Recipients of the 2013 Dick Crum / Kef Scholarships, Balkan Night Northwest Scholarship, and Steffi Agin Scholarship chime in about what made their 2013 Workshop experiences extraordinary. Mendocino: Janet Finney-Krull, Morgan Nilsen and Lizzy Pedersen; Iroquois Springs: Dylan Crossen. Danielle Smith (Mendocino) was the recipient of the Balkan Night Northwest Scholarship; Michelle Tsigaridas Weller received the Steffi Agin Scholarship.
To learn about applying for a scholarship for a future Workshop, visit the Scholarships page on the EEFC website.
Location: Arcata, Calif.
Occupation: I have been retired from Humboldt State University for one year and help my husband deliver mail on his contracted mail route in our surrounding rural countryside.
Connection to Balkan music/dance: I play music throughout the year in the International Folk Dance band, Chubritza. You might have seen us play on Sunday night in the kafana at Mendocino Balkan camp. [Ed. note: Janet plays brač, accordion, doumbek, tupan, recorders, Irish flute, silver flute, frula and pennywhistles.]
Number of times at Balkan camp: I have been coming to Balkan Camp for many years beginning in 1994, when I started playing Balkan music with Chubritza.
Experience at camp: On the last day of kaval class my teacher, Valeri Georgiev, and I discovered that my Irish flute played very nicely with the kaval. The two instruments have similar warm sounds and some similar fingering patterns. As a beginner kaval player I was naturally struggling to play the kaval and found it to be the most difficult instrument that I had ever attempted to play. As a flute player of 50-plus years this was a humbling experience. I play the Irish flute in Chubritza as well as another Celtic folk band, Good Company, and so was naturally eager for my teacher to hear that I could indeed play the flute. We played duets together and both of us agreed that the two flutes sounded really nice together. Valeri was so patient with everyone in his class. Everyone received one-on-one instruction from him. I hope to take his class in again in the future, and I recommend this class to everyone. Cheers, Janet
Location: San Francisco, Calif.
Occupation: Performing musician and clarinet teacher
Number of times at Balkan camp: This was my first year.
Experience at camp: On the MUSIC: Never having been to the Balkans I was enveloped by the village lifestyle and the family/community vibe all focused around the music. The diversity of the musical regions was incredible. Hearing a master clarinet player from Macedonia next to Christos [Govetas] playing Greek music.
The amount of personal time that the instructors gave outside of class was very generous. Raif [Hyseni] helped me with my improvisation for Albanian ensemble; Michael Ginsburg helped me with the complex rhythm in a brass band solo, and Christos sent me off with an inspiring talk about Greek clarinet after the final student concert.
On the COMMUNITY: I was warmly welcomed by the community at large, where I only knew a few people. Having biked 200 miles from SF to the camp, I was not prepared for the massive rainstorms! My small bivy tent was drenched through immediately. One fellow tenter gave me a dry Therm-a-Rest [an inflated camping mattress] to sleep on, the kitchen gave me bags and towels, one woman gave me a warm comforter, and another student a hair dryer to dry my sleeping bag. I eventually moved into Danielle’s cabin, where they made space for me. Truly a beautiful, caring community! On the last day I spent hours walking from cabin to cabin and returned belongings to folk all over the camp, and was grateful.
Location: Half the time Woodinville, Wash.; the other half Boulder, Colo.
Occupation: I’m a music student at University of Colorado – Boulder currently, though I do professional music gigs when I can get them.
Connection to Balkan music/dance: When the stars align, I have been lucky enough to get to play with Kafana Republik and sometimes with Radost. I also dance with the Seattle Balkan Dancers for fun and a performing group in Boulder called Hora Romaneasca.
Number of times at Balkan camp: This was my first time!
Experience at camp: I knew that Mendocino Balkan camp was going to be a great experience, and I hoped I would come back with at least a few new songs under my belt. What I really learned was so much more valuable. Playing and singing together with the faculty, including Baže (Blagoja Smilevski) and Sali (Rumen Shopov) after the kafana closed was my favorite experience of the whole week. Those renditions had soul, and it was so much fun to hear those songs from the source. So much meaning, so much expertise. Definitely impressive! I was surprised that they could sing that passionately after a long day of playing! I would come back to Mendocino just to experience this again.
Location: Portland, Ore.
Occupation: I work at a dance studio called Datura (doing management and production, as well as teaching and performance) and I’m a professional belly dancer.
Connection to Balkan music/dance: I attend as many Balkan Night gatherings in Portland as possible. I host and perform with many touring Balkan bands (mostly from the Bay Area). I host a monthly dance event and our live band plays a mix of belly dance and Balkan music. I come down to The Bay Area several times a year to visit, and sometimes play with, musicians in the Balkan community here.
Number of times at Balkan camp: Yes, this was my first time at camp.
