2018 Scholarship Recipients

In 2018 our community was honored to award scholarships to 25 individuals for the summer Balkan Music & Dance Workshops. Scholarship types included the EEFC’s Dick Crum/Kef Scholarship and the Vassil Bebelekov, Stefni Agin and Lillie Cooper scholarships. Scroll down to read their reports.

Mendocino: Sevi Bayraktar, Nathan Bernacki, William (Billy) Giaquinto, Kat Kinnick, Jonathan Kipp, Shireen Nabatian, George Parisis, Katheryn Petersen, Char Rothschild, Willo Sertain, Derek Shaw and Kira Weiss. (Nicholas Caputo was awarded a scholarship but was not available for a report.)

Iroquois Springs:  Nicholas Athanasatos, John David Eriksen, Ani Garaventa, Nada Khodlova, Ariane Morin, Terra Nonack, Hinako Sato, Matthew Schreiber, Tin Skorić and Emrah Yilgen. Timea Kasa was awarded a scholarship but was not able to attend camp; Karla Garza was awarded a scholarship but was not available for a report.

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

Sevi Bayraktar

Location: Los Angeles, Calif., and Istanbul, Turkey

Occupation: I’m a Ph.D. candidate in culture and performance at UCLA’s Department of World Arts and Cultures/Dance (formerly Dance Ethnology).

Connection to Balkan music/dance: I'm a professional dancer specializing in traditional dances of Asia Minor, Turkish Roma, and Flamenco. Parts of my work and dance research can be seen on my blog, www.terraroman.com

Number of times at Balkan camp: One.

Studied at camp: I have learned new instruments like tapan, practiced singing Albanian songs and I joined almost all dance classes as my main focus. I enjoyed everything that I newly practiced in the camp and these new experiences surely fed my artistic approach and practice.

Memorable moment at camp: The camp was a fantastic experience in its entirety. Living for a week in a beautiful natural forest with no internet was tough yet emancipatory.

Sevi Bayraktar

Because this was my first time in the camp, I did not know many people before I arrived; however, from day 0 (I mean, even before the camp started, the days during which I was trying to figure out how to go to the camp) until the very last day campers were extremely accommodating, helpful and friendly. Their kind and humble being provided a neophyte camper with the warmest environment, besides the fire set every night outside of the kitchen.

One thing that I would not forget is the deer family accompanying our drum classes and everyday life in the camp. This lovely family composed of parents and little deer kids were very curious about our studies in the camp and showing up particularly in tapan and doumbek classes. It was delightful watching them as they came and went. Their elegance, curiosity and unity as a family were sparking inspiration.

 


Nathan Bernacki with Ivan Varimezov

Location: Blagoevgrad, Bulgaria.

Occupation: I am a student at the American University in Bulgaria. I came here because I want to learn Bulgarian music. Outside of school I am studying with some players from the Pirin Ensemble. I also have a teacher in Sofia at the National Folk Ensemble.

Connection to Balkan music/dance during the year: There are not too many music-related events in Blagoevgrad. I go see the Pirin Ensemble when they perform and have been to a few mehanas [taverns with folk decorations and sometimes folk music]. It’s not like Balkan camp where there are parties with folk music every day. In Plovdiv things are little more musically active, but it is four hours away by bus. I have been to a few events in Plovdiv and Sofia.

Number of times at Balkan camp: Five years.

Studied at camp: Gudulka. I didn’t go to the gudulka classes because the teacher there was using the same materials that my teacher developed, so I asked him for private lessons in his free time. We did that every day.

Memorable moment at camp: Playing a kafana set with Eleni and Bobby Govetas, Nick Maroussis and Benji [Rifati]. That was probably the thing that stuck out to me. Most the time I don’t get to play with people my age. I grew up in Durham, N.C., and my mother was a folk dancer, and I’ve always been surrounded by people significantly older than me. Playing with talented people close to my age, like those guys, it brought a different feeling that I hadn’t had before. It was really satisfying.


William (Billy) Giaquinto

Location: Santa Fe, N.M.

