Category: EEFC News

Growing Live Music

Musical Mix in a Different Way

In the town of Arcata, California, population 17,000, we have extraordinary good fortune in the availability of live music for our dance community. Yes, we have jazz bands, salsa, Afro-Cuban, bluegrass and Celtic bands playing at coffee shops, dance venues and festivals. But, I’m talking about Balkan music.

Currently, we have a choice of six groups, playing mostly Balkan dance music. This isn’t a new event. In the twenty-five years, I’ve lived here, I can count a dozen groups, from duos to bands of five or six, that have played live Balkan music. One of the main reasons, I believe, is the existence of a community, open-door band: a band nursery, if you will.

It does require a few dedicated leaders. Folks who can be good coaches and organizers. Experienced musicians who can guide a group of mixed-level singers and instrumentalists. But the door is really open. There are no auditions or qualifications. If you want to sing or learn to play an instrument, you are welcome. Sometimes the results can be lopsided. What happens when you get three drummers, a recorder and a ukulele? Also, the mix isn’t just instruments. There are experienced singers and musicians, but not experienced in Balkan music or style. There are folks who have been dancing to Balkan music and know how it sounds but haven’t ever held a folk instrument.

The last two years, Linnea Mandell and yours truly have continued this little outreach. We call it our Balkan Meetup. The formula is a time slot set for 90-minutes. The first thirty minutes is a cappella singing. This includes songs with three or four parts such as choir pieces from Croatia, Serbia and, of course, Bulgarian choir songs made famous by the Les Mystere des Voix Bulgares recordings. But, there is also room for songs with a single melody and drone, which echo a more village-y feel. We’ve been fortunate to have a good mix of voices, so that all parts are covered. A nice by-product of this process is that people who have voices straddling more prescribed ranges of soprano, alto, tenor and bass can experiment and stretch themselves.

The second half-hour is combining instrumental accompaniment to singing. We have a mix of Balkan instruments like gaida, gudulka, kaval and tupan as well as flutes, fiddles, guitars and cellos. Most of these songs are dance music, but not exclusively.

The last 30 minutes is just devoted to instrumental music. The folks who only wish to sing are free to go while the group works on dance music.

The end result is also a mix. There will always be folks who just come to make music with no long-term plans. But, there are also folks who, after getting their taste of Balkan music, want to continue. These folks tend to seek out like-minded colleagues and start play together on a regular basis and build a repertoire. Ta-dah! The beginning of a band or vocal group.

As with any learning group, it can be a longer process and requires patience. But, it really can pay off.

I encourage you to make the investment.

By Craig Kurumada

Volunteer Spotlight: Camille Holmes

Many of you know Camille Holmes, but for those of you who haven’t had the pleasure of making her acquaintance, we’re excited to introduce this friendliest of west coast campers. Camille began her career with the EEFC in 2013 as an intern. She literally wrote the book on volunteering by helping us develop and organize our volunteer manual. Since 2015, she’s served on the Program Committee, and we are so grateful for her spirit and years of dedication!

How did you first discover our Balkan Music & Dance Workshops (Balkan Camp), and what keeps you coming back?

I first came to camp when I was 5 years old. Dragged by my dad the first time, it was the only camp that I ever had to be convinced of going to. Since then I’ve only missed 3 years and look forward to it each year. I keep coming back for the music, the dance, and most of all the community. I love being in nature for a week with such awesome folks, incredible music and dance, learning, and great food!!!

What is one of your favorite memories of Balkan Camp?

One of my favorite memories of camp is that moment when I was a teenager that I realized I could actually figure out some of these dances. That in sync moment when your hands swing in the correct direction with the rest of the group, rather than against the grain. Otherwise, the best memories are with friends and late night music. Drinking endless tea, dancing all night, and the smell of the redwoods.

What inspired you to start volunteering?

I was inspired to start volunteering, because I knew I cared for the EEFC and what they are doing. Camp has given me so much joy over many years, so I fully support the growth of the organization. I want to make sure that others can feel the overpowering joy that camp brings. It feels like a great way to give back and stay involved throughout the year.

Photo by James Hoskins

What has been your proudest moment with the programming committee?

