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Fall 2018
From the Editor

It’s About Time.

By Julie Lancaster

Those who’ve been attending Balkan camp for a while can see evidence of time passing—this kid’s grown up while we weren’t looking, that one has children of her own now, this one’s head is greyer, that one’s eyes twinkle from nests of more wrinkles. . . . But from another perspective, the Workshops are surprisingly timeless. Continue Reading

Spring 2018

2017 Scholarship Recipients

By Kef Times Staff, Fall 2018

In 2017 our community sent 25 individuals on scholarship to the summer Balkan Music & Dance Workshops. Scholarship types included the EEFC’s Dick Crum/Kef Scholarship and the Čoček Nation, Stefni Agin, and Lillie Cooper scholarships. Click to read reports from Mendocino scholarship recipients Nathan Bernacki, Devina Broughton, Katherine Chipman, Eve Elliot, Julian Geary, Jack Hanley, Joshua Laurenzi, Meadow Lo, Paul Poresky, Hilary Seamans, Cody Simmons, Honna Steissberg, Aaron Strelnikoff, L. White; and Iroquois Spring recipients Chad Brown, Nicholas Caputo, Paula Douglass, Gala Xiuhcóatl, Cathy Inouye, Matt Moran, Jessie Rothwell, Dawn Royston, Zach Serleth, Tin Skorić, Dawn Wullschleger.

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

Nathan Bernacki

Location: Los Angeles, Calif.

Occupation: I am a musician and a student at the same time. I play gudulka with a few Bulgarian groups in L.A. I gig a lot with Aaron Strelnikoff, who is another scholarship recipient, and his brother; we are all three Americans. We play at UCLA cultural events, for the Bulgarian Society of Los Angeles and for folk dancers in Santa Monica. We play with Ivan and Tzvetanka Varimezovi every week because they run the UCLA Balkan Ensemble. I am an ethnomusicology student at UCLA.
Number of times at Balkan camp: About four years.
Studied at camp: Gudulka.
Memorable moment at camp: At camp, I was playing a kafana set with Aaron on tambura and his brother Sasha on tupan. We would rehearse in the cabin or sitting around outside. One day when we were rehearsing for that set we went about five to six straight hours of rehearsing. It impressed me that there were people that dedicated to performing Bulgarian music, and that made me very happy. To this day we still have those sessions that go on for hours and hours. It makes me very happy that there are at least one or two other people as interested in this music as I am.


Devina Boughton

Location: Boston, Mass.

Occupation: I am starting my sophomore year at the Berklee College of Music, where I am pursuing a dual major in trumpet performance and composition. I want to be a professional trumpet player, composer and vocalist.

Connection to Balkan music/dance: When I am in Oregon, I perform with the Balkan band Kef (balkanmusic.org) run by Cody Simmons, another trumpet player who came to the Balkan camp this year. I would love to play Balkan music when in Boston as well, and am planning on pursuing that goal this year.

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

Studied at camp: My main focus was the trumpet. Specifically, I really wanted to get a grasp on the Balkan time feel, ornamentation, and improvisation styles. I took brass band from Demiran [Ćerimović], trumpet class, and the Romani ensemble from Vlado [Pupinoski].

Memorable moment at camp: It was a profound experience seeing the community so wholly immersed in their own culture and heritage—that is something that I have rarely seen in my life and it was so cool to be a part of. The whole immersive process of the camp unto itself really struck me, there was no way that I would have been able to understand how the music is played and practiced and approached by listening to it and reading written music. Learning songs in the classes by ear really helped me acquire the feel of it—about halfway through the camp I had a breakthrough in understanding the feel, style and sound of the Balkan trumpet/truba. I could only have understood how to think about and work on this style from that experience. Reflecting on the music as a whole, as I am not at all coming from a dance background, it was very interesting to see a music that is played specifically for various types of dances. Seeing the dance hall and kafana sets was also invaluable because simply experiencing three sets of live Balkan music from the best musicians, and all of the dancers, is such a rare thing.