Occupation: I work as a general music teacher for grades K-6 as well as a freelance trumpet player and vocalist.

Connection to Balkan music/dance: I currently perform with the Sevda Choir run by Willa Roberts. I also have recently started a Balkan brass band in Santa Fe with Char Rothschild.

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

Studied at camp: My main focus at dance was trumpet playing in the brass band and studying with Nizo Alimov.

William (Billy) Giaquinto

Memorable moment at camp: This year I had learned enough material to be able to play a bit in the kafana for a large brass band jam. It was an incredible experience to take what I had been working on throughout the year since my first camp experience and apply it to collective music making. The feedback was positive and I felt embraced by my new family. I was encouraged and elated. This was the night that I felt as if I had solidified my newfound relationship to the music and the wonderful brass musicians in the EEFC community. Because of these new deep connections forged by the experience, I am already planning and looking forward to next year’s camp.


Kat Kinnick

Location: Santa Fe, N.M.

Occupation: I work at an art gallery and also teach art to preschoolers once a week

Connection to Balkan music/dance: I’m a member of Sevda Choir. We’re a group of about 14 people and meet every Sunday from 4 to 6. We’ve had several concerts since our group formed about three years ago and mostly perform at the San Miguel Mission in Santa Fe.

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

Studied at camp: Serbian singing with Svetlana Spajić and Albanian singing with Merita Halili.

Memorable moment at camp: One scene or experience?! There are so many! Possibly my favorite was after our Serbian singing class performed, a few people came up to me and said, “Wow, I had never heard you sing before. You sounded great!” I felt so grateful that this time around at camp, I became more a part of the creative community and my singing was heard and seen by others who loved it!

There were moments in Svetlana’s class which still stick with me. One time she stopped me mid-singing, and told me to move around the space to become more comfortable, take a few seconds if I need it, look at a fellow singer in the choir for information (aka Bluetooth transmission as she would call it, we had just learned the songs and weren't using notation), and then trust that I knew what to sing and do it! It was a powerful experience. One of the takeaways was realizing that the most important thing for a voice to come across as authentic, is to be grounded, connected to the place and especially connected to the other people you are singing with, and singing for.

I LOVED camp. There were so many wonderful, creative and supportive people.


Jonathan Kipp (photo: Biz Hertzberg)

Location: Arcata, Calif.

Occupation: Musician/Carpenter/Handyman

Connection to Balkan music/dance: I play in the accordion duo Balkan Bellows with Linnea Mandell, and the Macedonian village ensemble Muglagrad with Linnea, Craig Kurumada and Randy Carrico. We usually gig once or twice a month, both to sit-down audiences and to dancers.

I recently did some gigs on tupan and doumbek with the Bay-Area group Arcana, with the likes of Greg Jenkins and Joey Friedman.

I have begun teaching a beginning doumbek class in Arcata that is growing!

I have been the stage manager for Kolo Festival in San Francisco. I have played with the international dance band Chubritza at Veselo Festival in Eugene, OR; and at the Tamburitza Extravaganza in LA.

In the last couple years I have spent every free moment of my life practicing accordion, tupan and doumbek, and learning Balkan languages.

Number of times at Balkan camp: I have been to camp three years.

Studied at camp: My focus this year was all things accordion.

Jonathan Kipp (photo: Biz Hertzberg)

Memorable moment at camp: By far the best thing that happened to me at camp was when Milen Slavov took me aside one day and had me play a little for him. He told me my biggest weaknesses, and charged me with working them out by next year. I can think of no greater gift (aside from a new accordion).


Shireen Nabatian

Location: Vancouver, B.C.

Occupation: I am a full-time music student! It’s the best thing ever!

Connection to Balkan music/dance: I sing and play violin with Zlatna Mountain. Our repertoire is mostly Macedonian. I also play occasionally with Grupa Dunbarov, the Vancouver Balkan folk dance band that Kate and Erika Gerson started over 20 years ago.

Number of times at Balkan camp: 2018 was my 6th year.