My proudest moment was going to camp after being on the committee for a year. To experience what we as the committee had put together collectively was awesome. After the hours of calls, emails, and discussions, to attend a camp that was hugely successful made me feel proud that we made good choices with the schedules and staff.

What would you tell someone considering attending Balkan Camp for the first time? 

Try new things out of your comfort zone, and keep your toothbrush in your bag. That way you can always brush your teeth on your way home at 4am, rather than needing to stop at your cabin/tent first.

FY2017 Financials – Income & Expenses

The EEFC fiscal 2017 year ended in September. These charts summarize the EEFC’s FY17 operating income and expenses.  Scholarship donations and other restricted income are not included.




EEFC had an operating deficit of $14,030 in FY17. We had budgeted for a deficit of $12,000. We ended the fiscal year with assets of roughly $186,212 compared with $176,000 in FY16. We received scholarship and nest egg donations of approx $33,587- restricted income that is not included in the operating budget until it is awarded.


Prior year FY2016 charts are here. FY2015 charts are here. FY2014 charts are here. FY2010-2013 charts are here. Inner rings have more detailed categories, outer rings are summary categories. Changes in categories are a result of changes in EEFC’s budgeting and accounting procedures. Questions or suggestions can be emailed to the board liaison at

Income chart

  • Operating income includes scholarships awarded in FY17.  Prior to FY15, scholarship awards were included in the Tuition slice. 

Expense chart 

  • Work Exchange and Tuition Waivers are not expenses, they are included in Camp rent & food

Post Balkan Camp Disorder (PBCD)

Symptoms include dry mouth caused by strained vocal chords and slivo shots, increased appetite for garlic-infused anything, and palpitations in ⅞ time. If left untreated, withdrawal symptoms may only last 3-5 days. While not life-threatening, treatment is recommended. Availability of natural remedies may vary depending on your location. The following is how one patient is currently living a fulfilling life with PBCD.

In August of 2013, I spent a week completely focused on intense learning and non-digital socializing, almost completely disconnected from outside work and family responsibilities. I didn’t even know what was going on in the daily news. It was refreshing but also jarring. That week at camp I played violin (which I already played before, but hadn’t touched in a couple of years), had a crash course at playing the santouri, and on my last day at camp fell in love with the tapan. I danced Bulgarian, Greek, Romanian, Serbian, and some form of free-movement bird-like improvisation in the wee hours of the night at the Kafana. The Monday after camp I was back at my desk job, slouching over my computer on an ergonomic chair. Friends asked where I was for a week, and I found it difficult to describe. They seemed genuinely excited and envious of my courage to try something new and step out of my comfort zone. They said they would have loved to do something like that if only they didn’t have to worry about blah, blah, blah. The conversation would veer back to complaints about not ever having enough time to do everything, dreaming of exotic places to travel to, and which bar or restaurant to try out next week. That’s when the symptoms started to sink in.

Step 1: Ask for help. If camp-life is a drug, Emily Cohen is my doctor and my dealer. She encouraged me to attend my first camp, so it was only natural to ask her how else I could stay involved. She had a wealth of knowledge about existing folk dance groups (like Folk Dance Fridays or Central Park dancers), other camps (like World Camp), and community resources. She even let me borrow a great book, Balkan Fascination, which I admit I still have not returned. I also asked my friends at the Greek American Folklore Society for help connecting to local musicians, opportunities to catch more music and dance, and began attending dance sessions more often. I had almost forgotten how important it was for me to have music and dance be a consistent part of my life. Anastasia Tsantes and Vaia Allagianis continue to be my Greek dance mentors and always help me stay involved with the Greek community. You are reading this blog right now because someone introduced you to this community. Who are they and how can they help you stay involved?

Step 2: Choose one treatment at a time. After meeting with my camp doctor, I found that with too many options I was more likely not to do anything. I had to pick one thing to focus. At camp, I had already made a plan to continue taking skype lessons with Beth Bahia Cohen, so I continued with that. While I really enjoyed playing the violin again, I missed the tapan. I decided to make that my focus began attending tapan classes with the Young Bulgarian Voices of New York’s 101 Kaba Gaidi i Tupani. During my first year, my lessons with Ivailo Kuchev inspired me to even buy a drum that he made. It was an investment, but one that solidified my commitment to this new instrument. Even though I do not speak Bulgarian, I found the community very welcoming, and that communication in art transcends words. The drum classes are now taught by the infamous Mersid “Semka” Mustafov and our drum circle feels like a second home. Which instrument, art medium, or community ignited a fire you didn’t know existed? Even if it’s a completely new style, try focusing on that one first.

