In 2019 our community sent 25 individuals on scholarship to the summer Balkan Music & Dance Workshops—the most recent in-person camps. Scholarship types included the EEFC's Dick Crum/Kef Scholarship, the Stefni Agin Scholarship and the Lillie Cooper Scholarship.
In this issue we feature about half of the recipients, with the balance to appear in our next issue. See below for reports from Mendocino scholarship recipients Lou Carrig, Nicholas Dudler, Katherine Laliotis, Kyle Nowak, Willa Roberts, and Andrew Snyder; and Iroquois Spring recipients Joshua Greenberg, Peter Hess, Nicole Hoffschneider, Katy Kondrat, Indira Skorić, and Aaron "Ernie" Williams.
To learn about applying for a scholarship for a future Workshop, visit the Scholarships page on the EEFC website.
Occupation: Most of my work revolves around music. I perform regularly with multiple groups, lead bands, organize events, teach lessons, and do some sound engineering work. Additionally, I work part-time at a local apothecary as a clinical herbalist, working with clients, teaching classes about herbalism, and managing the tincture department of a local herb shop here in New Orleans.
Connection to Balkan music/dance: Most of the groups I perform with are Balkan-focused. I play accordion and sing in the band Blato Zlato. I direct a women’s polyphonic choir called Trendafilka. I play trumpet with a couple of brass bands, mostly around Mardi Gras, that incorporate some Balkan tunes into their repertoire, and I play accordion with a couple of Yiddish and klezmer groups. In an average week, the majority of my evenings are booked with gigs and rehearsals centering on Eastern European music.
Number of times at Balkan camp: I’ve been to Balkan camp a few times now: my first experience was at Mendocino in 2012, then Iroquois Springs in 2017, and now Mendocino in 2019. My first camp experience in 2012 really influenced the path that my musicianship has taken today, and it was really special to revisit the same community seven years later with a lot more experience under my belt!
Studied at camp: I’m always looking to learn something new at camp; I try to push myself to learn a new instrument or style I might not otherwise have exposure to. It’s an incredibly special opportunity to have access to bilingual teachers who are rooted in Balkan traditions, and I try to take advantage of that at camp. Since I already sing and play accordion professionally back home, I’ve spent the last two camp experiences pushing myself to learn to play gajda!
Like many people in this community, I was hugely influenced by Vassil Bebelekov when I first met him: if it weren’t for his warmth, humor, and pouring rakija into my coffee every morning class, I don’t think I would have ever gotten into Bulgarian music. When I signed up for camp in 2017, it was with the express purpose of studying gajda with Vassil, but fate had it that I missed him by a couple weeks. In his stead, Susan Anderson took me under her wing for the week like a fairy gajda godmother. She sat by my side all week and encouraged and nagged as necessary. She even lent me a gajda of hers for the year. Still, I slacked. It’s hard to be an adult beginner! This year, Ivan Varimezov’s patience, understanding, and humor really helped me have a breakthrough with the instrument. I think at this point I owe it to all three of my teachers to stick with it throughout the year.
Memorable moment at camp: I arrived at camp with a vocal injury that had occurred the previous week on tour with my band, which thwarted my plans to participate in singing classes. Aware that teachers often get inundated with personal problems and questions outside of class, I wanted to be respectful of their free time and hesitated to approach any of them with my problem, yet I was pretty freaked out as I had three more weeks of tour coming up—in Bulgaria, no less. Toward the end of the week I worked up the nerve to ask Tzvetanka [Varimezova] if she could spare a minute. I described to her what I was experiencing and how I wouldn’t be able to see a specialist as I was flying to Bulgaria the day after camp. Her response was one of full concern and empathy, and she immediately gave me her address and phone number in Bulgaria, as she was also flying to Sofia at the end of the week, and made me promise to meet up with her as she emphatically wanted to help me find a doctor.
