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2014 Scholarship Recipients

By Kef Times Staff, Winter 2014-15

Recipients of the 2014 Dick Crum/Kef Scholarships, Balkan Night Northwest Scholarship, Leah and Nez Erez Scholarship, and Stefni Agin Scholarship write about moments that made their Workshop experiences unforgettable. Mendocino: Evan Goodson, Maggie McKaig, Theodora Teodosiadis and Elise Youssoufian; Iroquois Springs: Alyn Kristin Kay and Boyanna Trayanova.

To learn about applying for a scholarship for a future Workshop, visit the Scholarships page on the EEFC website.

Mendocino 2014: Evan Goodson

By Evan Goodson, Winter 2014-15
Evan Goodson

Evan Goodson

Location: Tucson, Ariz.

Occupation: I’m a junior in high school. I don’t currently work. I’m focusing on school!

Connection to Balkan music/dance: Balkan music and dance are a huge part of my life, specifically Greek music and dance. Aside from school, I compete and play music for groups in a Greek dance competition called FDF every year and our dance group practices year round, dancing dances from all regions in Greece. I also play live music for groups that compete. I play gaida, flogera, bouzouki, daouli, and doumbek. I fell in love with the music the first time live musicians came to play for our group.

Number of times at Balkan camp: This was my first year at camp, and I absolutely fell in love with it. The atmosphere around me was so welcoming and lively. I loved it.

Experience at camp: This moment at camp inspired me and I carry it close in my heart since I am preparing to start playing at practices for FDF! It was late in the evening on the second-to-last day before the end of camp, and I was sitting at a table with Christo [Govetas], Ruth [Hunter] and Eleni [Govetas] (they invited me to camp earlier that year, when they heard me playing gaida) and we got on the topic of FDF. Christo scooted over to separate himself and me from the group, and proceeded to give me a BOATLOAD of information and stellar advice about playing for groups. I won’t list it all, but the biggest piece of advice he gave me was to learn how to say no if something a director wanted didn’t fit what the music naturally did. Christo, Ruth, and Vassil [Bebelekov] were HUGE helps to me and absolutely an inspiration. Just the atmosphere of being in the woods, surrounded by amazing musicians and people and FOOD really made me kind of reshape the direction of my life! Thank you to everyone who befriended me and played amazing music with me at camp. I’m looking forward to many more years of it.


Mendocino 2014: Maggie McKaig

By Maggie McKaig, Winter 2014-15
Maggie McKaig

Maggie McKaig

Location: Nevada City, Calif.

Occupation: I make my living as an accordionist, singer, guitarist and composer.

Connection to Balkan music/dance: I am the leader of a quartet called Beaucoup Chapeaux (Many Hats) (website; Facebook), and among the four of us we play accordion, clarinet, bass clarinet, piccolo, violin, oboe, tenor guitar, plectrum banjo and dobro, and we all sing. We play a fair amount of Balkan music, as well as music from France, Italy and North America, and originals, and we’re the only group doing so regularly in our area. We’ve been very fortunate for the past five and half years to have a weekly gig here in Nevada City. We’ve also made two tours of the Pacific Northwest and have performed at various other venues throughout Northern California. As such, we’ve introduced many people to this music, and continue to do so. I am now happy to be able to recommend the Mendocino Balkan camp to our audiences. Beaucoup Chapeaux is working on our second CD, which will have original songs and instrumentals, as well as music from Greece, Macedonia, Croatia, Bulgaria and Italy.

Number of times at Balkan camp: This was my first time at camp.

Experience at camp: There is a lot to like about the Mendocino Balkan Music and Dance camp. To begin with, it takes place at the Mendocino Woodlands, which is a stunningly beautiful location and facility. Functioning as a group campground since 1942, the rustic redwood cabins and halls sit amongst tall redwood trees. The air often has that wonderful tang of the ocean which is only a few miles away, and early morning fog often roams through the grounds. As to the classes, I couldn’t have asked for two more exceptional teachers than singer Merita Halili and accordionist Raif Hyseni. The nightly bands and dances were also marvelous. Delicious and nutritious meals are a huge factor in my enjoyment of . . . well, anything, and the meals were wonderful. As a night owl, I especially enjoyed the late night savory dishes provided by the kitchen, a very necessary provision when one plans to play, sing and dance until the wee hours of the morn.

Considering my late-night habits, it should come as no surprise that one of my favorite things about camp was the kafana. A kafana is, simply put, a bar which sells and serves various kinds of drinks. The kafana at Balkan camp does that, and much more. Inspired volunteers create a delightfully intimate and magical space out of one of the dining halls, decorating the redwood walls with twinkle lights and lovely ethnic fabrics. The room itself is graced by a huge open stone fireplace. As evenings can get quite chilly along California’s North Coast, it was used every night. Throw in a small stage, some tables and benches, room to dance, and of course the bar itself, and you end up with a very charming community gathering spot. Whether we were entranced by the beauty of the kaval student concert, or dancing to the music of the wild and cheezy Fetatones until 4 a.m., the kafana was always a warm and welcoming place to be.


Theodora Teodosiadis

Theodora Teodosiadis

Location: Seattle, Wash.

Occupation: I make pizzas!

Connection to Balkan music/dance: Growing up, I would Greek dance with the St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church dance group. Now I just attend several Balkan events throughout the year. My goal is to make the switch from dancing to playing music.

