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.