True to her word, Tzvetanka showed up at my apartment her first morning home in Sofia, took me to the hospital, and searched the entire complex relentlessly for the throat specialist famous for his work with many well-known vocalists. When we finally found the office we were greeted warmly by the doctor with “Ahhh! Tzvetanka! I haven’t seen you in 20 years! Welcome back! What can I do for you?” Tzvetanka negotiated and translated through the entire examination—no easy feat when it comes to medical terminology!—and we were out of there quickly with a diagnosis, prescription, and a very low fee. I was so grateful and honored that the very woman who so generously taught me how to find my voice many years ago at Balkan camp took her responsibility as a mentor so seriously as to carry it not only beyond the classroom, but halfway across the world!
Location: I am from San Diego, Calif., and currently live in Walla Walla, Wash.
Occupation: I am a student at Whitman College, studying physics and astronomy. I also work as a photographer on campus, and I work in a clothing store on the weekends.
Connection to Balkan music/dance: I listen to a lot of Balkan music in my everyday life, and help organize a yearly concert on campus that brings together people who play traditional music from around the world.
Number of times at Balkan camp: This was my first time!
Studied at camp: I didn’t really have a main focus at camp. I wanted to learn something new, which I succeeded in doing by taking the Greek rebetika ensemble class and learning the baglamas. I also was able to work on my skills in Greek singing, which I have been doing my whole life.
Memorable moment at camp: What really struck me about camp was the sense of community that develops over the course of the week. From my past experience, I have found individual groups of people who have roots in the Balkan region to be very close-knit, almost exclusive communities. The sharing of cultural knowledge that happens at camp was unlike any experience I’ve had before, and created a camaraderie and sense of community between everyone at camp. It was very touching to witness the sharing of passions between people and watch the group of people who were at first strangers to me become like a family.
Location: I divide my time between Ashland, Ore., and Sebastopol, Calif.
Occupation: Currently I am a student, do editing work and commercial beekeeping, and make music.
Connection to Balkan music/dance: I was blessed to attend a Waldorf high school in Sonoma County, Calif. There, I took several years of Romani music ensemble, playing mandolin and guitar. I have recently immersed myself into a rich new period of appreciation and learning of Balkan music and dance. I attend Sunday Balkan music and folk dance jams in Talent, Ore.; weekly practice sessions with a Balkan band of skilled local musicians; take oud lessons; in the past year have attended several West Coast folk dance/Balkan music gatherings for the first time; and have entered an exciting new era of learning on my main instrument, the mandolin. I am just beginning my journey into the infinite beautiful world of folk music. I listen and discover new Balkan, Eastern European, klezmer, Turkish and Middle Eastern music every day. I am particularly interested in Macedonian and Bulgarian music, mastering odd rhythms, Turkish makam theory, studying the Turkish/Armenian/Greek oud tradition, and continuing to study mandolin and the new musical frontiers that particular instrument can be taken to. I have compiled a large, organized collection of Balkan sheet music, re-learned how to read music notation, and learned many songs.
Number of times at Balkan camp: 2019 was my first time at camp. It was such a valuable experience. Balkan camp reoriented my musical worldview and changed the way I approach practicing and learning music.
Studied at camp: I brought my mandolin, Turkish oud, doumbek and Macedonian tapan to camp. I also borrowed a Macedonian tambura and fell in love with that instrument. I sampled many different classes, and regularly attended Macedonian tambura, Macedonian village ensemble, makam theory, and Christos Govetas’ improvisation theory. I also was able to absorb more Balkan dances, both in classes and the nightly concerts.
Memorable moment at camp: The entire experience of Balkan camp was magical and invigorating. I was completely blown away by the amount of talented, experienced and dedicated students and masters of Balkan music gathered at camp. I spent each night up into the early morning hours sipping ouzo, watching, listening and absorbing the incredible kafana performances. I recorded frequently, hoping to take back some of the songs with me to study and re-live the magic.
The culminating Macedonian village ensemble performance was a fusion of Adam Good and Mark Levy’s classes. Deep in a dark forest far from civilization, we gathered in the center of the old wooden dance hall on the final evening of camp. Tapans began to rumble and thunder, gajdas and kavals rose to a wailing unison. Smiling and laughing alongside new friends, we vigorously strummed our tamburas as 100 dancers encircled us, stepping in unison to the entrancing music.
