This year was the first Thanksgiving I had ever gone to a friend’s house to celebrate. There were close to 30 people there, almost all of them with roots in the Balkan, klezmer and old-time music worlds. There were kids and spouses and siblings and band mates and lots of what anthropologists call “fictive kin”: the people who are like family to you. We all brought homemade food, and ate together at a row of tables that stretched through two rooms. Afterwards, as we ate pie after pie, we played and sang songs that some of us knew, and some of us sort of knew, and some of us sort of figured out (or not) on the spot. We didn’t all know each other when we walked in the door, but generosity and goodwill surrounded us in that house, and we left knowing we had connected in a way that would endure.
I was there because of friendships that Balkan music created for me, and this Thanksgiving felt exactly like the spirit and energy that our community creates when we get together—at camp, at festivals like Golden Fest, Boston Balkan Night, Balkan Night Northwest, Kolo Festival, Chicago Spring Festival, at weekly or monthly folk dancing, at gigs and shows, and in each others’ houses. We don’t always all know each other when we walk into the room, but we know we will be surrounded by people who are looking forward to sharing what makes them happy, we will leave feeling connected to each other through the music and dance we love, and we’ll look forward to the next time we get to see each other.
This is why I serve on the Board. Twice a year the EEFC and our community, together, create a week of kef that follows me home, and stays inside me as I’m listening to Balkan music on the subway, practicing after the kids go to bed, playing music with others, going to gigs, dancing—and waiting to get back to camp again. Of all the things the EEFC does, camp is far and away the most important, and I felt so strongly about the value and power and beauty of that experience, that I decided to give both my time and money to making the EEFC a strong and stable organization that can make camp happen year after year, not just for us today but for years to come, for people we don’t know yet. My fellow board members serve for the same reasons.
The Development Committee takes the lead on raising the funds we need for both short and long-term financial stability. The Marketing Committee lets more people know about what we do, and brings more people to the workshops. The Finance Committee develops and manages budgets that keep us in the black. These three committees are responsible for the EEFC’s long-term health and well-being, and all of them are understaffed.
If you have experience with fundraising, financial management or marketing, we can use your help. I promise we won’t ask more of you than you have to offer, nor will you be required to attend endless meetings. Promise.
The Program Committee creates the agenda for our workshops. This committee is responsible for the quality of instruction and performance at camp, year after year. You and programming together create the kef.
And speaking of kef, we need your help there, too. Many of you have told us that membership matters to you, that becoming a member of the EEFC is a public declaration of support for the community that comes together through camp, and the people who make camp happen—our teaching and support staff. We agree. Our end-of-year appeal is now underway. We want to increase the number of members as well as the amount we raise—please show your support and commitment to each other by making your membership a part of what brings us together and attracts new campers. I know there are people out there who want to be part of what we create, they just don’t know it yet. Invite them to the table.
The November 26 death of Richard Herbert “Dick” Forsyth of Newton, Mass., prompted a new reason to give to EEFC. Dick was a chemist, audio engineer, electronic repair expert, Balkan singer and beloved husband of Martha Forsyth. Martha is a specialist in Bulgarian singing, an author and a leader in our community. After Dick died, Martha suggested that people make a gift to the EEFC in honor of him, and a memorial page has been set up on the EEFC’s website.
In closing, we want to thank Jay House Samios for her leadership over the past 2+ years. Jay has decided to step down from the Executive Director role, and her last day will be December 31st. Amy Mills, the Development Committee Chair, will step in as acting ED for the next six months as we take stock and consider our next steps. Jay and the Board are working together to shift her responsibilities to Board, staff and volunteers before the end of the year. Thank you, Jay, for your contributions, and we wish you the best in your next endeavor.
Yours in music and dance,
Corinna Škėma Snyder
EEFC Board President
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