Studied at camp: I always take a mix of violin, singing and ensemble classes. Whenever Jessaiah [Zuré] is teaching I try to squeeze in a couple of her classes too.

Memorable moment at camp: I passed a lot of milestones this year: leading my own kafana set, singing with the brass band in the dance hall a couple times; and I helped out with the auction, which was way more rewarding than one might expect.

I also collaborated with a couple very special people I met for the first time this year. Finding new music buddies at camp is like discovering treasure. Those moments of open-hearted sharing are so very precious, and for me I think that’s what making music is all about.


George Parisis

Location: Hayward, Calif.

Occupation: Teaching Credential Candidate at Cal State East Bay and Middle School Science Teacher

Connection to Balkan music/dance: I have been involved with Greek folk dance from a young age—performing at local festivals as well as the national Greek folk dance and choral competition known as FDF. As a college student, my involvement with Greek dance continued when I prepared a youth group for FDF. Furthermore, I have played the Cretan laouto and mandolin for over 10 years now, performing at FDF and various other occasions throughout the year. In the near future, I plan on learning to play the askomantoura (bagpipe).

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

Studied at camp: Since I arrived at camp later in the week, I was not able to regularly attend a specific workshop.

Memorable moment at camp: The entire experience was overwhelmingly inspiring. The vast amount and diversity in musical abilities and types surely broaden my scope. Being surrounded by so many wonderful people and soaking in the music played by so many talented musicians was so inspiring.


Katheryn Petersen

Location: Vancouver, B.C.

Occupation: I am a professional musician, plus I work several part-time jobs to fill in the blank in my income stream.

Connection to Balkan music/dance: I perform with several groups that have varying levels of Balkan content:

http://www.balkanshmalkan.com/

https://www.facebook.com/somethingaboutreptiles/

https://teapotinthetuba.wordpress.com/

Number of times at Balkan camp: This was my first

Katheryn Petersen

year.

Studied at camp: Accordion and voice.

Memorable moment at camp:

Practicing with the Albanian orchestra ensemble in the woods

Sleeping in the beautiful old historic cabins

Deep conversations with new friends over beautiful food

The campfire late at night with impromptu music by the uber-talented teenager/young adult players

Becoming hypnotized by the power of the circle dancing at night

The kafana.

I took this photo to document the accordions that I collected and fixed over the past two years. The bulk of those accordions were destined for donation to a music program that I ran over the past year through St. James Music Academy (which serves disadvantaged families and youth in the east side of Vancouver). At one point there were 16 accordions in my small apartment (not all are showing in the photo). My boyfriend and I were literally tripping over accordions! I am currently back down to my four core instruments plus two that I am fixing for sale and one that is a “trick accordion” that I kitted out to be able to use on stage for the emergence of a monkey puppet.


Char Rothschild

Location: Santa Fe, N.M.

Occupation: I teach music K-6 at Turquoise Trail Charter School, and perform in a few bands around Santa Fe.

Connection to Balkan music/dance:  I play with the band EVET with Polly Ferber, Melinda Russial, Paul Brown, Willa Roberts and Nick Kunz. Last summer, after Mendocino, Billy Giaquinto and I started playing in a small brass band in Santa Fe also, which we call Korvin Orkestar.

Number of times at Balkan camp: I first came in 1999. It was a year that Esma Redžepova brought her band.

Studied at camp: Instruments—Thracian and Rhodope gajda, Macedonian Roma trumpet with Nizo Alimov; and Albanian accordion with Raif Hyseni.

Memorable moment at camp: I was very touched to be able to be included in the Rhodope set with the Gajda Mafia. It was the first time I had been to camp since Vassil Bebelekov passed away, and we had a little circle for him. I was struck by the spirit of playfulness that continues in his memory. I worked hard to learn the melodies at Mendo, and now continue to work on learning the intricate ornaments of the kaba gajda. Thanks to Craig [Kurumada] I was able to purchase one and bring it home!


Willo Sertain

Location: Portland, Ore.