Occupation: I am a performing and touring musician (mainly singer, as well as violinist), and I teach singing and music privately at the United World College and other schools. I am also a studio musician and have worked in several independent recording projects in recent years.
Connection to Balkan music/dance: I make and teach music every day as a musician and a teacher of music. My specialty (and the majority of what I teach) is Balkan, as well as Turkish and Ukrainian vocal music, expanding out from there. I teach vocal technique as well.
I work to not only create music which speaks to people, as well as an opportunity for vocalists to access and support their unique voices, but also to create a community built around music and dance in my home state of New Mexico and beyond. I’ve been delighted (and almost surprised) by what an appetite there is for music from this part of the world in Santa Fe, and there is a growing “scene” here, much of which involves projects in which I participate. I am also still active in my New York trio, Black Sea Hotel. We are in the midst of creating our next album as I write. I travel to NYC five or six times a year to work intensively and tour with them.
I am a member of:
Black Sea Hotel Balkan vocal trio (NYC-based): blackseahotelusa.com
I am the director of Sevda Choir (Santa Fe-based mixed choir singing vocal music from Eastern European, the Black Sea, the Mediterranean, and beyond): facebook.com/SevdaChoir/
EVET (Santa Fe-based band which plays music of the Balkans, Turkey, Greece, the Arabic world): evetmusic.com
Rumelia Collective (Santa Fe-based Balkan quartet): rumeliacollective.org
Zozulka (Ukrainian vocal trio): zozulka.bandcamp.com
Number of times at Balkan camp: My first time at camp was in 2003. That was Mendocino. In 2005, I moved to New York City, but came back to the West Coast camp in 2007. After that, I attended the East Coast camp several times. I returned to New Mexico in 2014, and had my child in 2016, so hadn’t been able to attend camp until this last summer. It was a delight to be back!
Studied at camp: My main focus is always vocal. I sing Bulgarian and Macedonian music, as well as other styles, professionally in several ensembles, and camp has been instrumental in the development of a variety of styles for me over the years. I take every vocal class that I can, particularly Tzvetanka’s Bulgarian, Christos’ Greek, and Merita’s Albanian. I try very hard to make a space for violin as well, but it doesn’t always work with the packed schedule. This year I also got to take the one-time “Dance for Musicians” class [with Michael Ginsburg]. That was really fun.
Memorable moment at camp: I had the honor and delight to be part of an auction item which was that singers from various ensembles including Kitka, Yale Slavic Chorus, Sevda Choir, and others, would band together and sing beloved choral pieces for the lamb roast line as it went by. It was so meaningful, and fun, to finally have the chance to sing with (and get to know better) all of these great singers. I felt really connected to people from all over the place. And, my heart overflowed to have the opportunity to share this thing that I love so dearly, and that is at the center of my existence, with the community, with my teachers, with friends. This is what I’m talking about when I say building community—the music connects people with each other so directly, there’s a real power for goodness in that, and that really feels like my sustenance in this world. I know it sounds obvious, but it makes my heart sing, in the truest sense.
(Photo: Sam English)
Location: I live in Oakland, CA and I have lived in the Bay Area since 2010.
Occupation: In 2018, I finished a Ph.D. at UC Berkeley in ethnomusicology, focusing on brass bands around the world, and my dissertation was specifically focused on the brass band scene of Rio de Janeiro, where there is actually a Balkan brass band (GoEast Orkestar) that visited Guča. Last year, I taught introductory classes to musics of the world in the Conservatory of Music at the University of the Pacific, and this year I will teach a similar class at the University of California, Davis. My experience at camp certainly will enrich my curriculum!
Connection to Balkan music/dance: I am a trumpet player in the Bay Area Balkan brass band Fanfare Zambaleta (https://www.fanfarezambaleta.com/). I play and sit in regularly in San Francisco’s weekly Balkan Sundays night, and in 2013-14, I played the Bay Area’s other Balkan brass band, Inspector Gadje. I am also a co-founder of San Francisco’s Mission Delirium Brass Band, which plays music from all over the world including the Balkans and toured in 2019 to Hungary, Croatia, and Slovenia (http://www.missiondelirium.com/).
