Vocal Workshops




Sunday, November 19, 2017, 4:30-6:30 PM
Playwrights Rehearsal Studios, 440 Lafayette St., NYC

What We Learned:

Founded over 20 years ago, the “Romans” Theatre of Kyiv is a repository of traditional Romani music. In this workshop, we looked to Kyiv’s Romani theatre ensemble for a selection of folk and stage songs in Romani, a language that originated in India – the motherland of all Roma. Vocal techniques were individualized to match each participant’s level, and we sang together in the centuries-old Romani choral tradition.

We were delighted to get acquainted with Petra and her vast knowledge of Romani music. We enjoyed gorgeous melodies in a relaxed, fun environment, and even learned a Romani dance step!

Petra's Expertise:

Dr. Petra Gelbart is a Romani educator, musician, scholar, and board-certified music therapist. She earned her Ph.D. in musicology/ethnomusicology at Harvard University and went on to co-found the Initiative for Romani Music at New York University before teaching at SUNY Purchase and Ramapo College. She gives music workshops and lectures to foster families raising Romani children, as well as to the general public. Gelbart spent a decade as the lead vocalist of Via Romen, an ensemble focusing on traditional Romani music and dance along with cross-cultural adaptations. Gelbart is currently practicing developmental and rehabilitative neurologic music therapy. She is the Music Section curator for RomArchive, a forum for Romani self-representation in the arts, literature, and academic endeavors.



Sunday, October 22, 2017, 2:30-4:30 PM

Playwrights Rehearsal Studios, 440 Lafayette St., NYC

WHat We Learned:

Iryna Voloshyna taught us songs from the southwestern Podillya region (located in the Naddnistrianshchyna territories along the Dnister River) an important historical area where the remains of the ancient Trypillian and Cherniahivska cultures are found. Iryna recorded songs during her field trips to this region together with youth folk ensemble “Ladovytsi” from Khmelnytskyi, Ukraine. This workshop offered a variety of genres, including lyrical, humorous, and seasonal spring songs, reflecting Podillya’s regional dialect of the Ukrainian language. 

Iryna's Expertise:

Iryna Voloshyna is a singer in the folk ensemble “Ladovytsi”, and an instructor of Ukrainian folk singing. Iryna is also the former head and co-founder of the NGO “Podillya traditions revival” and is a member of an international folklore festival organization committee in Ukraine. Last year, Iryna was a Fulbright Visiting Scholar at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill at the Department of American Studies, Program in Folklore, and she is currently pursuing an MA program there. 

Harvest pic.jpg


Saturday, October 14, 2017, 12:00-4:30 PM

Children's Magical Garden, 129 Stanton St., NYC

What We Learned:

In Ukraine, at harvest time, the fields are reaped, grain is gathered, hay is stacked, and all gather for a village hoe down before winter. We learned and enjoyed "Obzhynky" songs to celebrate the season's bounty. With instruments, costumes, and traditional dress, we sang various harvest songs before parading around New York City's East Village. This was a fun event for adults and children!

Brian's Expertise:

Brian Dolphin is a Thomas J. Watson Fellow, Fulbright recipient, and doctoral student of Ethnomusicology at the CUNY Graduate Center. Brian has studied under and performed with master singers from all over Ukraine, including singers from Drevo, Rozhanytsia, and Ladovytsi; he has also done ethnography and performed at various festivals throughout Ukraine. Under his musical direction, Ukrainian Village Voices has performed both to bless the local community with traditional carols and to reach out to larger communities at the Brooklyn Folk Festival, the Zlatne Uste Golden Festival, and Saint George Ukrainian Festival. His approach to singing is one that is both inclusive and fun, but always striving for excellence, "authenticity", understanding, and depth of feeling.



Thursday, June 20, 2017, 4:00-9:00 PM

Far Rockaway Beach, NYC

What We Learned:

Ivana Kupala is a celebration of ancient origin marking the end of the summer solstice and the beginning of the harvest. Among Slavic peoples Kupalo was believed to be the god of love and of the harvest and the personification of the earth's fertility. Having survived hundreds of years of repression, transformation, and commodification, Kupalo's ancient power and meaning transcend time and cultural boundaries bringing us all together to cleanse ourselves with fire and water, and revel in the fertile energy of the earth.