Occupation: Full-time musician

Connection to Balkan music/dance:  A lot of the Balkan music I have learned over the years I have been able to integrate into current working repertoire with my band Three for Silver. We mostly focus on original composition, but my style of writing and playing is heavily influenced by traditional world folk music. We have recorded a few of these traditional pieces on past albums and plan to do the same on our next album (release date set for Jan 2019).

Before Three for Silver I worked with the band The Underscore Orkestra for eight years. The focus with this ensemble was primarily traditional folk music of Eastern Europe and the Balkans as well as klezmer and swing manouche. There are links to their music on SoundCloud via www.theunderscoreorkestra.com.

Balkan music has played a major role in collaborations I have done with many musicians around the world, in professional settings and casual.

Most recently I have been able to integrate my love for learning and performing Balkan music with the U.S. Embassy Arts Envoy Program, a U.S. State Department cultural promotion program through the Media Relations Department, and the Portland–Khabarovsk Sister City Association. With these programs I have been able to perform in official settings for city officials, in classroom settings for music students in grades ranging from elementary to high school seniors, in college auditoriums, as well as in more typical music venues, and in doing so demonstrate how the integration of folk music with original contemporary composition helps to preserve the relevancy of musical heritage in today’s professional music scene.

Number of times at Balkan camp: My first year at camp was in 2007. I was not able to return until this past year.

Studied at camp: My main focus was accordion and vocal technique.

Memorable moment at camp: For me there were many moments at camp that left a strong impression. I'm not sure how best to single any one of them out. I will say that at the time I was going through a really difficult moment in life, experiencing a lot of doubt about my career path as a musician and was feeling a lot of heartache. The interactions I had, the conversations, the insight and encouragement I received, all of this was immensely validating. And inspiring.

One of the most memorable and joyful moments was being present from start to finish for Raif [Hyseni] and Svetlana [Spajić]'s spontaneous performance at the smokers’ table on the night of Raif's birthday. That was pure joy. It's amazing to me the extent of these teachers’ repertoire, that they can pull songs out of each other's heads and play for two hours straight with barely a break between songs. They all know so much, it's just incredible.


Derek Shaw

Location: Eureka, Calif.

Occupation: I teach part time at Humboldt State University, in Sociology and Politics.

Connection to Balkan music/dance: I am involved with Balkan music in a couple of ways. For the past couple of years I have been attending the Balkan meet-up hosted by Craig Kurumada and Linnea Mandell in Arcata, Calif. Craig and Linnea generously host this meet-up to introduce and teach Balkan folk songs to interested musicians and singers. When their teaching meet-up is not happening, I host a weekly Balkan meet-up in a yurt in my backyard. I also occasionally play with a local group called The EthniKs. This group plays mostly Balkan folk songs and once every couple of months we play for the local folk dance group. There is a pretty consistent group of local musicians who are interested in Balkan music and so I hope to continue to play with and learn from them.

Number of times at Balkan camp: This was my second time at Balkan camp and I definitely plan to keep coming if at all possible. This past year was marked by some financial disasters for me, so it was very helpful to have a scholarship to Balkan camp. I hope to be in a position to pay my way next year.

Studied at camp: My main focus at camp this year was Macedonian tambura and the Greek strings and rebetika groups. I also play Bulgarian tambura and I intend to take classes in that at future camps. I am also interested in drumming and singing classes, and possibly other instruments, if I have the time.

Memorable moment at camp: The opportunity to play in ensembles for dancers is really a highlight of Balkan camp, especially because there are so many enthusiastic and talented dancers and musicians. But I have to say that for me the most amazing part of camp is the sing-alongs. Particularly the one led by Michele [Simon] and also the one led by Christos [Govetas]. Perhaps is the simplicity of people singing together, or the intensity of the camp experience, although more likely it is the combination of these along with the pure beauty of the songs that make the group sings so moving. Michele is an excellent song leader. She divides the group into parts for harmonies or diatonic parts and with so many voices the room resonates with sound like a rung bell. Bringing those songs to life through our singing is the heart of Balkan camp for me.