Number of times at Balkan camp: This was my first time at camp. It was a blast!
Studied at camp: I focused on classes that I believed would improve my abilities on Balkan trumpet, including ornamentation, maqam theory, and brass band. I also dabbled in the improvisation, dance, and singing classes.
Memorable moment at camp: It was amazing to witness the high level of dancing and the dance knowledge of the community. As someone often playing rŭčenitsas, čočeks and pravos for people with much less awareness, it was very gratifying to see how quickly dancers recognized the rhythms of the dances and joined in. It was especially impactful to play with Fanfare Zambaleta in the center of the dance hall while the dancers circled around us. While I had been somewhat steeped in Balkan brass music before camp, the week in Mendocino broadened my awareness and abilities in folk dance and gave me a much deeper appreciation of and perspective on the music I play in other settings.
Location: I currently live in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
Occupation: I am a luthier specializing in jazz manouche guitars and banjos. I am also a working musician playing in a few bands around town.
Connection to Balkan music/dance: Balkan music is a large interest for me so I am always studying and trying to learn what I can about it. I play guitar in a small brass band that plays tunes from all over the Balkans and Eastern Europe. I also play bouzouki in a rebetika band called Quebetiko. Greek music is what I’m mostly involved in these days. Any time there is an event concerning Balkan music or dance here in Montreal, I try to make it or to participate anyway I can.
Number of times at Balkan camp: This was my second year at Iroquois Springs. I had gone to Mendocino once before. And I hope to go for many more years!
Studied at camp: At this camp I was taking the Greek violin class and Greek ensemble with my oud. Also Adam’s makam class. That was the focus this year because the oud is new for me and I want to focus more on that. I would love to see an oud class or a rebetiko class at Balkan camp. I also enjoyed [Raif Hyseni’s] Albanian ensemble and danced as much as I could in the night.
Memorable moment at camp: One experience that moved me was Beth [Cohen]’s “private” Turkish concert for the auction. I really love that music! The way the bass, oud and violin all sync up on the same melody is so powerful. It being in that small dance studio and played acoustically was all the more special.
Occupation: I’m a professional musician. I perform all over the world with the Philip Glass Ensemble, Slavic Soul Party!, Barbez, Asphalt Orchestra and many other groups. I play on Broadway and am frequently a studio musician. Additionally, I have a small studio where I produce my own recordings, as well as winds and strings sessions for records, television and film.
Connection to Balkan music/dance: I play Balkan music (to the best of my ability) with Slavic Soul Party! and Mountain Lions regularly, nearly always in social settings (though often concert settings too) . . . in clubs, and a couple times a year for Balkan dance instruction (which is some of my favorite music making!). I attend as many concerts as I can, too. I’m constantly listening, learning, practicing new repertoire and digging deeper into the woodwind traditions and styles.
Number of times at Balkan camp: First time! But I hope to see you this coming summer, with both my girls this time.
Studied at camp: I took 5 slots at camp: both of Sal Mamudoski’s classes, Catherine Foster’s brass band, zurla with Milo [Destanovski] and Jessica, [Ruiz] and maqam with Adam Good.
Memorable moment at camp: The porch jams of Sal, Seido Salifoski and Mensur Hatić were completely incredible: it was some of the greatest music I’ve ever heard anywhere. Standing in the rain, completely transfixed and astonished, and completely bewildered that I had the good fortune to be there at that moment. Close second: the magical lunchtime concert by Eva Salina and Peter Stan . . . a similar feeling, that if life had led me here, I may have done something right.
Occupation: Full-time dancer performing five nights a week in the Bay Area (www.nicolemariadance.com)
Connection to Balkan music/dance: I perform often with live music—Arabic, Moroccan, Greek, Turkish, Roma, Persian, and Balkan brass! My favorite music to dance to is Balkan brass music and as a solo dancer, sometimes I choose to fuse styles when I perform with local bands (like Inspector Gadje or Istanbul Connection). As somebody who studied anthropology and ethnomusicology, I do care about preserving culture and knowing what I am fusing, so I came to Balkan camp on the East Coast to learn more about the music and traditions that I’m interested in, as well as learn more of the dances. (www.nicolemariadance.com)
Number of times at Balkan camp: This was my first time at East Coast camp! I have been to Mendocino once in the past.
