Stephanie Turenko, Toronto.
Currently the only ensemble for women banduristy, the Women’s Bandurist Ensemble, started by instrumentalists and instructors Irene Kytasy-Kuzma and her daughter Alina this summer, held auditions around eastern North America this past month.
This mother and daughter duo felt discouraged due to the lack of female organizations for musicians. Alina explains, “We have seen two generations of girls go through the bandura education system of camps and schools, only to fall to the wayside, while our male colleagues continue to develop their skills, and perform all over with the Ukrainian Bandurist Chorus (of Detroit/Cleveland), and the Canadian Bandurist Chorus (Toronto)”.
After the 2014 bandura camps ended, the two began contacting women that attended camps from as long ago as 25 years ago, to current participants who they thought would be interested and ready to perform in an instrumental ensemble.
Over the past several months, Irene and Alina have been in correspondence with members of the UBC and CBC for their expertise and advice. They have also had the great pleasure of working with Oksana Zelinska, director of Zoloti Struni, as well as the New York School of Bandura.
“Once word got out that auditions were taking place for a female ensemble, we heard back from women as far away as Winnipeg!” says Alina.
Auditions were held in Hartford, Connecticut (a few traveled from New York, Massachusetts, and New Jersey that day) on January 31st. On February 14th, auditions were held in Cleveland, Ohio. The next day, they were held in Detroit, Michigan; the following day, in Chicago, Illinois. Their final stop was February 28th in Toronto, Ontario.
“My mother and I, as well as the other people we are working with, know the importance of fostering the talents of female bandurists, at any level. The CBC and UBC are fantastic ensembles, and have started camps and schools all over, provided lessons to whoever wants to play. However, as I remember from my earlier days as a bandurist, it's a bit discouraging to have your instructor tell you that you should keep playing when you see only males onstage in the prominent ensembles, and can only think of 2 female soloists. For that reason, we want to not only be seen as an ensemble, which young girls with interest in the instrument can aspire to, but also as a resource and network. We want to make sure that the stigma of bandura as a solely-male art form does not persist, and discourage females from picking it up,” says Alina.
Thirty women attended the auditions in total and because some women are still auditioning because they were not able to attend the previously stated dates, the official members of the ensemble have not yet been announced.
For more information about the Women’s Bandurist Ensemble, please email [email protected].