Bulgarian Ensemble

Ivan Varimezov

Ivan Varimezov was born in Bulgaria, studied folk music at Kotel High School for Folk Music and received a B.A. degree in folk instrument pedagogy and choral conducting from the Plovdiv Academy of Music and Dance. Raised in the traditions of his native region of Strandzha, he is one of the most outstanding gajda (bagpipe) players of his generation, and he has many solo recordings and awards to his name.

During the 1980s Ivan was an instrumental soloist in the Trakiya Folk Ensemble for five years; and later he directed the orchestra of the regional Ensemble Pazardzhik. During the 1990s he was a soloist for a number of professional ensembles in Sofia, including the Bulgarian National Ensemble Filip Koutev, the national orchestra of Bulgarian folk music of the Bulgarian National Radio.

Ivan taught at UCLA from 2001 until 2021. As Professor of Bulgarian Folk Music there, he organized many concerts for UCLA students in Los Angeles and throughout California.

In 2018 Ivan received the Golden Lyre award from the Union of Bulgarian Musicians and Dancers, and an Honorary Citizen Award from his native town, Sredets, in recognition of his 30-year professional artistic career.

In 2018 Ivan received the highest “Crystal Medal” award from the Union of Bulgarian Musicians and Dancers for his outstanding contribution to the development of Bulgarian musical culture. The same year he was recognized for his lifetime contribution to Bulgarian folk music at the Bulgarian Annual Music Folklore Awards.

Romani and Bulgarian Modern Instrument Ensemble

Mark Levy

Mark Levy created the first week-long Balkan Music & Dance Workshop in 1974, and co-founded the East European Folklife Center in the early 1980s. He recently retired from the faculty of the University of Oregon School of Music and Dance, where he taught courses in ethnomusicology, coordinated a world music concert series, and directed the UO East European Folk Music Ensemble.  

Mark has made numerous trips to the Balkans (especially Bulgaria and Macedonia), and has performed clarinet; Thracian, Rhodope, Macedonian, and Serbian gajda; and other aerophones with Aman, Pitu Guli, The Balkantones, Slavej, and Kef.  

Mark lives in Eugene, Oregon.  He is very much looking forward to teaching the Romani and Bulgarian Modern Instrument Ensemble and playing Macedonian village music with Staro Selo at Balkanalia 2024!

Macedonian Ensemble

David Bilides

David Bilides’ initial encounters with Balkan folk music were the weddings and dances of the New Haven, Connecticut, Asia Minor Greek community in which he grew up. After hearing other Balkan music while attending international folk dancing in high school, he took the first of several trips to the Balkans in 1974, visiting Romania, Greece, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, and Turkey. He learned dances, made field recordings, and collected instruments. On returning to the United States he taught himself the music and instruments, formed groups, organized festivals and other music events, and performed and taught music and dance from the region.

David has been lucky to study with many wonderful teachers of traditional music and dance from the Balkans. He continues to play, teach, and perform music on a variety of traditional instruments, and has appeared as a guest with different groups and at traditional folk music and dance events in the US and Canada. Currently he is collaborating with Macedonian singer and Radio Skopje recording artist Dragi Spasovski, and plays tapan and kaval in the group Osem i Devet, with Michael Lawson.