Iroquois Springs 2019: Katy Kondrat (Stefni Agin Scholarship)

Magnolia and Katy

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!”

Iroquois Springs 2019: Indira Skorić

Indira (right) with her niece, Suzana.

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.

Origin of the EEFC Auctions

Inspired by conversations during Kafana in the 2021 East Coast Virtual Camp, Sandy Ward wanted to follow up by sharing her memory of the way camp auctions began. She had been “in the room where it happened” but until now had not written about this experience. The following is an expanded version of the original that was posted to the EEFC listserv on August 25, 2021.

EEFC Workshop brochure, 1985

It was in July 1985, at Balkan Camp in the Mendocino Woodlands. That camp was at the Camp Two site, further in along the Woodlands road than the site EEFC currently uses, Camp One. I loved the Camp Two site, which was spread out and less hilly, with a bridge over a gentle stream that meandered through camp. There was only ONE lodge, though, which had to double as dance hall and dining room, requiring much moving of tables and benches every day.

If you were there in 1985 you might have witnessed the origin of EEFC auctions, though only a few people attended the very beginning. Mark Levy and Carol Silverman, troubled by the tight finances (debt?) of that camp, announced that they were willing to auction off albums from their personal record collections to raise money to save camp. It seemed a very sad situation . . . but an opportunity for others to acquire some special recordings. Thus, at an appointed time (one afternoon about an hour before dinner), a small group gathered in a corner of the dining room. Women from Carol’s singing classes were the most interested. I was a curious bystander. None of us had any idea how this would go. NONE of us could have guessed the repercussions of this auction offer.


Edging up prices

I remember the early bidding, with women edging the prices up gradually, e.g., 25 cents at a time—intent on getting bargains while securing much-desired Balkan recordings. I think there were only five or ten people present. Then in walked a couple of guys, Atilla Aydin and his buddies. They stood at some distance and randomly called out higher bids, shocking the women, who then proceeded to add 25 cents or so to win back each desired album. Again, the guys outbid them, doubling prices and laughing. Atilla commented at one point that they simply wanted to give back to camp some money they’d won in late-night poker games that week! It was obvious that they didn’t care which items they bought. (And later, I heard, they did give the albums to the women who REALLY wanted them.)

Interrupting this auction process was a spontaneous offer from a member of the kitchen crew. He wanted to help by auctioning a “breakfast in bed” for a future morning. That silly idea was ignored, brushed off as irrelevant to the serious little group bidding for record albums.


A second auction

The record auction did raise money. The total amount was cheerfully announced at dinner to the whole camp, drawing applause. Then the same kitchen crew person tried again. This time he added some theatrics, jumping onto a bench and clanging a metal spoon on a large metal pot or frying pan. “Ladies and gentlemen!” he shouted, as he announced that “the kitchen crew” would be auctioning “Breakfast in Bed for Two!” for Saturday morning. The auction that followed—immediately—was probably aided by the wine bottles on each table (perhaps strategically set there by the kitchen crew?).

What an EXPERIENCE that second auction was! My cheeks hurt afterwards from laughing so hard! I was glad for a break after the hour-long hilarity of the bidding wars for WHO was going to win that breakfast and WHAT would be added to the breakfast service to add value (increasing bids). Early on, someone asked, “Will there be eggs Benedict?” No, the kitchen crew replied: just regular breakfast served to the winner. Someone offered a higher bid IF there would be eggs Benedict. Kitchen crew: “There will be eggs Benedict!” “Will the breakfast be served by the camp director?” (Whispered conferencing with Mark Levy.) Yes! “Will he be wearing a hula skirt?” asked someone else (who probably had such costuming handy). Yes! And so it went, adding many, many details.

Even I, a silent observer, felt moved to contribute. I approached the auctioneer (kitchen crew guy still up on the bench) and whispered that I could take photos of the event. “Souvenir Photographs” were thus added to the enticements.

Melissa Miller dances at the breakfast event, June 1985

“Will there be dancing girls?” elicited strong positive reaction from the crowd, and a flurry of whispered conversations until dancers were confirmed. “Will there be live music?” The crowd erupted with calls for “Zurna! ZURNA!” and pounding of fists on tables! (Really? For BREAKFAST on Saturday morning? Campers typically preferred to sleep late that morning.)

I don’t remember all the folks who bid for this, but I do remember, of course, that Bill Cope won. Good $$$ was raised for camp, and we’d had good fun in the process. It seemed time to resume our scheduled (somewhat delayed) activity for that evening. Oops, not yet . . . . The auctioneer’s voice boomed out again, “Ladies and gentlemen! It has just been announced that Bill Cope does NOT have a date!” That launched a third auction, with a whole cast of characters bidding to be Bill’s date for the Saturday “Breakfast in Bed for Two.”

The suspense in that third auction was terrific. Which lovely young wannabe could outbid the others? I recall that one end of the dining hall was relatively quiet, with few bidders, while the other end, around Bill, was very lively. After a while a surprising new voice (and higher bid) came from the quiet end. Bill Cope stood up, and peered in that direction, straining to discover the bidder. Up stood an older woman, Carolyn Brent, waving a scarf and calling out “Hi Bill!” in a flirtatious manner. Well! None of the younger bidders could match Carolyn’s offer, but they quickly formed an alliance, and after consultation with the auctioneer about rules, became known as The Corporation. (The auctioneer said that Bill’s doctor had been consulted, and had given approval for up to 10.) That changed the game. It became Carolyn vs. The Corporation, and it was quite a show. Balkan Camp was the final winner, of course, with more $$$ donated.

Carolyn Brent, Bill Cope and the eggs Benedict at Bill’s tent, June 1985

I’m still in awe of the way the EEFC community responded, with such creativity and spirit. Definitely saved camp financially, though probably disrupted some activities that had been intended (especially sleeping in Saturday). The Saturday morning event grew, and deserves its own story-telling. I recall watching an anthropologist, or was it an ethnomusicologist? creeping into the scene with recording equipment. (Was that fake or real?) Very early on, I went into the kitchen to offer help carrying items to Bill’s tent, if needed. I happened to overhear a key question from a corner of the kitchen, “How do you make eggs Benedict?” I didn’t stay for the answer. I was eager to return to the scene to watch for the ceremonial parade that would carry Carolyn (on a chaise longue held shoulder high) from her meadow campsite to Bill’s tent. Yes, there were zurnas and dancing girls, as promised. Later, Jerry Duke did impressive bellyrolls, and a young son of one of the campers rolled up his own t-shirt and mimicked Jerry’s rolls (totally surprising his mom). There were many surprises that morning. Lots of fun. A wonderful memory.

I bet many people in the EEFC community have memories of that Saturday scene, and the auctions that led up to it. Perhaps some of you can remember names I’ve forgotten. I did take some photographs. [See] I hope you’ve enjoyed this bit of history.


Sandy Ward has been attending week-long Balkan camps since Sweet’s Mill days in 1974. She began folk dancing in college in the 1960s, and began tapan lessons at Mendocino in 1978, after brief attempts at gaida (1974) and kaval (1975). She now lives in Holyoke, Mass., and looks forward to future EEFC camps.

Hearing Each Other’s Voices

As none of you need to be reminded, it’s been a weird time.

When our most recent issue came out, in June 2019, we didn’t know what the next two and a half years would bring. We found out.

The COVID-19 pandemic brought confusion, fear, loss, isolation, strife, creativity, humor, hope and more confusion to the world. (It did not bring a new issue of this publication . . . until now.)

Among the bright points, in our world of Balkan music and dance:

  • The EEFC’s online workshops and virtual camps, and online courses from organizations and individuals in various countries, allowed folks from anywhere to participate in Balkan music and dance and continue learning throughout the year.
  • Folk dance groups and teachers all over the world made it possible for people to socialize and dance “together” through Zoom.
  • Dancers and musicians from our community and the Balkans turned their creativity to creating performance videos, sharing online concerts and individual pieces that previously would only have been seen in their local communities or at kafana, or would never have been performed at all.

And then there’s individual practice. For me, going nowhere and having zero gigs for several months freed up time and helped me dive deeper into practicing. Some of my musical mates had a similar experience, developing elaborate technique-improvement strategies to amuse and challenge themselves. (Although another friend told me he hadn’t touched his instrument in almost 9 months; it was too depressing.)

Bottom line, though, Balkan music and dance is about community. As the EEFC prepares for a new year with plans for year-round online courses and the possibility of in-person workshops this summer, Kef Times offers another way to hear even more voices from our community.


Iroquois Springs 2019: Aaron “Ernie” Williams

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.

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.

Iroquois Springs 2019: Nicole Hoffschneider (Lillie Cooper Scholarship)

Location: Oakland, Calif.

Occupation: Full-time dancer performing five nights a week in the Bay Area (

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. (

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!

Iroquois Springs 2019: Peter Hess

Location: Brooklyn, N.Y.

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.

Iroquois Springs 2019: Joshua Greenberg

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.

Mendocino 2019: Andrew Snyder

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 ( 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 (

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.

Mendocino 2019: Willa Roberts

Location: Santa Fe, N.M.

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):

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):

EVET (Santa Fe-based band which plays music of the Balkans, Turkey, Greece, the Arabic world):

Rumelia Collective (Santa Fe-based Balkan quartet):

Zozulka (Ukrainian vocal trio):

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)