Step 3: Hair of the dog. I’m so glad that I live in New York City, so that I can easily attend GoldenFest each January. I was able to volunteer in the kitchen my first year in order to offset the cost of the ticket. In following years, I performed with YBVNY and use my guest ticket to introduce my friends and family to this crazy Balkan scene. I recommend you select your signature event at approximately the 6-month mark to tide you over from one camp to the next. If you’re on the west coast, you might want to join Edessa and friends at Ashkenaz for New Year’s Eve. Meanwhile, save up for the next Balkan Camp.  Strategies include stuffing money in a jar every month (I use an old Tsipouro canister), using apps like Digit that stealthily squirrel away money without your noticing, or ask family and friends to “donate” to your camp fund in lieu of physical gifts at holidays and birthdays. How will you get your mid-year fix?

Need an emergency dose of fun? Join me at one of these events.

I hope my writing has not offended those dealing with illness. My involvement in the Balkan community has improved my own wellness, both mentally and physically. This article is light-hearted, but I hope it has touched your heart in some way.


Written by Michelle Tsigaridas Weller 

Photo by Alevrontas

Running Sound at Balkan Camp: Tips and Tricks

It’s evening time at Balkan Camp. I’ve spent all day learning mind-bending new folk melodies and rhythms, socializing and meeting new people, and eating way too many olives and stuffed grape leaves. To top it off, I’ve spent the last 2 hours trying to follow the steps of experienced dancers during the evening’s dance party. The clock is starting to edge toward 11:15. It’s getting late! If it were any other time of the year, I would have long since snuck out to rest and recover in the hopes of having enough energy for the next day. But it’s Balkan Camp, and at 11:30 I have to go set up sound for Kafana!

If you haven’t been to Kafana, Kafana is a place where you can watch music in an intimate setting, drink a little, enjoy ajvar along with other grilled goodies, continue dancing, and watch musicians really cut loose and maybe get a little silly and wild. Before I ran sound at Kafana, it was a place I would (sometimes) go to enjoy myself if I was feeling adventurous. This past summer, though, being at Kafana was my job almost every night. Why? I was the sound engineer.

Running sound is no easy task. You have to plug a dizzying array of microphones, cables, mixers and speakers together without mixing up what goes where. You have to make sure that musicians can hear themselves so that they can play confidently, and you have to make sure that the audience can hear the musicians well. You don’t want to blow people out of the water with sound that is too loud and harsh, or irritate them with sound that is muddy and indistinct. Of course, running sound after you have spent a very full day at camp poses an extra challenge, and at first, I was pretty nervous to take the job, but as the days progressed, I figured out a way to make it work and received such nice feedback (pun not intended) from performers and audiences alike that I was inspired to share my experiences with other adventurous Kafana sound engineers.

The below tips do assume that you have experience with sound gear, but do not assume that you know what the various Balkan instruments are.