Kira Weiss

Location: Goleta, Calif.

Occupation: I am a first-year graduate student in ethnomusicology at UC Santa Barbara.

Connection to Balkan music/dance: I’ve been playing in a Balkan music meet-up group this year led by Chubritza members Linnea Mandell and Craig Kurumada. Once a month, musicians and dancers unite for a night of Balkan music and dance in Arcata!

Number of times at Balkan camp: This was my first time at camp. But most certainly not my last. Studied at camp: Gudulka and Bulgarian music in general.

Memorable moment at camp: I was impressed by people’s willingness to step outside their comfort zones and into their alter egos. Everyone was encouraged to try everything. Musicians could dance. Dancers could pick up an instrument. Gudulka players could even try their hand at Albanian music! It took me an embarrassingly long time to realize that the same Ruth Hunter of Dromeno doubled as the diva lead singer of The Fetatones. But when I put two and two together, it made complete sense: Balkan camp is a place for experimentation, more importantly, FUN! As a first-time camper, I felt instantly at home because of this supportive and fun-loving environment.


Nicholas Athanasatos

Location: Tarpon Springs, Fla.

Occupation:  Student of microbiology at the University of South Florida

Connection to Balkan music/dance: I am part of Levendia Greek Folk Dance Group of Saint Nicholas Cathedral in Tarpon Springs, where I co-direct the high school/college group. I also now have six students for Greek folk violin as part of the Greek Folk Music Ministry I started last year.

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

Studied at camp: My main focus was on learning a greater repertoire with the violin, as well as increasing my ability to play it. I also branched out with the gajda this year.

Memorable moment at camp: It is highly difficult to choose just one experience, but something that felt different this year was my kafana experience. If one stays up late enough, they are able to experience all the great performances that take place in the kafana, as well as enjoy the fun and relaxed environment. The environment this year especially felt like I was back in a taverna in Greece.


John David Eriksen

Location: Gainesville, Fla.

Occupation: Professional musician and music teacher and software developer.

Connection to Balkan music/dance: I am working on putting together a Balkan brass band. Our first songs will be a few of the songs I learned in Eva Salina's Romani singing class. I also play the davul in non-Balkan settings but I do get a lot of questions about it and let people know of its origins and connections to music in Turkey and the Balkans. I am also learning Turkish makam, integrating concepts from Christos Govetas’ improvisation class and Adam Good's makam theory class. I have been performing Rast taksim at my weekly cello solo gig. I perform regularly for a yoga class at Flow Space in Gainesville, Florida.

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

Studied at camp: I wanted to focus on using the upright bass in as many ensembles as I could but I could not find a good setting for it. Ultimately I ended up playing Macedonian tambura more. I prioritized taking Eva Salina's class because I enjoy her teaching.

Memorable moment at camp: This was my first year traveling without friends from my hometown and I was afraid that I would feel lonely. However, I had made so many connections at camp the previous years that I actually felt quite connected, welcomed and included.


Ani Garaventa

Location: Oakland, Calif.

Occupation: Restaurant

Connection to Balkan music/dance: I’m from Bulgaria, so I grew up immersed in Balkan music and culture. There are also a lot of Balkan music events in the Bay Area so there are lots of opportunities for me to be around live music and dancing.

Number of times at Balkan camp: This was my second time at East Coast camp. I am a lifetime West Coaster.

Studied at camp: My main focus was to play the trumpet, which I did in Nizo Alimov’s class. I also didn’t know until getting to camp that the Bulgarians did a class for youth teaching the traditional Bulgarian instruments, which I went to. It was a really amazing class to be a part of.

Memorable moment at camp: One really cool thing that East Coast camp does that Mendocino doesn't, is the grill. On any given night there would be spontaneous music and things that happened. One night there was a rebetika jam, which was awesome, and the blender bands were super fun to see. (I didn’t even know this was a thing.)

A lot of nights I found myself bouncing back and forth from inside the kafana to the grill.