I loved how amazing Demiran was at teaching despite the language barrier. His virtuosity was so inspiring—how he taught all day and played all night was impressive, especially knowing the limitations that brass instruments can present! Getting to see him and work with him was definitely one of the most important and inspirational facets of the camp and made it really an incredible learning opportunity.


Katherine Chipman

Location: Cottonwood Heights, Utah

Occupation: Kodály music specialist, choir director/guitar teacher, Royal Music Conservatory piano teacher, Singers Abroad director, Momentum Climbing coach

Connection to Balkan music/dance: Zivio Ethnic Arts Ensemble—both dancer and singer
https://www.facebook.com/zivioethnicarts/

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

Studied at camp: Singing.

Memorable moment at camp: The community and sense of belonging really surprised me. I especially loved the last day of camp where we all paraded around camp playing music, and the energy I felt being a part of something bigger than myself.


Eve Elliot

Location: Los Angeles, Calif.

Occupation: Part-time translator and part-time bicycle courier; these are my day jobs while I try to advance a career as a musician. I front an original band in which I play guitar and keyboard, and do sideman/background work on those instruments as well.

Connection to Balkan music/dance: Friends and I regularly get together to learn and play Balkan music, usually accompanied by a few beers.

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

Studied at camp: Greek music for strings, but I was also introduced to makam theory.

Memorable moment at camp: The most touching for me were the moments in between the classes, parties, etc., when spontaneous small groups formed to play music. I remember swatting away mosquitoes while learning song after song from the young Greek dudes, the jangly sound of the guitars and bouzoukis among the trees. Or trying to figure out proper ornamentation technique with a fellow guitar student, struggling to see the fretboard as the sun set. Those moments of intimacy meant a lot to a first-timer like me.


Julian Geary

Location: Portland, Ore.

Occupation: High school freshman

Connection to Balkan music/dance: Music has always been a big part of my life, and my dad fell in love with Balkan music just around the time I was born. Through him I have slowly been liking it more and more.

Number of times at Balkan camp: For years I have been asking my dad to let me go to camp and finally this year I was allowed.

Studied at camp: I decided to continue my learning of violin, and picked up the tupan, which was a great decision.

Memorable moment at camp: It was a dream come true, and I was not disappointed. Throughout these first few boring weeks of school I constantly find myself daydreaming back to when the next-gen played in front of a packed audience in the kafana with the whole crowd jumping up and down in a hip-hop fashion that me and my friends started. Camp was the highlight of my summer and I hope I can come back next year.


Jack Hanley

Location: Martinez, Calif.

Occupation: I work as a musician, drumming, mostly Klezmer music, and recently Balkan as well! I also work seasonally in Yosemite National Park.

Connection to Balkan music/dance: I frequent local Balkan performances to listen and dance, and I am part of a rotating cast of musicians who perform at the weekly “Balkan Sundays” event in San Francisco. Camp gave me the opportunity to create and make stronger friendships with the players in the Bay Area Balkan scene and thus I have had many more opportunities to play and perform because of it. Thank you (:

Number of times at Balkan camp:  This was my first time at camp and it blew me away.

Studied at camp: I study drumming, both on tupan and doumbek.

Memorable moment at camp: It is difficult, no, impossible, to single out one memorable and special experience from such a loaded week of beauty and joy that could sum it all up. However, the week started with an exclamation point in my memory. Wide-eyed and taken back, the sound surrounded me completely. Heavy drumbeats dropped into my chest, and my temples reverberated with a sound so distinct, played so naturally, with emphasis so characteristically “Balkan,” that I knew in an instant that this camp was going to be the real deal. Any one of the evening’s dance party performances could easily be considered a highlight of virtuosic musicianship, community, and a lifted spirit. There was no better way to set the stage for this all on the first night, than with the raucous zurna and tupan set I remember so powerfully.

