The Bosnian A'tudes: An Interview with Ariana Piknjac

Name: Ariana Piknjač

Age: 21

From: Sydney, Australia; Sarajevo, Bosnia i Herzegovina

Instrument: Flute & Piano

School/Degree: Flute, Music Theory & Music Education at Muzička Akademija Sarajevo

Favorite Brew: Macchiato

Carrie Rexroat: How did you get started with music?

Ariana Piknjac: My entire family is pretty musical, but my dad is the most musical; he actually has an Accordion degree from Graz, Austria. When I was born he involved me in piano classes when I was about four and I played up until I was 14 in Australia. I also played flute in the wind band in our school, but I didn’t have any private lessons in that. When I was 14 we moved to Sarajevo and I enrolled in the music school here, and my flute teacher encouraged me to enroll into the Academy for solo flute. So, I study Music Theory and Education, and Solo Flute at the Academy in the class of prof. Sakib Lačević.

CR: That’s cool that your dad has a degree in Accordion! I’m not sure that that’s a field of study in the US.

AP: Oh really? Yep, he’s classically trained.

CR: So, was pursuing music as a career something that you always wanted to do?

AP: Yes, it’s a really strong passion for me, I can’t imagine my life without it. If someone was to take away my voice, my piano, my flute, I would die, I really do think that.

CR: What do you love most about it?

AP: Well with music in general, I think a big part of it is that I started to play the piano so young, so it’s something that I’ve just always done. But, my mom was telling me that when she was pregnant with me my dad was always practicing around her, so that may have something to do with it too. On a broader scale, music and art is just a really special thing that humankind can’t exist without. It’s something that every single soul, every single person strives to experience what it offers. It doesn’t mean that every single person listens to classical music, but everyone listens to some kind of music and it’s a special thing. More specific to Flute, it’s special to me because, in my opinion, it’s the closest instrument to the human voice; when I play it I feel that it’s closer to my soul. I don’t know why though, maybe in a past life I was also a flute player *laughter*.

CR: I’m glad you feel that way, that music is something to be shared and experienced by everyone. I believe people can always relate to each other through music, whether they’re musicians or not, and we experience passion in similar ways regardless of what we’re passionate about.

AP: Yes, and it’s so nice when you talk to someone about something they’re passionate about. You can always see it in their eyes; the person just becomes so beautiful in that moment. But seriously, I think everyone is born to do something, everyone is here for a reason. It is untrue that people don’t have talent for at least one thing in life or aren’t meant to do anything, that’s bullcrap.

CR: I agree. So getting into some more personal questions, what are some things that you’ve struggled with in your personal or professional life so far?

AP: Well, my self confidence. It’s just a constant struggle with my thoughts and beliefs, and some days when I practice I feel really bad and lose all hope and I don’t want to practice anymore. But the most important thing I can do is to never quit and hold a really deep faith that everything is going to be OK. Everyday has some sort of struggle because nothing can be perfect. Most of the time you can’t choose your circumstances, you’re always going to be put in situations that are not ideal, but I believe that the biggest struggle for all of us is with ourselves and our thoughts. So, at the very least the deepest part of all of us has to try and remain positive.

CR: I want to talk about that more, the notion that we always have to work on ourselves. So, part of the reason that this project is named the way it is is because practicing being positive and developing positive attitudes is unbelievably difficult; it’s something that needs to constantly be worked on. I too believe it’s just as important to work on ourselves as people, not just as players, and learn to be really honest with ourselves about the things that we struggle with, the things that we’re good at, etc. So, speaking more to that, what other things do you work on with yourself?

AP: Well, I feel that with every day that goes by and with every experience I become stronger. Even looking at myself five years ago and I was totally different, truly an emotionally weaker person than I am now. Especially when I first moved here, with all these different people, different professors, different culture, different language, I was lost. I worried more about other people and what they thought, how they felt and I totally forgot about and neglected myself; I got lost in the midst of it all. Nowadays, I sometimes lay down and night and am really overwhelmed with school, relationships, etc, but, the next day I always put a smile on my face. In Bosnia we say, “novi dan, nova nafaka” which doesn’t really directly translate, but the meaning is like new day, new chance to change something. There is always a new day, so there are always chances for new dreams and new hopes.

CR: That’s a really nice saying.

AP: Yes. But, we just change, everything just gradually changes. I believe that different experiences and different people in your life, all of those experiences eventually help to form our whole self. I’ve always been the same person, my soul will always remain the same, but I will evolve and become a stronger version of myself the more I go through life. Though, translating that to who I am as a musician is much harder. It’s hard to think of yourself as being strong when people sometimes break you down. Why is so hard for artists, actors, musicians, people in general, to be positive, and positive towards someone else? Everyone has something really good to offer, so why be so vindictive and negative?

CR: That’s a really good question. I think it’s really easy for people to place their value as a person onto what they do and how successful they are at it. Maybe some people feel less valuable when they see someone else achieving ‘success’, and that because they feel that way it’s the other person’s fault for causing that feeling. It’s very dangerous to wrap your life’s entire value into your profession, and it’s really easy to do that as a musician or an artist because it’s such a personal form of expression. There has to be some separation.

AP: Exactly. It’s very easy to blame others for our circumstances, but we have to start looking at things objectively, to just always do the best that we can no matter what our circumstances are. I don’t ever want to hurt anyone or myself emotionally. I value myself and what I do, but not at the expense of other another person, that’s very important to me.