Studied at camp: Dance! I especially enjoyed the Greek, Macedonian, and Albanian dance classes.
Memorable moment at camp: I was really moved by the presentation on Čoček Nation’s trip to the Balkans in the weeks prior to camp. It’s so important for people who are interested in this music and dance to get over there and study in person. I have yet to do this myself, but I know I will one day and that presentation helped inspire me to want to get over there sooner. I could really feel in the presentation how it was a life-changing experience for everybody who got to go on this trip and why it’s important to “JUST DO IT!” and get over there to learn, experience, soak in the culture and also support the artists and families whose music we love so much. It was also moving to see this trip being led by members of Zlatne Uste and leaders in our local Balkan (American) community, passing on their connections and information to the next generation. I loved every moment of this presentation and it made me feel really good about the connections we have with different families and communities in the Balkans. Plus, I know when I go visit the Balkans I can reach out to my EEFC and Balkan camp community for connections to make the trip extra special!
Location: Kingston, N.Y.
Occupation: I’m the Manager of the Kingston Farmers Market, and founder and councilmember of the Kingston Food Coop.
Connection to Balkan music/dance: I play in a Balkan band! Max’s New Hat is an electro-Balkan band that puts a funky spin on songs from throughout the Balkans and beyond, including Macedonia, Albania, Bulgaria and Turkey.
Number of times at Balkan camp: This was my first full week at camp! I came the last two years for a day—and last year my daughter, Magnolia, came with me for a day. We both fell in love and decided as we were driving away that we would come for a whole week this year. We are so glad we did!
Studied at camp: I mainly took singing classes - with Mensur Hatić, Merita Halili and Eva Salina I also did Bulgarian dance (first period, a great way to start the day!) with Petur Iliev. Magnolia was in kids’ camp, and played doumbek in the kids’ ensemble. She also picked up the violin during camp, and is now taking violin lessons in anticipation of camp next year!
Memorable moment at camp: It’s so hard to pick just one! As a parent, I loved that the children (Magnolia is 7) could be so independent at camp. They ran free, got themselves to and from their classes, and everyone looked out for each others’ children. It really contributed to the feeling of community and gave new appreciation for the saying, “it takes a village.”
As a musician, I was so honored to spend time with, learn from, and perform with some of the great teachers in Balkan music. I loved walking across the field after dinner and stopping by the porches of the new friends I’d made for a chat, a Turkish coffee, or to hear them play in some newly formed ensemble. The sense of community is unparalleled!
Magnolia says: “It was really cool to see the older kids playing their instruments!”
Location: I mostly reside in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Occupation: I work part-time as an adjunct professor at CUNY/Guttman and KBCC (Kingsborough Community College). I also work as a fundraiser/organizer for community organizations on the East Coast, as well as in the Western Balkans. My mom used to say that my job is one of “mahalača” (Bosnian word for a woman who knows everyone’s secrets) in all New York, as I’ve lived and worked in all boroughs and Vermont since 1994. My work life has not changed much from the time I lived Montenegro, Serbia and Bosnia.
Connection to Balkan music/dance: I attend a lot of performances of my musician friends and (adopted) family gatherings. It’s safe to say that it’s part of my daily routine. There is an ad-hoc Rakunci chorus that I coordinate with immigrants and refugees from all parts of my former motherland. The other day, we went to sing with a woman who was opening a new practice, or if there is a “Balkan bash” or some public event we go as a group. I recall a time that Emerson Hawley and Marian Eines (Zlatne Uste) used to come to my “naški” language class, so instead of a traditional class on grammar, I simply would come up with a line from songs, books or poetry or jokes. Frame drum classes with Polly Tapia Ferber (Skype), Seido Salifoski, and most recently singing with Tamara, are a very special treat! I also perform with the PGG Brass Band with activist musicians at public events.