Number of times at Balkan camp: This was my first time at camp.

Experience at camp: Camp was a beautiful experience. From the first night, I immediately felt embraced into this new family. One moment that I will never forget is that I could not for the life of me get this specific part of a song I was playing on violin for the Albanian Ensemble. It was so simple but I just could not do it. Joe [Finn] asked me if he could help me a bit after class. I was very thankful. Then, that night, I saw Joe up on stage IN A BAND. It felt so good that even a well-established musician could break down a silly piece of a song for a newbie. (Thanks Joe!)


Elise Youssoufian

Elise Youssoufian

Location: Oakland, Calif.

Occupation: Antique carpet restoration / TIG [tungsten inert gas] welding instructor

Connection to Balkan music/dance: For several years, I have been attending a weekly Eastern European folk songs class in Oakland, taught by the incomparable Lily Storm. It has been absolutely wonderful to learn songs from Bulgaria, Albania, Greece, Turkey, Macedonia, Romania and beyond. Singing them with lovely people and sharing them with friends old and new has changed my life and brought me much joy! Last year, a dear one and I held a house concert on winter solstice, and we are planning to put together similar gatherings in future.

Number of times at Balkan camp: The first of many, I hope!

Experience at camp: Each day and night, there were countless moments that I will treasure, including one which happened on the second night of camp. I had just seen a terrifically fun set in the Kafana and popped into the kitchen for a midnight snack, before making my way down to my tent in the meadow. The large block of feta alone was pretty exciting, and I was quite content to have such an ending to an already remarkable day. Just then, I ran into the fabulous Merita Halili. I had wanted to take her Intermediate Albanian singing class but had missed the first day. We spent a few minutes getting to know one another a bit, and she was so friendly and encouraging. When I mentioned I had learned one of her songs last year, she sang it for me, right then and there in the middle of the kitchen! I was completely blown away and moved to tears. I knew there was no way I would miss one more second of her class. I was and still am filled with gratitude to have had such a magical experience among many, many others throughout the week. Many thanks to everyone at the EEFC. I still feel like pinching myself whenever I think about being at camp, which happens often. It’s like a dream, except it’s real!

Alyn Kristin Kay

Alyn Kristin Kay

Location: Lansing, Mich.

Occupation: Applied behavior analysis therapy with children with autism; wife to a trumpet teacher and graduate student in trumpet performance, Matthew; and mother of three, about to be four little ones, Elsie, Lili and Ezra.

Connection to Balkan music/dance: Matthew and a core group of students at Michigan State University and community members started a Balkan brass band, Slavistar, last year. They have been popular at open mic nights at local establishments. As a family, we enjoy participating in any Balkan music events and I’ve wanted to incorporate some songs that include singing into Slavistar’s repertoire with anyone who is interested in learning.

Number of times at Balkan camp: This was a first for us at an EEFC camp.

Experience at camp: I feel like I learned so much from Elitsa [Stoyneva] and Lauren [Brody]. I really enjoyed the time I was able to spend in their classes learning to sing with my “Balkan voice,” as Elitsa would say. I have a new love for the accordion from participating in Lauren’s class

I was absolutely touched by the children’s music performance as they presented their play and music. Elsie, who is 5, has continued to sing the song they learned for the performance, which I believe is in Arabic. I know that there was a lot of dedication put in by Marlis [Kraft-Zemel], Abby [Alwin], and Stacey [Anne Sternberg].

Oh, and what fun it was to go to the Kafana with Matthew for a brief period one evening to watch the mixer bands and spend time getting to know people, while enjoying the music. Our precious cabin roommate moms, Stasha [Hughes] and Monica [Ravinet], made sure the children were looked after well. Monica had to make her way to the Kafana at 2:00 a.m. as Ezra had decided he missed us!


Iroquois Springs 2014: Boyanna Trayanova

By Boyanna Trayanova, Winter 2014-15
Boyanna Trayanova

Boyanna Trayanova

Location: New Orleans, La.

Occupation: I am a full-time jazz drummer. I’ve been playing drums for 23 years, professionally for 15.

Connection to Balkan music/dance: I am originally from Sofia, Bulgaria, and have recently become enamored with the folk music of my native country. Feeling that Bulgarian music needed to be represented in New Orleans, a city with an incredibly rich musical heritage, I started a Bulgarian folk band in New Orleans almost one year ago. The band is called Mahala (it means neighborhood in Bulgarian) and you can find us online at mahalanola.com. We perform for folk dancers in New Orleans, and recently got back from our inaugural Northeast tour, where we played for some folk dancers I had the pleasure of meeting at Balkan camp this year! Being a New Orleans band, we are all very accomplished and busy jazz musicians, yet our knowledge of Balkan music is somewhat limited. Personally I’m rather new to Bulgarian folk music, and to the tapan (I’ve been playing it for roughly one year), so it was great to come to Balkan camp and learn from so many great musicians who have a much deeper understanding of it than I have.

Number of times at Balkan camp: This was my first time at camp.

Experience at camp: I was most surprised and touched by the number of Americans who spoke PERFECT Bulgarian to me! I’ve never experienced anything like it, or met so many non-Bulgarians so interested in my native language and culture. When I describe my experience at Balkan camp to my friends and relatives back in Bulgaria, they have a really hard time believing it!

© 2014 East European Folklife Center