CR: I agree. Even though you said you struggle with feeling overwhelmed sometimes, how do you remain such a positive person?

AP: To be totally honest being spiritual; I believe that there’s more than just the physical world. Today’s world is chaotic, wars are happening, and it’s all crazy but there are things we can do to escape it. I may meditate, I may go jogging, everyone finds their own way to inner peace. I also feel positive when I hang out with positive people. Of course, if my best friend is going through a rough time I’m going to be there for that person, but in general there are people who really hate everything, they blame everyone for everything bad in their life, but I try and be deaf to that. I just wish those people could have a more positive outlook on life.

CR: Are you religious, or what do you mean by spiritual?

AP: Well, I think religion is a path and a language for people to express themselves, but the destination is the same regardless. Spirituality is more flexible and open. Every single religion has the same message at the end, to treat others the way you want to be treated, to love, and that’s what I mostly try to base my morals and values around.

CR: What sorts of things are you inspired and motivated by?

AP: People. My mom is a big inspiration for me, open minded people inspire me. I also love to know what’s happening in the flute world so I follow a lot of flutists on Instagram and watch their videos on YouTube. There’s only eight flute players in the Sarajevo Academy and I don’t want to limit myself to knowing how only the eight of us play. There’s so many other people in the world, so many other cultures and so many countries, I want to listen to everyone. Motivation, on the other hand comes from the inside. As long as I can remember I’ve always been self motivated, but it comes from my teachers too. They have no idea how important they have been in my growth to adulthood.

CR: Definitely. How do you define success, and by your definition do you feel successful?

AP: I believe that success is loving what you do and being passionate about it. For me being successful, as a person first and foremost, is to have clear values and stand by what I believe in. With music, I don’t know where I’m going to end up, but I believe that I will feel successful when I’m doing something that I love, am good at, is helpful to others and when I feel fulfilled.

CR: So, feeling fulfilled will allow you to know when you’re successful? Do you believe that fulfillment is success?

AP: I do, yeah. I try to take the best out of every day and try and feel fulfilled with what I accomplish in the day. Right now I don’t always feel fulfilled, but those bad days will allow me to know how to cherish and appreciate the good days that I know will come. I won’t know what a good day is, what a successful and fulfilled day is if I don’t know what a bad and unsuccessful day is.

CR: That’s very true. What’s the best advice you can offer to other people?

AP: If you know deep down that you’re on the right path and you love it, never give it up. When you fall, stand up again, keep practicing, surround yourself with positive people and maybe find some things outside of music that make you feel happy and achieve inner peace. If you’re positive about what you’re doing, if you’re a good person, it has to have a positive outcome.

CR: Speaking more to your person, what are three words you would use to describe yourself?

AP: Empathetic, emotional...maybe I should say a negative thing, it’s too nice.

CR: No, keep saying nice things about yourself!

AP: *laughter* Hmm, empathetic, emotional and creative. I absolutely enjoy in the creative process and in those wonderful moments of inspiration!

CR: For sure. What are some qualities that you believe are shared by all people regardless of their profession?

AP: Well, I think that every person has something good inside of them but we have to dig deep down. Every person also has to have at least a little self confidence if they are alive. To be alive, the confidence and the will to exist and to survive each day has to be there.

CR: Do you have anything other than music that you’re passionate about?

AP: Many things! I like learning languages, I like to travel, meet new people, I love children, I babysit a lot and I enjoy doing that. I like to cook, drink coffee. I just love life.

CR: Great! Do you have a favorite quote or a mantra that you like?

AP: Treat others the way you want to be treated.

CR: Is there a charity or a cause that you want to raise awareness to?

AP: Yes, I want to raise awareness for people who are physically or mentally handicapped. My ex-boyfriend had a really bad car accident a year and a half ago, was in a coma for three months, and now he has bad amnesia and is confined to a wheelchair. In Bosnia, there are no support groups, there is nothing. Since he and I are still friends, I always want him to come out into town but there are really only two cafes that we can go to because he can’t get his wheelchair inside. I go and see him as much as I can but I have so many responsibilities, and when I do, because he has amnesia he sometimes forgets that I came to see him. Also, my other friend who has Multiple Sclerosis wants to come to our concert tonight, but the first thing he asked me was how many stairs there were. So, I want to raise awareness for my friends who have physical or mental ailments, and hope that we can develop some support groups and programs funded by the country to help make their lives better.

CR: For sure, and I’ve noticed that there seem to be many people who have undiagnosed mental conditions that need access to help.

AP: Yes, there’s nothing! Can you imagine how many people have PTSD from the war, and people are constantly saying, ‘why are there crazy people walking around’ but they are just people who survived the war and haven’t been treated for PTSD. So I would really like to raise awareness for these people who have struggles from war, from birth, from accidents. Their quality of life matters just as much as mine or yours.

CR: Definitely. So, is there one last thing you want to talk about?

AP: Well, first of all thank you, I’ve really enjoyed this. It’s kind of been like a therapy session for me and I’ve really enjoyed this conversation. It was very inspirational and I hope what I said can help someone. But, I just believe in positive thinking, treating others the way you want to be treated, do what you love, never give up, and just be good. Be fulfilled with what you’re doing, because that is success. That’s it.

CR: Thank you!