On Kupalo's eve, unmarried young people gather outside in the forest or near a stream or pond. They build fires around which ritual dances are performed and songs sung. Participants leap over the fires, bathe in the water, and play games. Women wear scented herbs and flowers and adorn their hair with garlands of freshly cut flowers. Later they divine their fates according to what happened to the garlands which they had sent flowing on the water.

During our celebration, we collected flowers, plants, and seaweed for the night's festivities and enjoyed a delicious potluck picnic together. We learned magical songs, played games, reveled in the warm weather, and felt the ocean with our toes.

LAryssa's Expertise:

Laryssa Czebiniak grew up immersed in the language of her grandparents and surrounded by folk songs. She joined her Ukrainian church choir at an early age, and has sung with vocal ensembles Topolia in Johnson City, NY, as well as Promin and Ukrainian Women's Voices in New York City. She fell deeply for Ukrainian Village Voices' powerful singing style, and feels the connection with her ancestors strengthen with each new song learned. Today she is a Ukrainian diaspora community leader both locally, nationally, and internationally, and draws on her life-long training in Plast Ukrainian Scouting Organization to gracefully coordinate all the moving parts of the UVV collective. As UVV Director, she is grateful to help lead this incredible group of dedicated singers, and to propel the progression of this cohesive and ever-growing musical community. Laryssa strives to guide the group on a unique path, aiming to honor the songs of rural villages while navigating the bustling city.



Monday, May 15, 2017, 7:00-9:00 PM

Playwrights Rehearsal Studios, 440 Lafayette St., NYC

What We Learned:

Kryachkivka is a village in the Poltava region of Ukraine, and its music is best known for a polyphonic style that villagers developed over years of singing together in a group called Drevo. Renowned musicians, singers, and ethnomusicologists flock here to connect with these elders.

Generation “U,” a term recently coined by Jurij Feydynskyj, is explained as the next generation of intelligent, patriotic, and free Ukrainians. We studied the songs of Kryachkivka as seen through the lens of Generation U. Specifically, we learned kobzar repertoire from the 17th and 18th centuries, songs of defending one’s county and faith, and a duma calling the diaspora back home. This workshop also showcased Jurij’s extensive knowledge and playing of traditional Ukrainian stringed instruments.

Jurij's Expertise:

Born in North Carolina, Jurij Fedynskyj has pursued a career of Ukrainian Folklore of Eastern Ukraine. For the past 15 years, Jurij has worked to resurrect three original and unique Ukrainian instruments, namely the torban, kobza and bandura, by researching their construction from a handful of surviving instruments in museums. He has mastered the techniques required to make and play new instruments, and teaches these skills at Kryachkivka. Jurij has sung with Drevo for the past seven years, and has also worked with groups such as Khoreya Kozatska, Karpatiyany, Kyiv Kobzar Guild, and Haydamaky.



Sunday, March 12, 2017 2:00-4:00 PM

Playwrights Rehearsal Studios, 440 Lafayette St., NYC

What We Learned:

In “Songs of the Borderlands: Jewish Songs of Polesia”, Zisl Slepovitch taught us songs he learned through his extensive fieldwork in and around Polesia, which borders Ukraine. Each of these selected and virtually lost Yiddish songs, serve as vivid examples of the “native" and the “other” coming together; they are mixtures of Ukrainian, Sarmatian, Polish, and Belarusian music that could have only been composed by Ashkenazi Jews moving between these lands. The musical material of the Jewish and the high-contact Slavic and Baltic cultures (including Ukrainian) demonstrates strong connections, particularly in the field of instrumental music and folk song. This workshop offered a variety of genres and musical sub-styles, ranging from the ballad to the dialogue song, riddle, and a Yiddishized version of a Ukrainian-Polish song. It was such an interesting class!


Dmitri Zisl Slepovitch (Z!SL) is a native of Belarus and a resident of New York City. Over the years, Jewish music and Yiddish culture have remained the core elements of his creative inspirations. He is a highly regarded musicologist and ethnomusicologist, multi-instrumentalist, composer, poet, music and Yiddish educator. Zisl spent a decade researching the hidden musical treasures of Jewish Belarus with noted scholar Dr. Nina Stepanskaya. Zisl is also the founder of Litvakus klezmer band, Assistant Music Director and Music Director in many productions by the National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene.