The Jerry Grcevich Tamburitza Orchestra

Tamburitza

Jerry Grcevich, born into a musical family in Turtle Creek, Pennsylvania, near Pittsburgh, studied tamburitza  (Croatian string music) with his father and uncle, both musical directors and performers. 

At 10, he began performing with his father’s orchestra. When he was 21, he traveled to Novi Sad, Yugoslavia, to study with tamburitza prim player and orchestra leader Janika Balaz. He has also studied with tamburitza singer and composer Zvonko Bogdan, and with Romani from Novi Sad, as well as learning western European music theory and harmony at Seton Hill College. Grcevich has performed with tamburitza groups throughout the country, including Sviraj of Harrisburg, Slanina of Chicago, and the Yesta Brothers of Los Angeles. 

In 1980, he began composing and recording his own musical pieces. Because he mastered all five of the instruments of the tamburitza ensemble – the prim, brac, tamburitza cello, bugarija, and tamburitza bass – he often uses "sound-on-sound" recording techniques, to construct an ensemble featuring only his own playing. As a result of his special musical skills, he is able to capture the characteristic melody, harmony, counterpoint, and rhythm of the tamburitza orchestra.  

Grcevich is renowned as a composer as well as a performer, drawing from the well of the latest styles of music in Croatia and the former Yugoslavia. While he builds on his traditional education, he composes with new melodies that resonate with today’s generation.  At a performance in Slovenska-Pozega, Croatia, in 1994, he realized that many of the tamburitza groups were playing songs that he had composed, a testament to his influence in the homeland.

Grcevich is generally recognized as the most accomplished prim player in the world. In 1993, he formed his own ensemble in Pittsburgh, The Jerry Grcevich Orchestra. They play for many Croatian social events, Balkan folk dance festivals, and Croatian ethnic festivals. Grcevich is also equally in demand in Croatia, performing there at a variety of occasions. 

In 2001, Grcevich was awarded the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts’ Fellowship in the Folk and Traditional Arts, the highest honor a folk artist can receive from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.  In that same year, he was inducted into the Tamburitza Hall of Fame, the youngest musician to receive that honor.

 

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