Pittsburgh folk group venture to Meadville – The Campus

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The Tamburitzans perform at the Academy Theater on Chestnut St.

For a long time America has been dubbed the “Great Melting Pot,” a nickname that has gone out of fashion in recent years, implying that all unique and diverse cultures are assimilated into each other and completely lost. These cultures are still preserved by multiple organizations and cultural groups such as the Tamburitzans, a group of Pennsylvania students who preserve and share their culture through music and dance.

The Tamburitzans began in 1937 as a collaboration between musicians Matt L. Gouze, Frank Gouze and Anthony Antoncic as well as Dr. A. Lester Pierce, who found Eastern European folk music fascinating and negotiated scholarships for three young men to form the “St. Trio Thomas Tamburitza.

In love with the city of Pittsburgh’s cultural diversity, the trio have entered into a similar scholarship agreement with Duquesne University in the form of The Tamburitzans of Duquesne University.

“In 2015 we split up and became our own non-profit organization and it was really because we were looking to advance (our) mission in a number of ways that Duquesne wasn’t really trying to do at the time. “said Alyssa Bushunow, executive. director of the ensemble and former Tamburitzan herself. “Duquesne really helped us get started and start our own thing. Since our departure, we have been able to continue our mission, which we call a three-pronged mission: scholarship, performance and tradition. At the core, we are really a scholarship program.

The group accepts members from colleges and universities across Pennsylvania, but many artists are registered students in the Pittsburgh area because their practices require a locality. They occur nationwide, with an average year seeing them visit around 35 states. Bushunow explained that they can be found anywhere “from New York to California”.

“They live on the bus and all bring their own stuff for the performances,” said Paul Hladio, a former Tamburitzan who still assists the group. “The bus is packed with instruments, costumes and props, and they bring it all themselves.”

The Tamburitzans are all college students, so they follow this performance schedule in addition to their already busy college career. Most of the group continue to study at Duquesne University, but since the ensemble became independent, more students from other colleges – such as the Community College of Allegheny County and the University of Pittsburgh – have joined. joints.

The group offers scholarships to all of its performers, which makes the experience interesting beyond the preservation and sharing of culture and tradition. In fact, this point is one of the things that has remained constant throughout the long history of the organization.

The performance of the Tamburitzan features different international cultures, mainly from Eastern Europe, such as Georgia, Serbia and Croatia. The performances are incredibly dynamic and authentic, with the songs being sung in their native languages ​​and with traditional instruments, called tambura, played in tandem with common orchestral instruments, such as cello, clarinet, violin and bass. bass guitar.

“Really, the performance has changed a lot,” said Bushunow. “We have electronic instruments on the show now, you will see that the lighting we have is very high tech, the sound equipment we have is state of the art, so the performance continues to evolve. I will say that the things that have remained the same is that we started as a scholarship program to put people in school who otherwise wouldn’t have the means to do so and we are very proud that it is still our main mission. Like I said all the students are interpreters and you know I can speak as an interpreter myself it would have been very difficult if not impossible for me to go to school and live there experience that I lived without being Tamburitzan.

In order to maintain the authenticity of the traditions and cultures they honor, the group has choreographers and instructors who teach them the performances during a 22-day intensive camp over the summer.

“Last year we were at Bethany College in West Virginia, and that’s where we learned our whole show,” said Courtney Mireles, performer and stage manager for the group. “So in 22 days we learned the 11 different sets that make up the entire two and a half hour performance. We start at eight in the morning and end sometimes at 11 at night, then we do it every day for 22 days and we leave for our first touring camp. This is where we do all of our first performances to really practice and get the shows under our belt. And then during the school year, as we have classes during the week, we only have rehearsals on Friday evening, on Friday evening we are there around 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. and then we have our Saturdays and Sundays blocked in case we have shows… and then we do a few more tours throughout the year.

Over the past eight decades, and despite changes in the spectacle, the Tamburitzans have managed to captivate audiences and deliver exceptional performances wherever they share their talents. If you missed them the last time they were in Meadville, be sure to catch them the next time they are in town, you won’t regret it.

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