ascent of a moderate government, Arsenijevic performed before some 300,000 people in total. She has been a consistent voice, musically and otherwise, for peace in the Balkan region, and the Serbian government awarded her the Knight of the St. Sava Order of Diplomatic Pacifism in 2018. In the U.S., Arsenijevic performed at Carnegie Hall in New York in 2003 and 2004, and during the administration of President George W. Bush, she appeared at the White House at a First Ladies' Luncheon. She has appeared with various American orchestras and has had an ongoing association with the West Point Military Academy Band and Cadet Glee Club since 2008, performing a program called "Marina at West Point: Unity Through Diversity." This concert recurred annually and was televised on the Public Broadcasting Service, receiving an Emmy nomination. In 2015, she appeared at the opening ceremonies of the International Literary Peace Award in Dayton, Ohio, which itself marked the 20th anniversary of the Dayton Accords that had brought peace to the former Yugoslavia.
Arsenijevic has continued to compose, and as of 2020, was at work on a theater piece about the life of Serbian inventor Nikola Tesla. She has made several recordings: My Balkan Soul (2002) and Fire & Soul (2007) featured her own music, while she also issued an album of Chopin waltzes in 2004 and a Marina at West Point album in 2010. ~ James Manheim