Thank you so so so much for all the work the EEFC does, and especially for the generosity that you showed me by awarding me a scholarship.


Joshua Laurenzi

Location: Oakland, Calif.

Occupation: Massage therapist, medical herbalist, musician

Connection to Balkan music/dance: I perform with Ghost Note Ensemble ghostnoteensemble.bandcamp.com.

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

Studied at camp: Greek violin

Memorable moment at camp: The openness and welcoming attitudes of everyone were so surprising and wonderful. I’ve been to many other music camps and this is usually not so much the case. From the moment I arrived people were friendly and helpful. My time at camp this year was so wonderful in large part due to this friendliness across the board, from teachers to attendees.


Meadow Lo

Location: Arcata, Calif.

Occupation: I am a public school music teacher. I teach preschool through 8th grade general music, choir, band, strings and other music electives.

Connection to Balkan music/dance: I play in the international folk band Chubritza. We perform regularly at our local monthly folk dance parties as well as throughout the West Coast at various folk dance and music festivals.

Number of times at Balkan camp: I have been coming for seven consecutive years.

Studied at camp: I tend to take more singing classes than anything else.

Memorable moment at camp: This summer, my husband and one-year-old son were able to come with me to camp. I was touched and inspired that many of the teachers welcomed my young, boisterous, noisy child and encouraged his obsession with music and instruments. In particular, there was a moment when Raif [Hyseni] saw my son staring at his accordion in awe and invited him to touch it and play some notes on the keyboard. It was a very magical and touching experience to have this incredible, world-class musician sharing his accordion with a one-year-old.


Paul Poresky

Location: Coos Bay, Ore.

Occupation: I am a retired rural letter carrier for the Postal Service.

Connection to Balkan music/dance: I do international folk dancing throughout the year. We dance every Monday evening in North Bend, and occasionally in Eugene with their Tuesday group, and at their Veselo Festival. Many of our dances are Balkan.

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

Studied at camp: Dance! Dance! Dance! I am not a musician. Been dancing for over 30 years, but never played an instrument. I am trying to learn the kaval, with little success. I enjoyed the Bulgarian and Serbian dance classes the most.

Memorable moment at camp: The Friday afternoon student recitals at the amphitheater were remarkable. It was a real eye-opener to see how much talent there was in camp, and to hear how well people from all over the West could come together for a week and learn to play and sing so beautifully together. In that setting, it was magical.


Hilary Seamans

Location: Albany, Calif.

Occupation: Acupuncturist

Connection to Balkan music/dance: I sing with Mozaik Voices, a Berkeley-based, five-voice Balkan and folk ensemble. We sing a variety of music from all over the world, a cappella or accompanied by drums or accordion. Here is our website! https://mozaikvoices.com/

Number of times at Balkan camp: 2017 was my first time at camp, and it was amazing!

Studied at camp: I focused on voice, though I also loved the dance in the evenings.

Memorable moment at camp: Although nearly everything about camp was surprising and wonderful, the highlight of the week was definitely being able to enjoy the performances of the other students and the instructors in the dance hall and the kafana. I knew I would be surrounded by talented people, but I was honestly blown away by so many of the performances that I got to see in the evenings at camp. To try and pick a favorite would be impossible, but the feeling of being in the presence of greatness but surrounded by a strong and inclusive community was truly unique and special.


Cody Simmons

Location: Eugene, Ore.

Occupation: Freelance musician

Connection to Balkan music/dance: I am director of the Balkan dance band Kef, which is finishing its tenth year of performing in Eugene and throughout the Pacific NW. We perform alternately as a small folk band and as a larger Macedonian-style brass band. www.balkanmusic.org

Additionally, I have the privilege of playing with Mark Levy and Carol Silverman in their group Slavej. As I write this, we have just concluded a wonderful weekend of performing at balkanalia! with a host of fantastic musicians, including Michael Lawson, David Bilides, Bill Lanphier and Adam Good.

