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Jacob Rajacich reflects on his rekindled passion, journey back to music

By Maya Rego

June 10, 2024 12:16 a.m.

For Jacob Rajacich, passion for one’s priorities cannot come without prioritizing oneself.

The fifth-year aerospace engineering student said he has immersed himself in music since he was a child. Rajacich said his passion began when he started singing and playing piano at age four. Soon after, he took up theater. By the time he graduated from high school, he had produced music for his friends and classmates, he said. However, Rajacich said he chose to pursue a STEM-focused career after he felt his confidence dim.

“Going into college, I wasn’t as sure of who I was … and I didn’t really have as clear of an idea of what I wanted my life to look like,” Rajacich said. “I had the passion but I lacked the ability to make the dream come true and coming to UCLA changed that completely.”

Rajacich said he credits auditioning for Bruin Harmony, UCLA’s male a cappella group, as the catalyst he needed to transition back toward music. He said his first interaction with the group occurred when Bruin Harmony performed at Bruin Day following his acceptance to UCLA. He added that his timidity and nerves initially prevented him from auditioning, but he joined the group during his fourth year after working on his mental health and overall confidence. Former vocal percussionist of Bruin Harmony and alumnus Xander Ambrose said accepting Rajacich was an easy decision.

“He is undeniably an incredible musician,” Ambrose said. “His vocals carry a real soulful sensibility with that R&B fusion. You can tell he has a palpable passion in his timbre and his vocal precision.”

[Related: Pass the Aux event will shine spotlight on graduating students’ capstone projects]

Outside of his work on the a cappella stage, Rajacich said he has also taken part in a wide range of musical and theatrical endeavors at UCLA. He has served as the music director for several UCLA productions, such as “Rent” and “Sweeney Todd,” and consistently plays as a keyboardist with a vast array of UCLA bands, he added. Performing with fellow student artist Hasitha Guhan has afforded him the opportunity to play at iconic Los Angeles venues such as the Whisky a Go Go on Sunset Boulevard. Additionally, Ambrose said he and Rajacich would often meet up to play in a small, informal setting they dubbed the Schoenberg Soirées.

In the greater Los Angeles area, Rajacich has showcased his talents through multiple collaborations with Dr. Diane White-Clayton, a professor in the ethnomusicology department. The two met when Rajacich joined White-Clayton’s African American Music Ensemble, she said, and she was quickly impressed by his musical technique and diligence. Since then, White-Clayton said she has invited Rajacich to sing in events such as the inaugural performance of her piece “Dear Freedom Rider” at the Lowell Milken Center for Music of American Jewish Experience’s “Music and Justice” series in February.

“He came to UCLA really advanced, just having a strong, over-the-top work ethic,” she said. “For him, it’s not like ‘I’m just trying to be competitive and better than anyone else.’ He’s very giving.”

Additionally, Rajacich said he has taken his musical interests into the professional sphere with an internship at Music Universe, a company that assists educational institutions in designing music curricula. He said his portfolio and industry knowledge have expanded by managing the group Hermanos Gutiérrez through Music Industry 110, or “Music Business Now,” a course he is enrolled in this quarter. Working with real artists has become a way for him to gain access to the music business while building connections, he added.

[Related: Lap Dog Music Group unleashes musical passion of up-and-coming student artists]

Following graduation, Rajacich said he hopes to continue working in music education, either through offering private lessons or within his current position, while allowing himself the time and space to pursue creating his own original music. Rajacich said his interests in original music are flexible and added that he could see himself working as a songwriter or producer. Ambrose said Rajacich is currently working on the first release of his original work, which he teased as containing energetic additions to the R&B genre.

“At the end of the day, it comes down to what you make and what you can create,” Rajacich said. “(It’s about) finding something that allows me to stay within the music space and music industry and make connections within that space while I also have the time and energy to continue my creative passions.”

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Maya Rego
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