By Mason Braasch | Photography by Hillary Schave
The first time that Iva Ugrcic heard the flute, her world changed. Growing up in war-torn Serbia, she says the airy, delicate sounds of the instrument “transported her to another universe.” Now, Ugrcic is using her passion for music and her experiences in the field to be an advocate for other female musicians and creatives.
After receiving a bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Belgrade Music Academy, and earning an additional master’s at a school in Paris, Ugrcic was awarded the Paul Collins Distinguished Graduate Fellowship at UW- Madison’s School of Music in 2014.
It was here, in 2017, that she started LunART, an annual festival dedicated to promoting the creativity of women artists.
“The idea behind LunART is to create this network for women where they can collaborate and express their voices,” Ugrcic says. “[It’s] a platform where they [are] celebrated.”
Throughout her education and musical career, Ugrcic encountered many barriers to success, including sexism, abuse and manipulation from male performers and professors. Founding LunART is one way of fighting back.
“When I was young I had to go through that, and I can only imagine what generations before me had to go through,” she says. “I just wanted to make sure that we have this platform for generations to come and to fight this inequality.”
LunART will host its fourth annual festival this spring, showcasing over 50 women from around the country. Also, Ugrcic’s newly-founded chamber music collective — a core group of performers who will travel and spread LunART’s mission — will be producing a full-length album later this year, and it will be available on streaming platforms.
In addition to heading up LunART, Ugrcic is also the board liaison at the Overture Center for the Arts, the artistic director for the Rural Musicians Forum, and a freelance musician, with her debut solo album coming later this year. With all the hats she wears, Ugrcic is working to add two more: blogger and podcaster. Together, with her husband, Ugrcic plans to start a blog and podcast to help musicians navigate finances and entrepreneurship.
“We know how hard it is for artists, so if we can create shortcuts for them and help them start thinking about that and transform their lives through that, that will be amazing” she says.
With a pivotal year ahead, Ugrcic continues to stay motivated by the inspiring people who surround her. Whether it be championing an empowering festival, recording her own debut solo album or helping others in her field, Ugrcic’s accomplishments are rooted in her ongoing love and passion for music.
“It’s my biggest accomplishment,” she says. “I managed to stay in the industry that I am really passionate about, and that has been the love of my life.”