Number of times at Balkan camp: This was my seventh Mendocino Balkan camp, having first attended as a college student in 2003.

Studied at camp: As a trumpet player, this was a year not to be missed. Demiran Ćerimović is a master of both the music and the instrument, and is one of today’s most beautiful players. Having a trumpet class in addition to the usual brass band was incredibly beneficial, and beyond that the additional private instruction time that I spent with Demiran was invaluable.

Memorable moment at camp: I think perhaps the most valuable thing that I was able to bring back with me this year came from delving into Demiran Ćerimović’s approach to improvisation. It was an impression I had already developed, but to hear it stated explicitly is very enlightening. Generally speaking, when playing a solo, he does not think about modes or chord tones or anything in a generic structural sense. Instead, each tune has a solo that goes with it. That is not to say that it is pre-composed, but rather that there is a sound the solo needs to have, to match the feel of the song. Often all of the various improvisations done during a given tune by different members of a group have a similar sound. What makes each solo unique is the way that the overall idea (which makes it unique to a particular tune) is threaded together by the idiosyncratic repertoire of “licks” each individual performer has under the fingers. Now, if only someone could articulate what makes a solo have the right feel for a given tune.


Honna Steissberg (and Frances Steissberg)

Location: Davis, Calif.

Occupation: Social worker

Connection to Balkan music/dance: Davis International Folk Dancers, Kolo Koalition in Sacramento. I went to balkanalia! for the first time this year, and have attended Kolo Festival twice so far.

Number of times at Balkan camp: Second time at camp; last year was only four days. Came with daughter who is 10 years old and played doumbek.

Studied at camp: Albanian violin, Greek baglamas, Bulgarian singing, and Greek dance

Memorable moment at camp: Albanian Ensemble was epic (singing and playing violin), also Rebetika ensemble, playing a new instrument. It was amazing to work with Raif [Hyseni] and Merita [Halili]. A dream come true.


Aaron Strelnikoff

Location: San Clemente, Calif.

Occupation: I am a full-time student most of the year. I am studying engineering.

Connection to Balkan music/dance: I have been going to Balkan Camp my whole life.

Number of times at Balkan camp: 1999 was my first camp, I believe.

Studied at camp: Tambura, both Bulgarian and Macedonian. One of my main focuses now when I come to camp is playing with great musicians like Paul Brown and Adam Good.

Memorable moment at camp: The whole camp is impressive. Every moment in that wonderful forest with all those wonderful people is magical.

I am so appreciative to have gotten a scholarship. Balkan camp has brought me in contact with some brilliant new friends, and inspired me and Nathan to take our Bulgarian tambura and gudulka to their fullest potential. We are going to be playing throughout the year, and hope to come back next year to play for all of you.


L White

Location: Hagerstown, Md.

Occupation: I work at a mall kiosk currently, but am just working odd jobs to put myself through school. Mostly sales and customer service. I’m studying to become an audio engineer.

Connection to Balkan music/dance: I discovered Balkan music at Santa Fe University of Art and Design under the instruction of Polly T. Ferber. Since the school’s closure my partner and I still play Balkan tunes together and actively seek out the East Coast Balkan community.

Number of times at Balkan camp: It was my first time at camp!

Studied at camp: My main study focus is cello and Turkish makam. Somehow makam makes more sense to me than traditional Western theory ever did.

Memorable moment at camp: I was in awe at the acceptance of people. I’m a very spiritual person and I also identify as a transgender male. Everybody at camp was so willing to hear me speak on my beliefs and so many people hugged or congratulated me when I came out to them. There was honest and true acceptance and understanding that we’re all the same species living different lives in the same place. It felt like family.


Chad Brown

Location: Philadelphia, Pa.