Another really cool experience was listening and dancing to Zlatne Uste and Nizo Alimov in the dance hall. I came to learn trumpet, and to see him with the rest of the band playing live was really amazing.


Nada Khodlova

Location:  Beacon, N.Y.

Occupation: Dance/Movement Psychotherapist; Herbalist

Connection to Balkan music/dance: I facilitate Women's Ritual dance circles, Sacred Circle dance circles where I include Balkan music and circle dance. www.thedancingweb.com

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

Studied at camp: Dance was my main focus—all types, with interest in singing, too.

Memorable moment at camp: I had many scenes and experiences that touched me and deeply impressed me:

Dancing a pravo during the second night of camp; two young girls were comfortably dancing freely in the middle as we spiraled in and out. They were dressed in their finest, happy and confident in their bodies and with each other. The lead was then given to a teenage girl who shyly, yet comfortably, took it. A few people down from me was a young woman on the autism spectrum who squealed on and off in pure joy and delight.Next to me, I was holding hands with my dancing “sister” Gwyn [Peterdi] and I was so struck by how perfect the world seemed at that moment; if only our world could be held and led like this by girls, by women, by those in touch with pure delight, who sensed and understood the safety, freedom, joy and power of a spiraling dance circle. May this manifest 1000-fold.

During the first few days I felt waves of touching and being a dream. It was a dream I don't remember dreaming or felt I had dreamt a long time ago...maybe my ancestors’ dream? It wasn't an extraordinary dream but one that held an extraordinary feeling of comfort and content. A dream of arriving into a reality of home that I never have experienced before.

A heavy rain fell as I comfortably lounged on our porch hammock. Next door Christos [Govetas] and some of his students were playing Greek music. My dear friend Indira [Skorić] brought me a glass of wine. The sound of rain, the delicious playing next door. What bliss!

Going to sleep and waking to not thoughts in my head but music that had become a part of me.


Ariane Morin

Location: Montreal, Quebec

Occupation: I am working (at least trying to!) as a professional musician.

Connection to Balkan music/dance: I am an active saxophonist specializing in Balkan and Turkish music (and Klezmer). I have a few projects, my main ones being the Turkish-Bulgarian creative duo IHTIMANSKA and a Turkish trio/quartet LOTI.

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

Studied at camp: I was mostly taking instrumental class in my fields such as Bulgarian clarinet, Greek improvisation, brass band ensemble and Bulgarian kaval. But I explored some new ones as well, where I would drop in for a day with Bulgarian singing, Greek singing and tapan.

Memorable moment at camp: I was mostly impressed by the presence of so many passionate dancers, unlike other camps that are more focused on music. That was bringing a new depth and whole new experience to the music we were learning. And a great opportunity to do a few dances steps during the evenings made me definitely grow much more as a musician. I was also impressed by the advanced level of the attendees, some of them were absolutely amazing and it was great to be surrounded overall by so many inspiring musicians and dancers.


Terra Nonack

Location: I currently reside in Pittsburgh, Pa., in Manchester's North Side neighborhood.

Occupation: I have been taking care of my little ones at home for the past few years and in that time have re-immersed myself back into Eastern European folk music, particularly the tamburitzans.

Connection to Balkan music/dance: I grew up in a tamburitzans group in Southwestern Pa. and we focused on only Croatian music and dance. I was always very passionate about my heritage, the music, and folklore associate with it, but I also chose to do a lot of traveling later in life, not necessarily related to my Eastern European roots, and had stepped away from the music for several years for personal reasons. I am now in my second year as Assistant Music Director for the Trafford Junior Tamburitzans. We perform songs, music and dance from all of Eastern Europe, not only Croatia, and I knew I had a lot of catching up to do (and still do). My inspiration for wanting to attend Balkan camp this year was to expand and build my musical knowledge of all things Balkan and to bring that back to the kids I teach and the community I live in. Our group practices weekly and we perform several shows and venues throughout the year. We do our best to keep music and dance as close to original as possible, while injecting our own creativity.

