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Scholarship Recipients

Mendocino 2016: Blythe Brooks

By Blythe Brooks, Spring 2017
Blythe Brooks

Blythe Brooks

Location: Santa Fe, N.M.

Occupation: Full-time student at Santa Fe University of Art and Design.

Connection to Balkan music/dance: Growing up, I didn’t understand my roots with the music for a long time, until I met Polly [Tapia Ferber] and was in the Balkan ensemble [at the university], but my mom used to belly dance, and I realized she exposed me to a lot of Balkan, Turkish, Armenian and other music.

Number of times at Balkan camp: This was the first, and it was amazing.

Studied at camp: I primarily studied trumpet and Bulgarian singing. I was in the brass band ensemble.

Memorable moment at camp: One night I was standing around in the dance hall and this woman just grabbed me and pulled me into a fast circle dance. It was insane, she was teaching me on the spot and we were running around in circles, doing the dance. At the beginning of the week, I was watching my feet all the time. But then there came a point when I learned not to look at my feet while I was dancing; when I looked up and saw everyone’s faces, I saw expressions of peace and joy on them. It struck me that this was really the purpose of dance—unifying people. It honestly felt kind of meditative.

Also, watching the teachers and musicians play, I was honestly overwhelmed every night. I couldn’t go to bed until everyone had finished playing; I didn’t want to miss any of it because I was in such awe at the musicians and their abilities. They seemed so effortless and natural; of course, they’d all been through a long process of learning. After I would hear my teachers play, I felt like “How do I even talk to you anymore? You’re so incredible!”

During the day when you’re running around, going to all the classes, you’re losing your mind, trying to learn all this music and theory. In the evening, you would see the music in context, you were immersed in it. I have never had such an amazing learning experience. I absorbed so much, and it has really changed the way I learn and play music.

© 2014 East European Folklife Center