Occupation: I currently work for Liberty Bellows in Philadelphia, which is a full-service accordion repair and sales shop. I specialize in accordion repair, which covers both technical service and repair as well as fine-tuning. Additionally, I am a freelance drummer in Philadelphia and play in a number of ensembles and organizations. Most weeks look like three to five days at the accordion shop, with an average of three gigs a week and the odd rehearsal, so life can feel a bit hectic, but I definitely feed off of all the variety in my working life.

Connection to Balkan music/dance: My introduction to Balkan music came from my joining the West Philadelphia Orchestra in the summer of 2012. Before that, I had a part in Pig Iron Theater’s production of Twelfth Night, which incorporated a roaming band, based loosely on/inspired by Balkan music and the Romani diaspora. So, I did some research and made a tupan, which eventually got me a spot in WPO. We play regularly. We have a weekly dance party in center city Philadelphia every Tuesday at Franky Bradley’s (do come if you find yourself in Philly on a Tuesday), and some 30-odd weddings/parties/bigger shows every year. Our book is nice and fat (and getting bigger) at this point so it keeps everyone busy, learning the style(s) and keeping the music fresh for our audience. http://wpo.westphiladelphiaorchestra.com/

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

Studied at camp: My first year at camp was certainly eye opening. There is so much offered and I sampled quite a bit of it, but eventually narrowed myself down to Brass Band with Demiran [Ćerimović] in the percussion section and Čalgija ensemble on accordion and voice. I attended both Serbian and Bulgarian dance classes as well (and by midweek, a healthy dose of partying…).

Memorable moment at camp: My cabin was directly next to the dojo-esque building (I think it was titled alt gym or something) and in the morning were the BG folk ensembles, so every day of camp I woke up or prepared my day to the sounds of gudulkas, gaidas, kavals, and all of the wonderful sounds and instrumentation of this particular iteration of the music. I was completely enchanted by the experience of hearing this every day. I have a particular fondness for Bulgarian music and hope to insert myself more directly into it next year.


Nicholas Caputo

Location: Denver, Colo.

Occupation: I have been working as a professional musician and instructor, teaching accordion, ukulele, piano and music theory as well as teaching Ashtanga Yoga.

Connection to Balkan music/dance: I have a group, Passersby, that draws on some Balkan influence. I’m challenged by Balkan music, its intricate time signatures, the rich harmonies, and the overall feeling of something familiar keep me interested in playing the accordion and sharing it with my world. The influence of Balkan music makes my artistic writing process much more exciting. I just recently moved to Colorado and have had the opportunity to sing with the group Planina (Planina.org). The rehearsals leave me inspired and excited to learn more and sharpen my skills. Also, dancing every chance I get keeps me feeling light in my body and my heart alive with inspiration (helps with weird time signatures, too).

Number of times at Balkan camp: This was my second year.

Studied at camp: I was really interested in being as focused as possible on the accordion. Camp can be overwhelming in the amount of content and nuance being presented; I wanted to be as receptive as possible.

Memorable moment at camp: I was quiet this year at camp and it brought me to a more reflective place. I watched more than last year and I asked many more questions. The most significant part of camp was one of the board meetings where we came together to speak about the future of the EEFC. The question of, “What are we doing here?” came up and the subsequent discussions were illuminating. We were all there for different reasons, very few lined up, and it left my head spinning a bit. Later that night as I reflected on why I was there, I came across a teacher’s cabin with lightning-fast accordion songs, singing and dancing all around. I stayed quiet as I observed these friends and strangers alike dance and cackle, drink and yell out song names that were met with laughter. We were all there for the same reason even though earlier in the day we had so many different responses. We were coming together to sing and dance and learn, to get away, to celebrate, but it was all built on the foundation of connection. It’s in the celebration of culture that we have the chance to celebrate our humanness, of what makes us all fundamentally the same. We raise our voices, join hands and let the spirit of our human bond come to life. The world stops and we are granted a glimmer into the endlessness of being; the gift of this human life and all life that has come before us, the life that will press on in song long after us.