Experience at camp: The teaching staff was incredible! I loved how they worked together and with the students to weave such a beautiful tapestry of music and dance, friendship and knowledge. I loved the family-friendly atmosphere, and the gorgeous natural settings in which to absorb all the unique and genuine teachings. I learned so much and am eternally grateful.
Aside from that, my ONE moment that surprised/touched me, I suppose, was just seeing the children so welcomed, cared for by everyone, and included in many of the activities, even the evening parties. It really gave me a lot of joy seeing their learning in action, seeing them participate and absorb all of this rich culture in this loving, active, not so “mainstream” community. It’s important for the perpetuation of not just this style of music and dance, but also of the love and appreciation for large community gatherings filled with live music played by actual hands and mouths, and group circle dancing with sometimes challenging steps that everyone learns and loves—men and women, old and young, holding hands. I appreciate that this family-oriented atmosphere was directly working on keeping traditions alive outside of our technology-heavy world, making sure we don’t get lost from such an important, quintessential human way of celebration. I don’t see it much these days . . . true all-ages celebrations where everyone is genuinely thrilled to be there. It was very inspiring.
Location: Pittsburgh, Pa.
Occupation: I am a full-time undergraduate student at the University in Pittsburgh majoring in music and anthropology. After earning my bachelor’s degree, I hope to enroll in graduate school in order to study Romani music and culture.
Connection to Balkan music/dance: I play the trombone and mandolin in the University of Pittsburgh Carpathian Ensemble, which is not limited to the Carpathian Mountains but also counts pieces from countries all over Eastern Europe (including the Balkans!) in its repertoire. Beyond this, my studies of Romani culture intersect with Balkan music very often.
Number of times at Balkan camp: This was my first time attending the camp, but it will certainly not be my last!
Memorable moment at camp: There were so many unforgettable moments, from performing with Čoček Nation, the Trans-Carpathian Ensemble, and Michael Ginsburg’s brass band as part of Carol Silverman’s Romani singing class, to simply picking up the Balkan dance styles from following along at each night’s event. I don’t think I met a single person that was at all unwelcoming and was not obviously passionate about Balkan music and culture. Time and time again, the teaching staff revealed themselves to be some of the greatest teachers I’ve ever had.
One specific experience that comes to mind took place at the kafana on the final night of camp. I was outside by the grill enjoying the music, when my tambura teacher, Bill Cope, noticed me and handed me a baglama. Although I had never heard of this instrument, Bill insisted that I play along with the group and briefly went over the basics with me. For the next hour or two I followed along while Bill would give me a sporadic tip, and gradually I became comfortable with an instrument I had never even touched prior to that night. It was a great time and I feel as though this experience captures the incredibly friendly and approachable attitude of the camp’s teaching staff.
Location: Astoria (Queens), N.Y.
Occupation: Administrative Director of Clinical Program at New York Law School; clinics provide opportunities for upper-level law students to learn about law by practicing it! Our clients typically are indigent or otherwise cannot afford legal services. The resulting educational experience for our students is priceless. I work closely with our faculty and staff to create a dynamic learning environment for our students while providing quality service to our clients.
Connection to Balkan music/dance: I recently began teaching Greek dance to small groups and in private lessons. I’m still developing my website, but you can visit www.wellermovement.com to dance with me. I am a member of the Greek American Folklore Society performing group and also take classes with Traditional Movement and drop in on occasion at Folk Dance Fridays (Laura [Pannaman] and Emily [Cohen]). Last year was my first Golden Festival, which led me to camp this year, and just as you all said I would be, now I’m hooked!
Number of times at Balkan camp: First time at camp.
Experience at camp: Balkan Camp was the most wonderful string of moments I could ever imagine happening all in one week. I interacted with many wonderful people, so there are many wonderful stories that I could share, from bonding with Cabin 18 (the best cabin ever!), to killing my feet Pontic dancing in flip-flops (big mistake), to an epic Girls with Drums blender band (IzreyalaAaAa), to going cross-eyed figuring out which santouri string I was supposed to hit (there’s like a million of them), to finding someone at any time of day to practice violin with on a random front porch (or tree stump). I have rewritten this paragraph so many times; how can I truly express the joy this week brought me?
Maybe it was the moment I realized I needed some time to myself. I decided to take a kayak and paddle out to the middle of the lake. I began to hum some of the songs we learned earlier in the week and then found myself belting them out. In these beautiful open surroundings, breathing in the fresh air, I took some time to reflect and meditate. I remembered how afraid I was at first to come to camp, not knowing anyone, and not knowing what this experience would bring. I realized how welcomed I felt by every camp “veteran” I met, how patient the teachers were with every wrong note I hit, how excited I could make someone else feel, just by helping them catch up and join in a dance. I laughed aloud at myself and decided to go back to all those wonderful people I was so grateful for. Thanks, EEFC, for reminding me that I feel like my truest self while I am back on the dance floor.