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.
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.
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.