Join the American Balalaika Symphony
The American Balalaika Symphony is always looking for enthusiastic people to join us to participate in a variety of ways:
Play music with us
Opportunities are available for new members to play with us in all sections of the orchestra. Everyone from beginners to seasoned musicians is welcome, and prospective members need not audition. All that is required is a desire to embrace the experience of playing music with passion and perseverance, and that you continue to grow with the orchestra.
The ABS rehearses every Thursday at the Hermitage residence in Alexandria, Virginia. In addition, the string sections(and anybody else who wants to come) rehearse on Saturday mornings. Saturday rehearsals are an excellent opportunity for new players to come up to speed on ABS repertoire and to get to know your fellow players a little better. Major concerts are held several times each year at halls in the Greater Washington, DC area. In addition, there are smaller performances in special locations such as the Russian Embassy and community venues.
To learn more about playing with the ABS, arrange to visit during rehearsal to hear the music, watch us play, and meet members of the orchestra. You may also contact the American Balalaika Symphony at 3811 North 14th Street, Arlington, VA 22201, or Artistic Director Peter Trofimenko at (703) 248-8199.
The Strings form the core that defines the character of our orchestra. These sections consist of balalaikas and domras of varying sizes. If you have experience on just about any stringed instrument, then you are in a great position to learn one of these Russian Folk Instruments. Even if you’ve never played a stringed instrument, desire and dedication can bring you a long way, and we encourage you to inquire. The ABS has a large collection of balalaikas and domras, so there is no need to bring your own. We will also provide you with some free lessons to get you started. You will learn rapidly as you play with the group and you can continue to take paid lessons from our conservatory-trained instructors.
Most of the domras in the ABS orchestra have four strings that are tuned in fifths like a violin or mandolin. The prima and tenor domra are tuned just like a violin; the alto and bass domra are tuned like a cello. The smaller domras play the melody and harmony lines; bass domras play harmony and bass lines. Domras are played with picks, both single-strike notes and “tremolo” style, which will be familiar to mandolin players. Challenging at first, the tremolo technique is one of the great sources of excitement and pleasure in playing the domra.
Balalaikas have three strings, but are tuned differently in the different sizes. Interestingly, in the prima, alto, and secunda balalaikas, two of the three strings tuned to the same note. The prima is played by plucking with the thumb and index finger or by strumming chords quickly in a tremolo style with the index finger. The prima usually covers melody and harmony parts and chords. The altos and secundas are played with a leather pick, usually strumming chords. The bass and contrabass are tuned just like the low strings of a guitar or bass (electric or upright). They cover bass lines and are plucked with picks.
Wind and Percussion
The ABS has full wind and percussion sections. The wind positions are among the most demanding musically, as each instrument is represented by only one or two individuals who often carry prominent melodies and solos. The percussion section is extensive, including sophisticated instruments such as marimba and vibra-phone, although prospective percussionists need not be able to play every instrument.
Accordion, Bayan, and Gusli
Finally, the orchestra has accordion, bayan (Russian button accordion), and gusli players. The gusli is a large table autoharp, plucked and strummed with a pick and controlled with a small piano-like keyboard. The ABS currently owns 2 guslis.
Participate in other ways
Many people simply love the music, even if they don’t want to play an instrument. There are ways you can participate in the musical community of ABS without actually playing, including selling tickets, ushering, concert promotion, backstage help, and more. We are also open to suggestions, if you have ideas about how you can help out. Of course, non-playing members of ABS are always invited to our outings, parties, and special events.