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

Studied at camp: Coming into camp, I wanted to keep my options open as far as choosing classes. I wanted to get a well-rounded experience in dancing, singing and instruments, since our tamburitzans group does all three. I found myself being very attracted to the sounds that were coming from the Greek ensemble, so I jumped in with my tamburitza (prim). I also gravitated toward Albanian singing and makam theory, but also found myself sitting in on improvisation classes, Albanian dance, and more, and I loved it all. However, I would say I mostly focused on playing music.

Memorable moment at camp: After having some time to reflect on my experience, a few key moments stand out for me. Being invited to play with the tamburitza orchestra for the sing-along was special. I grew up with many of these old-time songs, listening to my grandpap and his friends play music on his porch while they drank his homemade moonshine. I had a strong feeling of nostalgia and pride at camp playing these songs; being one of the only members of my family keeping these traditions alive, it was a tear-jerking moment for me. Another fantastic moment was the Greek ensemble student performance. Again, being part of something bigger than myself, hearing the ensemble together and people dancing around and everyone enjoying themselves, is just a wonderful feeling. So many times at camp, I felt a sense of overwhelming happiness in being a part of it all. I was humbled to the core and could not have ever dreamed up the experiences I had there. A sincere THANK YOU to everyone at EEFC who makes Balkan camp possible and such a huge success.


Hinako Sato

Location: Boston, Mass.

Occupation: I'm a multi-instrumentalist (primarily keyboard instruments) mainly working as a performer, piano accompanist, session musician, educator and events coordinator/curator.

Connection to Balkan music/dance: I have been a pianist for an international vocal ensemble called Women of the World, with whom I play various traditional and folkloric music from around the world, which naturally includes some pieces from the Balkan region. I have been playing with a couple of Turkish music groups in town. Now learning Balkan-style accordion, makam theory, and in the process of acquiring a gajda...

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

Studied at camp: To try and learn how to play Thracian Gajda, and to learn the Balkan-style accordion.

Memorable moment at camp: The euphoric feeling I got whenever I was dancing in circles while cheering for awesome music or whenever I was surrounded with new and amazing friends and teachers sharing so many laughter and delicious food/drinks, I will remember and carry with me dearly going forward. I am sincerely grateful to have found this incredible community of people with common threads!


Matthew Schreiber

Location:  Rhinecliff, N.Y.

Occupation: I am a musician and doctoral student in ethnomusicology at the City University of New York.

Connection to Balkan music/dance: I play Balkan music with musicians in the Greater NYC area and in the Hudson Valley, where I live. I usually update my website with performances: matthewschreiber.net

Number of times at Balkan camp: This was my fourth time at Balkan camp since I first came in 2010.

Studied at camp: This year I focused on the oud and makam-based music.

Memorable moment at camp: I hope he doesn't mind me relaying this story, but in Christos Govetas' Greek singing class, he played the group a recording of a song at the end of class as people were packing up. It was about a shepherd whose sheep were roaming the hills but he was nowhere to be seen. As Christos described the meaning of the lyrics and revealed that the sheep were roaming the hills because the shepherd had died, he started to tear up, overwhelmed with emotion. That was a striking moment because it showed how deeply he feels the music and how important he felt it was to share that song with us. What a gift to be able to learn from musicians with not only an amazing sense of craft, but an intense emotional commitment to the music.


Tin Skorić

Location: New York, N.Y.

Occupation: I attend Brooklyn Technical High School, N.Y., as a student.

Connection to Balkan music/dance:  I come from a Balkan immigrant, ethnically and religiously mixed family. My dad’s family is from Livno, Bosnia; Slavonia; Vojvodina; and Romania; on my mom's side I'm Albanian, Bosniak and Montenegrin. I’m proud of my diverse background, and like to talk with my peers about it. Mostly, people like to hear how this complexity enriches melodies, dances and people. So, generally, Balkan music and dancing is just a part of my life. My relatives are scattered around the world, so I don’t really get to see them often, although everyone plays or sings. But they are very far from NYC. People, peers and other campers are now a newly found family that likes my culture and heritage.

