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Six-Month Update from Executive Director, Jay House Samios

Six wonderful months have passed since I began as executive director for the EEFC! What an amazing experience thus far, full of meetings with new people, putting faces to names long-seen on the listserv, and learning about the truly incredible contributions made by so many. As a great number of you know, I have been lucky to visit both Chicago and Seattle for their local Balkan festivals, as well as to spend time in both the NYC and the SF Bay areas (I currently split my time between Queens and San Jose). Any time I am at a Balkan event, I am eager to balance my love of dancing with my desire to talk, and more importantly, to listen to your stories.

What have we done in the last six months? Let me briefly summarize for you:

  1. We hired a great administrative team – After going through a rigorous search process and speaking to candidates from around the United States, I was so pleased to welcome Rachel MacFarlane back to the EEFC as a staff person in February. Holding the title of workshop manager, Rachel brings her deep knowledge of the community and Balkan culture, as well as a certain tirelessness required to make “camp” happen; Traci Speed transitioned last fall from a temporary role as the EEFC’s office manager to a permanent position as administrative assistant, dealing with all the EEFC’s daily bookkeeping, donation processing, workshop registration, and web edits, among other things. Traci’s scope of work is increasing, and her efforts are essential to keeping the organization running. I am so glad to be working with these talented and dedicated people.
  2. We published a second edition of Forum Folkloristika – If you haven’t read it yet, please take a few minutes to check it out. The EEFC has received high praise from the Alliance for California Traditional Arts for our work on Forum Folkloristika. You can read the current issue here. The first issue is available here.
  3. We are well underway to planning a successful and vibrant 2013 Workshop season – I don’t think a lot has to be said here, other than the fact that Rachel, along with the Program Committee, and our dedicated site managers, Helen Stuart for Mendocino, and Nancy Butowski for Iroquois Springs are working very hard to produce the unique and high-quality Balkan music and dance workshops the EEFC has become known for.
  4. We have improved the EEFC’s books – Driven by the EEFC’s Finance Committee, we have transferred our organizational chart of accounts to a format that is recognized by the IRS and greatly streamlines the process for filing taxes as well as reporting for funders. This is one of those hidden improvements that, while it may not appear to directly benefit the community, it actually allows us to do our jobs better, and also represents a significant step in the direction of building the infrastructure needed to bring more Balkan music and dance to the world.
  5. The EEFC’s Board of Directors has begun the transition from being primarily operational to a body focused on leadership and governance – The Board has cataloged the administrative work they do for the organization, and together we have developed a plan to shift that work to staff. This will allow the board to guide the organization through a significant strategic planning process, as well as new program development, and increased/diversified fundraising. Such a major step places the EEFC  in a position to grow our mission to promote, celebrate, and educate the public about traditional and traditionally based music, dance, and cultures of the Balkans.
  6. I have met with members, Balkan music and dance lovers, and others – Since joining the EEFC, I have spent a considerable amount of time focused on talking with, and really, learning from so many of you. This has happened on the community outreach trips to Seattle, Chicago, the Bay Area, and in New York, not to mention via phone and email. I am always excited to hear from people who have been involved in various capacities in making the work of the EEFC happen. This is, in many ways, the most important thing I can do, and I invite any and all of you to contact me at any time to share your stories. Similarly, I’ve also met with organizations that are aligned in some way with the work we do, and hope to continue that mode of learning as we develop new programs and initiatives.

Always close to my heart is the shared love of Balkan culture—the music and dance specifically—that has such deep importance to us all, and all for such multifaceted reasons. I am delighted to be at the helm of an organization dedicated to sharing the kefi we feel!