  1. Running sound at Kafana is all about speed and efficiency. People will be tired and may be not thinking straight, or they may be in a relaxed partying mood, so it is doubly important to come up with a plan to get performers onto and off the stage quickly and efficiently. Plan with your stage manager (if you have one) for how best to do this. You will also need to figure out ways to support yourself so that you can do your job under quite taxing circumstances.
  2. Every day, test your PA system and all mics before you start running sound. Make sure every mic can be heard in the mains and in the monitors. You never know if someone borrowed a mic stand, mic, or a cable during the day.
  3. Label what mic goes to what channel on your mixer.
  4. Personally talk to the band before they start and figure out what they need. Write it down. Write down what instrument goes to what channel. Consult this chart before you make any sound adjustments since you will be tired, and it will be easy to make mistakes.
  5. Ask the musicians where they’d like their microphones positioned.
  6. Make sure everyone can hear themselves in the monitor before they start. Make sure you can hear every instrument in the mains before they start.
  7. Check in with the band after the first song to make sure they can hear themselves in the monitor. Be paying attention to the band for cues that they need more or less of a specific instrument in their monitor.
  8. Super important: Use as little equalization as possible! But do cut some bass from every channel (except perhaps direct-injected bass guitar or double bass). This creates a natural sound that better approaches unamplified acoustic sound. Use the per-channel level to mix. Avoid the temptation to aggressively boost or cut equalization in the main mix. Again, this creates an unnatural sound. Rely as much as possible on volume controls.
  9. Cut more low end and maybe some mids from instruments with sympathetically resonating strings and/or a skin head such as gadulkas or the yaylı tambur.
  10. Mic the finger holes of clarinets, kavals, or other wind instruments that have finger holes.
  11. Always mic frame drums. Cut some extra low end and mids from frame drums since the microphone proximity effect is especially pronounced with these drums. Try to mic doumbeks if possible. If you don’t mic them then their accent sounds may not be heard in the room. You may not need to send any drum sounds through the monitors.
  12. In a small room you will likely not need to amplify the tapan / davul / daouli. If you do have to amplify it, think of it as a bass drum and snare together in one instrument. Mic both sides of the drum. You may need to cut quite a bit of the low end out of the bass drum side since it is often tuned at a higher pitch than most rock drum bass drums and may sound boomy.
  13. Be listening and available as much as possible. Walk around the room. If folks in the back can’t hear, you may need to boost the overall volume.
  14. Cutting highs should not be necessary except perhaps with violin or kaval. Boosting highs may only be necessary to increase articulation of vocals. These cuts / boosts should be minimal. Again, use the volume controls first.
  15. Lead instruments should sit on top of rhythm instruments in terms of volume level. Lead vocals should sit on top of everything else since lead instruments will frequently harmonize / play unison with lead vocals. If someone is playing primarily a drone or rhythm part, this should sit low in the mix but still be audible.
  16. If you are working with a brass band in a small space you won’t need much sound reinforcement. Do, however, have two wireless mics on hand for a vocalist or for solos.
  17. The zurla is extremely loud and typically doesn’t need any amplification.
  18. Drink a lot of water! Try to get enough sleep (good luck with that!).
  19. Know your alcohol tolerance. I am a lightweight so I don’t drink at all while I run sound. The combination of alcohol with not enough sleep would increase my likelihood of making mistakes.
  20. Wear ear plugs whenever you are not actively listening. Keeping your ears fresh means that you will make better mixing decisions. Once I have a band dialed in, I typically leave my ear plugs in the rest of the time.
  21. Thank musicians after they play. Show musicians your sincere attention while they play. Remember that per
    forming music is an act of emotional vulnerability and that even musicians with decades of experiences get the jitters. Being professional, courteous, and sensitive goes a long way!
  22. Break down all of your gear and wrap all of your cables every night. Safely stow everything. Try to enlist a few unlucky stragglers to help you pack everything up so that you can get to bed as soon as you can!

Running sound at Kafana and being part of the Kafana crew was a great way for me to feel like a valuable part of theBalkan Camp team. It gave me a chance to connect with many of the great musicians and teachers at camp. I left, exhausted and happy, excited to try my hand at running sound again in the future.

Hopefully these tips will make your Kafana sound experience go smoothly! If you have any questions or comments or any tips for me send me an email at


Written by John David Eriksen

Jamming at Camp – Your Opinions Wanted!

We often hear from you that “there’s not enough time at camp to do everything!” We offer more classes and feature more teachers than other camps—which means sometimes people can’t take all the classes they want to. Add talks, dance parties and kafana, and it makes for long days AND nights of music and dance, and sometimes people can’t do everything they want to.

But camp is an opportunity to do more than just the “scheduled” stuff—it’s where people get to make music together in a way most of us don’t get access to the rest of the year—with musicians at all different levels, from all different backgrounds, with different areas of interest and expertise, playing a universe of instruments. And so, not surprisingly, we’ve been asked by campers if there are ways to create more opportunities for jamming, and the board has asked the programming committee to take the lead in finding out ways that can happen.

So that’s why we’re writing to you, to give you a chance to let us know, before we make any changes: how would you want us to respond to the request for more opportunities to jam at camp? Your thoughts and ideas will help us create a response that reflects our community’s diverse perspectives: What options do we have? What is ripe for change? What could be changed? What should not be changed? Who would be involved?