Paula Douglass

Location: Rochester, N.Y.

Occupation: Copyediting/indexing

Connection to Balkan music/dance: I sing with a local Balkan women’s choral group (Sladki Doumi) and dance with the Rochester international folk dancing group. On my own I play the gudulka nearly daily and connect with other musicians to play music of Bulgaria.

Number of times at Balkan camp: I came for three days in 2016. That was the first time I had attended. So, two years.

Studied at camp: Gudulka, Bulgarian singing, all dance

Memorable moment at camp: Every night the dance party and live music were electric; if I had to pick one thing—this is difficult—the dance party would have to be my favorite. Ivan [Handzhiev]’s singing class (Thracian) was great fun! The song selections were varied and interesting and Ivan always has a twinkle in his eye. I also loved dancing around the gajda players; so nice to connect with people in that way. Listening to the young soloist (girl) from Čoček Nation was really inspiring. I love that people of all ages come to the camp. I particularly enjoyed listening to the woman who played Scandinavian tunes in the kafana one night and watching the dancing—so beautiful! Playing gudulka in the student concert was a big step for me; I have performance anxiety. Nikolay [Kolev], my teacher, and the other students in the class were very supportive, so I felt brave enough to do it and it went well!


Gala Xiuhcóatl

Location: Mexico City

Occupation: Kindergarten teacher

Connection to Balkan music/dance: As I work part-time in the morning and I have the rest of the day free, I am always creating things with people interested in Balkan music. Rehearsing new songs, studying styles, taking lessons, sharing materials, practicing and teaching classes. We have a small community interested in Balkan music here in Mexico City and other states such as Guadalajara, Tijuana, Querétaro… We try to gather and make things together when possible… take classes, make study circles, gigs among our groups, etc.
The projects I’m currently involved with are:

https://www.facebook.com/LaBalcatrina
https://www.facebook.com/proyectokunda
https://gypsymothmx.wordpress.com

And I’m just starting a blog where I wrote about the camp and where I’m planning to write about Balkan-related topics for my community to read in Spanish: https://labalcatrina.wordpress.com

Number of times at Balkan camp: This was my very first time at camp and I’m afraid now I’ve become an addict!

Studied at camp: My main focus to study during camp was definitely the Balkan Brass Band. I’m a saxophonist totally fond of Balkan brass bands. I have been crazy about Macedonian saxophonists and that’s pretty much the style I listen to every day. This camp was a perfect chance for me to know about the Serbian style, since Demiran Ćerimović conducted this year’s brass band and I was also able to attend the Čoček Nation class where we prepared Serbian songs, and also (my beloved) Macedonian ones. As you can imagine, I couldn’t be happier from having the opportunity to learn more about Serbian brass band style.

Memorable moment at camp: It was definitely the love people showed me over there. As I was traveling from Mexico, I didn’t have a bedding set with me. My lovely roomies managed to create one for me with their own things. This warming welcoming was priceless. One of them, Natalie [Shear], even asked me if I had a raincoat with me and lent me hers. Every day and night I witnessed the kindness of this community. Many of them were worried about making me feel welcome, inviting me to do things and to share, teaching me the dances with patience. Like, for instance, when I told Matt Moran that I wanted to learn how to play tapan but I hadn’t been able to get the instrument and he offered to teach me after lunch with his; or the night my roomies offered a pedicure service to the girls and women at camp. It was awesome to see this kind of energy and love being shared. This community is just awesome! I have always thought that at the end of every trip or experience, what’s left in our heads and hearts is the connection we made with people of those places, and this is the exact example of this theory of mine.


Cathy Inouye

Location: Montreal, Quebec

Occupation: Anti-poverty community organizer

Connection to Balkan music/dance: Am performing in Balkanville, a Montreal Balkan band, just starting a series of monthly jams.

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

Studied at camp: Music, drumming and playing in the brass band.

