Since 2002, Orkestar Bez Ime (or-KESS-tar behz EE-meh) has been sharing Balkan and Romany music, culture, dance and history with audiences across the United States. We believe that music is the universal language that brings disparate people together—even when the language is foreign and the music unfamiliar. One of our ongoing goals is to break down the stereotype of the “Gypsy” and replace it with what we have learned about the Romany people while living and studying with them in Serbia in 2012. Each OBI member is deeply devoted to sharing the richness of Balkan and Romany music and culture, encouraging students to learn by listening, doing, imagining, and relating their experiences.
Orkestar Bez Ime has been coached in Bulgarian music by Nikolay Gueorguiev and Nikola Nikolov, formerly of the Bulgarian State Ensemble; in Greek and Macedonian music by ethnomusicologist Jim Stoynoff; and overseas in Romany (“Gypsy”) music by Serbian-based Kal bandleader Dragan Ristić and world-class Amala School instructors including Earth Wheel Sky Band’s Sinan Aćifović, and Kal’s Boris Kostić. OBI has collaborated with Ethnic Dance Theatre, Flying Foot Forum, Kal, Mila Vocal Ensemble, and others. Orkestar Bez Ime is a winner of the 2011-2012 McKnight Artist Fellowships for Performing Musicians and a recipient of a 2012 Minnesota Emerging Composers Award.
Colleen Bertsch (violin, vocals) has bachelor degrees in violin performance and music education, has a masters degree in ethnomusicology, and is currently working on a PhD in ethnomusicology. She was a 2010 and 2013 recipient of an Artist’s Initiative Grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board to support her musical study with village string players in Romania. In addition to teaching music classes at the University of Minnesota and University of Wisconsin, she has also served as Director of Orchestra Programs at Roseville Area High School.
Scott Keever (guitar, mandolin) graduated with a Bachelors of Arts in Music from the University of Minnesota - School of Music, where he studied composition under the guidance of Alex Lubet and Doug Geers. He has written soundtrack music for film, theatre and video performances.
Matt Miller (bass, vocals) studied technique at the University of Minnesota under Chris Brown, Jim Clute and Peter Lloyd. He has performed with the New Music Ensemble, La Crosse Symphony Orchestra, Fargo Moorhead Symphony, Judith Eisner’s Klezmorim, La Orquesta Abandonada, and several other folk groups in the Twin Cities.
Katrina Mundinger (clarinet, saxophone, flute, vocals) received clarinet performance degrees from Northwestern University and Oberlin Conservatory. Her main classical teachers were Lawrence McDonald, Robert Marcellus, and Clark Brody. She has also studied with Bulgarian clarinet virtuoso Ivo Papasov and with Ivan Milev and Gezim Halili. She teaches clarinet at MacPhail Center for Music and maintains her own private studio in Minneapolis and Roseville.
Natalie Nowytski (vocals, percussion) is a first-generation Ukrainian-American who has been studying and performing Eastern European folk music since age 9. She has studied with the Bulgarian State Radio & Television Female Vocal Choir’s Svetla Karadjova Ivanova and Lilyana Galevska, as well as with singers in Czech Republic, Ukraine, and Serbia. She has taught Eastern European vocal techniques and dances for Flying Foot Forum school residencies and at Village Harmony teen singing/touring camps. She is a SAGE Award winner in Outstanding Design for her compositional contributions and was a 2011 Artists Initiative Grant recipient from the Minnesota State Arts Board.
Eric Ray (accordion, vocals) graduated from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, where he was also a touring performer with the Duquesne University Tamburitzans—the US’s longest-running company dedicated to the performance of Eastern European music, song, and dance. He has studied both classical and folk accordion with Dee Langley, Vladimir Mollov, Peggy Müller, Viatcheslav Semionov, and Joe Smiell. He is also a board member and dancer with Ethnic Dance Theatre.
Odd rhythms, exotic scales, unusual singing, oh my! In this whirlwind musical tour of the Balkan Peninsula, award-winning Orkestar Bez Ime (“band without a name” in Bulgarian) presents an interactive performance of the vibrant folk music from Bosnia, Bulgaria, Hungary, Macedonia, Romania, Serbia, and others. Highlighting the Romany (“Gypsy”) people of the region, OBI discusses how migration, history, surrounding cultures, and the land’s features have influenced Balkan music and dance over the ages.
In this exciting “teaser” workshop, students get to participate in the variety of ways Eastern European cultures use their native music as a tool of expression: through voice, rhythm, and dance. With particular focus on a traditional song from the Balkan Peninsula, we will discuss the development of these styles and their unique features, including rhythm, voice production, instrumentation, and language while encouraging learners to look beyond stereotypes to truly understand and appreciate other cultures. This workshop supplements studies in music, theater, dance, history, geography, social studies, cultural studies, anthropology, biology/anatomy, and linguistics.