Please use this Google form to share your answers and ideas. We’ll keep the survey open until the end of May 2017. The Program Committee will use your ideas to develop a response, and bring it to the board for their review. We will keep you updated as we move forward. Thank you!

EEFC 2017 Spring Board Meeting Message from the President

Corinna Snyder EEFC board of directors

Corinna Snyder EEFC board of directorsGreetings Friends,

The EEFC Board just held its Spring meeting, and at the meeting I told the Board I would like to step down from my role as President. They accepted my resignation, and asked Melinda Russial, our Vice President, to step in as acting President for the remainder of my term. The board will hold a formal election for the position when the new term begins in September.

I will continue on as a board member, and Melinda will take on the responsibilities of President, which include convening and leading the Board’s monthly calls and twice-yearly two-day meetings, leading the Administrative Committee, which is responsible for the overall operations of the organization, including supervising our staff, and perhaps most importantly, keeping the future in sight, and helping the organization and our community make strategic decisions that will ensure a sustainable future that can deliver on our mission, and achieve our vision, for years to come.

I owe an enormous debt to everyone in our community—past and present campers, members, and financial supporters, past and present board and committee members, full, part—time and contracted staff and teachers, work exchanges and volunteers—who shared with me their hopes and concerns, their suggestions and their cautions, their time and their energy, and their guidance and coaching, during my 5 years in this role. In that time I faced my fair share of difficult decisions, and keenly felt the responsibility inherent in making decisions that would impact our entire community. I needed to hear as much as I could from as many of you as I could, and you came through. Thank you.

Please extend that same generosity to Melinda, who will be at both Mendocino and Iroquois Springs this year, and who I know is looking forward to connecting with as many of you as she can. She brings great experience as an arts administrator, an educator, a musician, and a camper to this interim position, and I know it will serve her well. You can reach out to her via email sent to will go directly to her.

Let me also make a plug for contributing your time and energy to the organization, either as a board or a committee member. I think there is a misconception that the only way to serve on the board or on a committee is to agree to give HUGE amounts of your time and energy, to slog through tedious operational tasks, with little to no return. Untrue! Take a look at this page on the website for more info about joining the board, and this one about committees, and reach out to board members who either chair or sit on those committees to learn more about what they do and how they work.

With gratitude and thanks,

Corinna Škėma Snyder

FY2016 Financials – Income & Expenses

The EEFC closed our 2016 fiscal year in September. These charts summarize the EEFC’s FY16 operating income and expenses.  Scholarship donations and other restricted income are not included.



Our FY16 operating surplus was $4,571. We ended FY16 with assets of roughly $176,000 compared with $160,000 in FY15. We received scholarship and nest egg donations of approx $22,500 – restricted income that is not included in the operating budget until it is awarded.


Prior year FY2015 charts are here. FY2014 charts are here. FY2010-2013 charts are here. Inner rings have more detailed categories, outer rings are summary categories.  Inner ring colors are intended for comparison with prior charts. Changes in categories are a result of changes in EEFC’s budgeting and accounting procedures. Questions or suggestions can be emailed to the board liaison at

Income chart

  • Operating income includes scholarships awarded in FY16.  Prior to FY15, scholarship awards were included in the Tuition slice. 

Expense chart 

  • Work Exchange and Tuition Waivers are not expenses, they are included in Camp rent & food

Spread the Word

EEFC 2017 Flyer 8.5x11

Our community is one of the BEST resources for spreading the word about camp. Besides using those golden opportunities to tell someone face to face how great camp is, sharing our handy flyer is another way to help spread the word. You can also send a note to the EEFC office to request a handful of cards to post or leave around your community.

To download this JPG, double click to open it in a new window, then “right-click and save image as,” or download a PDF. JPGs are easy to post to Facebook and PDFs are usually the best for printing. THANK YOU!

EEFC 2017 Flyer 8.5x11

EEFC 2016 Fall Board Meeting Report


The board met Oct 21 and 22, 2016 in New York City. Corinna, Barbara, Noel, Amy, and Rachel in the room were joined by Elena and new board member Melinda Russial via video conference.  Demetri was not feeling well and was unable to attend.  Thanks to PriceWaterhouseCoopers for donating the airy and well-appointed meeting space convenient to public transportation.