Number of times at Balkan camp: My son actually asked me to take part in a traditional music class in 2012. He has been learning bass for a few years, but has expressed a desire to “help me” by learning in a setting with other American youth. Since then, we have both been hooked to a wonderful community of East Coast camp friends. It’s a delightful week!
Studied at camp: I really like all singing classes. Merita Halili (Albanian singing) is a huge inspiration as well Polly Tapia Ferber (doumbek); they are both fabulous teachers. I also tried many other classes, but this scholarship year gave me more time to take a zurla class with Jessica Ruiz and Milo Destanovski. Rena Karyofyllidou takes dancing to a spiritual level with a smile and an open heart that is transcending to youth and adults alike. All the singing teachers are really wonderful and have encouraged me to sing and play, so I’m more confident as a singer and performer, not just behind a closed “avlija” door (“avlija” is a courtyard from the Ottoman era with tall walls to protect women and children).
Memorable moment at camp: Impossible to talk about ONE! so here are three:
a) Every night there is legendary singing, jamming and dancing in front of the Haticś’ cabin (Bosnian singing teacher Mensur and his wife Mediha) with Seido Salifoski, Sal Mamudoski, Raif Hyseni, and this year particularly to learn belly dancing moves with Nicole Hoffschneider. Plus special “coffee cup” fortune readings. This year a special “baby shower” was held at this infamous venue.
b) The band “Novi Hitovi” at kafana was totally a treat; but everything that goes on at kafana stays in kafana, so I will not share.
c) This year Polly and I had an earnest conversation on the “cultural appropriation” topic and the state of current affairs in our community and globally, which was a continuum of a long thread from the EEFC listserv. We understand that many people have shied away from political topics for many years. But we live in a different era. We share a feeling that people have an opportunity and a privilege to hold important, lively, heartfelt dialogs in a safe place like camp, and to indentify who they are in this conversation so that they can build on what has been going on. To paraphrase the Dalai Lama: “As long as people play the kinds of music and dance which have spiritual meaning, it could change ethnicities or religions or borders or continents from its original groups, but it remains spiritual to people who practice and pay respect and give credit to their cultures.” We all agreed that is not “cultural appropriation” but a syncretic thing in the best possible way, like the Mediterranean cultures have had for many centuries.
I would like to add: I am so very grateful to the Scholarship Committee, participants and teachers alike who have created an environment for all of us to thrive and dive deep into our creative and authentic selves. Life at camp cannot be compared to any other. I am so very grateful.
Location: Gainesville, Fla., with plans to move in the next year. [Ed. note: As this issue goes to press, Ernie is living in Tromsø, Norway.]
Occupation: I just resigned as 3D and Emerging Technology Services Manager at the Marston Science Library of the University of Florida to open my time up for more art and music making. In the next year I am illustrating/animating an educational video series on data stories and biodiversity, touring my doom-metal sousaphone audiovisual performance Energy Extraction, and collaborating with Control Group Productions in Denver, Colo. on an immersive theatre production title. http://www.ernieroby.com
Connection to Balkan music/dance: I perform with my band, byPassers, who take a lot of influence from Balkan philosophies in sonic space. The love whom I share my life with is from Bojnane, Serbia, where her father still lives on their farm. I also have a relationship with the choir Planina based in Colorado, whom I traveled and performed with in Bulgaria in 2018.
Number of times at Balkan camp: This (2019) was my fourth year attending the EEFC Balkan Music & Dance Workshop.
Studied at camp: I always come ready to be a part of the tuba crew. However, this year I also explored baritone in Catherine Foster’s trumpet class, learning more melodic and ornamental techniques. My main focus, though, is always on the overall community. I come to camp expecting to build and share fun experiences.
Memorable moment at camp: Seeing the youth band return from their summer Balkan adventure was by far the most interesting and inspiring part of camp for me this year. Not only the development of musicianship on their part, but also the deepening of their bonds with each other and the community. I felt that they brought a really fierce energy to camp this year.
Bringing the tuba bath back to the people was a very important actualization that needed to be actualized. This year, we did it in the camp swimming pool. I have been in a lot of, let’s say—unconventional—places with a sousaphone before, but waist-deep in a pool was new to me.