I am indebted to you for making it possible to study in classes, with lifelong friends, my age, experienced musicians and fabulous performers who are so kind and generous with their time. This year, I went to Kafana to volunteer, and to take part.

Tin Skorić

Number of times at Balkan camp: My first year at Balkan camp was in 2012 and I have been coming regularly part-time. Thank you so very much for making it possible for me to attend a full week of making Balkans music. It means the world to my family.

Studied at camp: My main focus to study at the camp was a Balkan, ethno-folk-orchestral-jazz as double bass player (8 years). I had a great time learning Greek dancing with Rena [Karyofyllidou], Serbian singing with Ljuba [Živkov], Bosnian singing with Mensur [Hatić], performed with Albanian ensemble, supported my friends in Čoček Nation, and learning to play doumbek in Polly [Tapia Ferber]’s class with friends from my cabin. I got to listen to famous musicians play, like, 24/7. Also, I met Melinda Russial, who kindly talked to me at length. Now, I check out some of those videos, and can hardly believe.

Tin Skorić

Memorable moment at camp: One of my most touching experiences at the camp, just like in years prior was, how kind and welcoming everyone was. Adam Good, Seido Salifoski, Merita Halili and other big-time musicians remembered my name. For instance, I was the youngest in the Albanian ensemble with director Raif Hyseni, and, early on I was a little nervous, especially in regard to my improvisation. I’m very grateful to Joe [Blumenthal], Raif, my peers who have helped me immensely over time, and thanks to the help and support of others in the group, I was able to play with confidence. It was exhilarating to perform with so many friends and musicians I now feel as my family. See you soon at the camp. In January, at the Golden Fest, I will play again with the same friends.

Tin Skorić


Emrah Yilgen

Location: Rutherford, N.J.

Occupation:  I am a student. I actually have a music composition degree in classical music as well as Turkish traditional music; now I am studying in preparation for adding another profession: computer science. I teach music part time: piano and saxophone. Sometimes I do promotional work.

Connection to Balkan music/dance: I always listened to Turkish and some Balkan music as a kid, but I’m trained in saxophone—classical and jazz. Now I attend as many Balkan music events as I can and I play with Raif Hyseni’s Balkan-Albanian student ensemble at Montclair State University. We just learned that we will have the opportunity to play in Kosova this summer! I also play with Matt Moran’s band that is mainly saxophones and drum, Mountain Lions.

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

Studied at camp: I studied mostly improvisation. I attended Adam Good’s makam  theory class. I knew the makams but hadn’t applied them to sax until recently. I also took Christos [Govetas’s] improvisation class; it was very helpful. I took Raif’s Albanian/Kosovar ensemble. I attended a couple of Nizo [Alimov]’s trumpet classes and brass band ensemble on other days.

Emrah Yilgen

Memorable moment at camp: I was struck by the people—how amazing they are, how welcoming, how helpful—despite their being so different ethnically and religiously and all that. Even though I’m from Turkey, before I attended the camp, my views about other cultures . . .  I knew about them, but as a Turkish person, we had a lot of issues with Bulgarians, Greeks, so many wars between us. When I first attended the camp, I thought that Greek people would be hanging out with Greek people, Bulgarian people with Bulgarian people, and so on. It was not like that at all. Also, that first night I didn’t have a blanket and on the second day, literally at least five people said, “You got cold last night. I’m going to get you a blanket.” That changed me in the way I think about life. It was a life-changing experience.

Iroquois Springs 2017: Tin Skorić (Cocek Nation Scholarship)

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.

Iroquois Springs 2017: Dawn Wullschleger (Lillie Cooper Scholarship)

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!

Iroquois Springs 2017: Chad Brown

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.

Iroquois Springs 2017: Nicholas Caputo

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.

Iroquois Springs 2017: Paula Douglass

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!

Iroquois Springs 2017: Gala Xiuhcóatl

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.

Iroquois Springs 2017: Cathy Inouye

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.

Iroquois Springs 2017: Matt Moran

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.

Iroquois Springs 2017: Jessie Rothwell

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.