Memorable moment at camp: I was quite impressed by the many amazing music jams that happened in so many different venues and at all hours of the day and night. It was a magical experience. It was also very inspiring to get to play with Demiran [Ćerimović], the trumpet player who led the brass class. Of course, the soccer game was completely delightful and goofy. It was heartwarming to see all the people who pledged money for future scholarships during the auction.


Matt Moran

Location: Brooklyn, N.Y.

Occupation: I’m a professional musician; I play Balkan and Balkan-influenced music and also jazz and contemporary composition. I’m a bandleader, so a lot of my work time is on administrative tasks, but I try to find time to practice, too; I also work on bringing music education and performance opportunities to people in prison.

Connection to Balkan music/dance: I’m very fortunate to have integrated Balkan music into my daily life, mostly by playing tapan with my brass band Slavic Soul Party! I also play tenor horn with Veveritse Brass Band, teach tapan, and occasionally give presentations on Balkan music and brass band music to students (from elementary all the way up university level). I try to make sure that I also speak about the sources of the Balkan music that most inspires me, when I’m a bandleader—which isn’t always easy at a dance party!

Number of times at Balkan camp: This year was my 20th anniversary of coming to Balkan camp! I’ve been at East Coast camp almost every year since then.

Studied at camp: This year I focused on Serbian Roma music and dance as taught by Demiran Ćerimović (brass band) and Alex Marković (dance). I also tried to be available and helpful during classes for kids.

Memorable moment at camp: This year Demiran’s set in the dance hall stood out to me as representing many of the best things about camp. First of all, we had a teacher who was not only new to camp but was the first teacher from the Balkans to teach brass band. This was wonderful growth for our community, and Demiran filled the role beautifully. Secondly, he was touchingly dedicated to demonstrating the older brass band traditions of his community—values we often assume of Balkan musicians, but which are not a given in the living tradition that is Serbian brass and the accompanying market forces. Thirdly, the set brought staff and campers to new heights, as Demiran inspired the several generations of campers that accompanied him—members of Zlatne Uste Balkan Brass Band—to their most musical and compelling performance I’ve ever experienced, while Alex Marković shined a new light on many of the dances that our community has done for years. The dance hall radiated joy and appreciation, expertise and openness, roots and possibilities.


Jessie Rothwell

Location: Garrett Park, Md.

Occupation: My day job is…. nothing. I do freelance writing here and there and am looking for a full-time job. That’s why there’s no way I could have afforded to come to Balkan camp without the scholarship I received.

Connection to Balkan music/dance: I am a member of Orfeia, a women’s Balkan vocal ensemble. We currently have 10 members, not including our director, Tatiana Sarbinska. I don’t dance regularly but would like to do more of it in the future.

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

Studied at camp: My main focus was voice. I took two voice classes and for a couple of days also took accordion. If I come back I really want to learn zurna (I grew up playing oboe so it’s especially appealing to me).

Memorable moment at camp: I think my favorite thing about camp was sitting on porches in the evening after dinner, listening to folks playing, or sitting on my porch singing with other members of my cabin…. It felt so intimate and I love informal, non-staged performing—things that break the fourth wall. I loved the dancing every night and performing at the end of the week, but if I had to choose just one thing, I think the porch playing/performing would be the thing.


Dawn Royston

Location: Gainesville, Fla.

Occupation: I’m a jazz singer but also have been working in politics lately.

Connection to Balkan music/dance: There is no Balkan scene here in Gainesville. I do think it’s a place that Balkan music would be appreciated and hope to get musicians together and start playing music!

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

Studied at camp: Coming in, I was most excited to learn Bulgarian repertoire and to meet and hear a Rhodope singer in person for the first time. For that reason, at first, I was really tuning into Donka [Koleva]. But while there I became enchanted with the vocal ornamentation of Greek singing. Coming from a vocal classical background, being able to listen to the ornamentations of all styles and hear singers in person was very important and informative for me.