We are thrilled to welcome Melinda Russial to the board.  The meeting was very productive and covered a lot of ground in slightly less than 2 days.

The board unanimously approved the slate of officers for 2017:
President – Corinna Snyder
Vice President – Melinda Russial
Secretary – Noel Kropf
Treasurer – Barbara Uhlemann
Board Members – Elena Erber, Amy Mills, Demetri Tashie

Elena Erber reported that the marketing committee has been meeting regularly, updating the website and posting to social media. The last newsletter was published in June, and a fall newsletter is in the works.  The committee would like to recruit volunteers and get administrative help. Over the next year their big goal is to engage staff to “project manage” marketing, with assistance from volunteers. Elena reported on the committee’s activities and plans in the following areas: Social Media, E-News, Advertising, Promotional materials, Fall fundraising mailing, Merchandise, and onsite promotion (Golden Festival, etc).

Rachel MacFarlane (general manager) reported on east and west coast camps.  Advertising started a little earlier this year than last.  Registration was robust at both workshops.  “Next Generation” meetings at both camps laid groundwork to more inclusion of under-40 folks.  Iroquois Springs (IS/East) camp provided an ideal space to mourn the loss of Vassil Bebelekov, a great musician, friend  and EEFC community stalwart. IS featured several talented Greek-Americans involved with their traditional folk culture, while Mendocino (West) was graced by an outstanding band of Chalgija musicians from Macedonia. The board plans to continue and expand conversations and relationships with advisors from various communities and regions. The board encourages EEFC committees and the community to continue and expand outreach – especially to ethnic communities from the Balkans, and to young people.

Treasurer Barbara Uhlemann, took us through the EEFC’s finances over the course of both days.  We are in very good shape. FY’16 Financial Reports show operating income was slightly larger than expenses, so we ended FY ’16 fully in the black.  Memberships plus donations (excluding scholarships) this year exceeded $55K, a record high.  Scholarship and Nest Egg contributions were over $23K, for total $78K giving. The board decided to consolidate the “Nest Egg” and “Lifetime Membership” funds into a single restricted fund dubbed the endowment fund which totals approx. $100K.  The original purpose of these funds was to generate interest income for operations while retaining the principal, however CDs no longer return 5%. We reviewed investment strategies available for this combined fund and decided to invest it in a mix of no-load equity and bond index funds. The board agreed on a guideline to expend up to 5% of the endowment per year on a case by case basis. The board agreed to shift some scholarship money from Crum/Kef fund to Cocek Nation. The board adopted a budget for FY17.

The program committee reviewed feedback from both camps, including camper evaluations and the “next generation” meetings. There are always lots of good suggestions, and criticisms. The program committee will work with teachers to get more information about classes and instructors, with the goal of posting more detailed class descriptions online. Other suggestions included more free time, more free spaces and jam opportunities, and a kids kafana acoustic space at Mendo. The committee is looking for ways to support mentors and young leaders in our camps, to create contexts for people to connect, and ways to engage new campers.

The scholarship committee was represented by Barbara Uhlemann. The board wishes to have more interaction with the scholarship committee. Melinda will serve on the scholarship committee this year.

Amy Mills reported on The development committee. Linnea Mandel joined the committee last spring. A spring outreach drive contacted 170 people who hadn’t renewed memberships from 2015. We raised a record $20K in scholarships this year.  Membership goal was exceeded at 144%, general unrestricted donations were lower at 73%. The committee has reached out to some potential large donors. Linnea tried bringing the west coast donation store to east coast. The committee has a number of regular fundraising activities planned and initiatives to try out over the coming year.

Corinna and the administration committee are thrilled that Melinda Russial joined the board.  The committee will revisit and reinvigorate our recruitment efforts.  The committee confirms that EEFC bylaws, dated 5/23/2016, were unanimously adopted by the board. These bylaws reflect the EEFC’s current structure and board procedures. We will publish them on the EEFC website and THEY are currently shared here. The board discussed committee chairs and agreed on some goals and responsibilities we would like all committee chairs to take on.

Noel reported that the tech committee has imported all historical data into Salesforce and expects to have the system ready to replace FileMaker in early January.