Memorable moment at camp: On the whole, this experience was unforgettable and unique and special. I recall one moment when I was on the porch of my cabin and listening to a Lithuanian ensemble and in the middle of the field a brass band with accordion was playing and thinking to myself what a unique and special village the EEFC creates every year.

But I think the most amazing moment of the week was once very late at night at kafana with one of Ruth and Christos’s ensembles. Although I was exhausted I decided to join this smaller dancing circle and locked into the steps although since I was new to the dances I had occasionally had trouble with other dances that week. It was such a feeling of connection that I had to this group; the band found a perfect groove and it felt like time was suspended. It was very spiritual experience for me and I want to thank the EEFC scholarship committee for enabling me to have it.


Zach Serleth

Location: Baltimore, Md.

Occupation: Full-time musician, in jazz, bluegrass/old-time, and Eastern European styles

Connection to Balkan music/dance: I play bass in jazz manouche ensembles here in MD (Baltimore Swing Drop, Ultrafaux) as well as an Eastern European group called Orchester Prazevica. We play dances at the embassies in DC whenever they have them :).

Number of times at Balkan camp: First camp!

Studied at camp: Greek music (bass) and brass band (tuba). I brought my upright bass and guitar to the various ensemble classes and got a lot out of those as well. I learned so much!

Memorable moment at camp: Playing in the student concert with the brass band was one of the most magical musical experiences I have ever felt in my life. I was literally crying tears of joy while blowing my tuba during the last song. I’ve studied Balkan brass band music for the last five years but have never had the opportunity to play it with anyone. Playing it at camp with such high-level musicians may have been the best thing I have ever done.


Tin Skorić

Location: Brooklyn, N.Y.

Occupation: High school student

Connection to Balkan music/dance: My parents are originally from the region, so we listen to Balkan music of various genres all the time. My mom is from Montengro [Podgorica and Ulqini]; dad grew up in Croatia [Zagreb]. They lived in Sarajevo and Belgrade as well.  I play in my school orchestra, ISO [Interschool Orchestras of New York], Brooklyn Conservatory…

Number of times at Balkan camp: I’ve been few days at the camp, but this was my first full week. I loved it all! New friends, young, teachers (Sarah [Ferholt], Ray [Ranic]), Demiran [Ćerimović]!

Studied at camp: Čoček Nation; tamburica and all. I hope to learn tapan.

Memorable moment at camp: The auction was so fun! I loved the watermelon soccer! Demiran is a great soccer player, as well as a fantastic trumpet player. My teachers, Sarah, Ray, Aaron [Kisslinger] are so very kind and patient. Met many new friends. Thank you from the bottom of my heart! I can’t wait for next year.


Dawn Wullschleger

Location: Arlington, W.V.
Occupation: Teacher, 8th-grade science
Connection to Balkan music/dance: During the rest of the year I attend Balkan events in the area. I am also in a Balkan fusion class that incorporates Balkan music with belly dance. I plan on starting an after-school culture club and include things that I have learned at camp.
Number of times at Balkan camp: I have been coming to camp for three years.
Studied at camp: This year at camp I focused on the Greek dancing and doumbek classes. Joe [Graziosi] and Polly [Tapia Ferber] are two of my favorites, such enthusiastic instructors.
Memorable moment at camp: I am always surprised at the deep bonds of friendship I make at camp each year. I went with a group of friends this year and developed some deeper bonds with them that would have taken months outside of camp. There is something about the camp culture that allows people to open up and reveal things on a deeper level than in daily life. One of the biggest surprises was bonding with a couple who live in my area. I’ve known the wife for a while and had met the husband a few times but I had no idea how close we would get at camp. The camp expedited our friendship which would have taken months outside of camp and produced bonding moments we will cherish. What’s great about them being local is that we can meet up and share in the memories of camp. It helps with the feelings of camp withdrawal that happen each year and gets us pumped up for next year!

© 2014 East European Folklife Center