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This section of TBL regarding tamburitza music and history is dedicated to those stories and memories that are humorous-maybe embarrassing (I’ve had some of those moments) possibly touching ,even outrageous -but-they capture the essence of tamburitza moments past and present-paving the way for those future moments that may one day make their way into the realm of TBL-for YOUR reading and enjoyment.

As we step into the past Ill start with one of my own memories and this will come under the heading of “Pick Stories”. Any tamburitza musician will tell you that they value their picks and they come in all sizes from small for prims to mid size flat picks for bracs to rectangular eastern European style picks used for any instrument. Whether theyre made of bone or plastic-it MATTERS to the tamburash what kind of pick they use. I know how some tamburashi LOVE their picks-as in protective pouches-secure secret places-I’ve even heard it told that some would use armed guards to protect a valued pick-but thats just hearsay-or is it-you be the judge-especially if YOU have a pick that has been cradled-from day one-protected-sculpted by every stroke of the tamburitza musicians hand and shaped to define the sound-that is-distinctively you!

I have an affinity for my picks and have saved one from each orchestra and time period that I have performed. For example- the 60s time period was St. Stephens and The Blue Water Tamburitzans-the 70s and 80s were the Kumovi Tamburitza years-90s -2004 are The Messiahs Rhapsody project and Tillie Klaichs Balkan Serenaders. I also have picks I’ve used for 18 years-especially a good bugarija pick-triangular shape. I know of musicians who have had their picks longer. Paul Milanovich years ago showed me a triangular shaped bugarija pick of his worn circular- like a quarter and he valued the pick because of its smooth sound and the years spent sculpting the pick from job to job-year in and year out.

I also do something that may seem odd. Any time I play for a funeral of a tamburash-I retire the pick-I take a new pick-use it once-and it goes into my folder as a remembrance for that individual-just my own piece of history to keep and the memories are always there.

Some musicians have pick stories of panic and some of humor-this story I will stick in the bizarre sort of head- scratching category. It most likely wont be the last of its type either.

This pick story starts back in February of 2002. I had bought some new picks to try and took out a pick to use for prim practice. I have my instruments scattered around the house and its not unusual to have instruments in different parts of the house & Ill sit down as Im inclined to and practice a few tunes while writing etc.

As I reflect back-our Western New York winters can be tough at times-(The Blizzard of 77 with 98 hours of snow conditions-the Blizzard of 85-storms in the 90s and a storm in recent years that dumped 7 feet of snow on us in 36 hours) Yet-I wouldnt trade our four seasons for anything and Fall is my favorite time of the year with its colorful foliage and leaf piles. ( I have annual films of my boys growing up in those leaf piles and yes-a leafpile makes a wonderful babysitter-and can captivate its audience for hours!) A walk down memory lane if I may...

I remember as a boy-we (and most of the neighborhood) would jump in leaf piles from sunup-to sun down-then my mother would bring out a bag full of potatoes wrapped in foil and as we would burn the leaf pile-the neighborhood usually came over and we shared in those potatoes-drooling at the thought of them dripping in butter-and topping off the day with glasses of cold apple cider. I have a lifelong friend (political strategist) who still tells stories about our leaf piles and the good times he had with our family. Those were good days back in the early 60s.

Back to my story-I was practicing for a trip to Phoenix to play for the Arizona Music Festival that had Vlad Popovich of Tillie Klaichs Balkan Serenaders as an honoree. I wanted to sharpen my skills and spend equal time practicing both brac and prim. As my practice ended and I went through my day I had that gnawing-nagging feeling that something was wrong. You know the feeling-you cant put your finger on it ... but its there....

My suspicions were confirmed the next day when I sat down to practice and sure enough-I cant find my prim pick anywhere. I KNEW I had it-did I lay it down? I couldnt find it anywhere-pants- pockets-jackets-winter coats-instrument cases-computer area-books and magazines-basement-bedrooms-bathroom-kitchen-outside the house-the car-exhausted & half nuts-I gave up and figured this is MADDENING. I couldnt remember this happening before-losing a pick that I had in my hands earlier and now-gone?
During these trying times-the mind can conjure up the most confounded conspiracy theories! Was it stolen?

Were my boys playing tricks on me? Oh yes! The mind was on the move-I know about conspiracy theories! For 35 years until the day she died-my mom hid mushrooms in every conceivable way-I never liked them-yet she hid them in green beans-pork chops-noodle casseroles and soups. A master of mushroom disguise. She was good-I was better-accept for that one time at 5:30PM in 1969 one got by me-but I survived! THAT was a close call!

Yes-I thought of every conceivable way to look for a pick-but this time I was stumped. I had no answer. As February 2002 came and left-March came and the spring thaws were well on their way. By this time I had made my trip to Phoenix-had a wonderful time and returned home to take up the normal business of everyday living.

I decide to get in my car and run some errands to pay bills. I pull into the local post office area and marvel at how the snows have cleared and I look forward to spring. As I park and get out of my car I am met with a sight that is etched on my memory and mind-carved in granite by its clarity.

There on the ground as I opened up my car door-in its “sickly green color” and in its full GLORY-IS MY PICK! I am STUNNED. MY PICK!!! ARE YOU KIDDIN ME-MY PICK!. JOY-RAPTURE!. You can hear the love them from “Tristan and Isolde” playing in the background-Ill give you some help. Remember “The Christmas Story”the one where little Ralphie fantasizes about getting an A+++++ when his teacher reads his Christmas Theme-“What I Want For Christmas” detailing his desire for the Red Ryder BB gun–yep-thats the song!
It also makes me think about the Looney Toon where the dog chases all the way across the US only to find his favorite tree-or dog bone-depending on which version you watch. Yeah-that kind of scratch-your-head-bizarre story.
Anyhow-since reunions are a part of my life story-this reunion of musician and pick goes down as my strangest ever. As I look back I think I figured out what happened.

After I finished my prim practice some 6-7 weeks earlier-absentmindedly-I put the pick in my pocket rather than back in the case. Then I went about my day of errands etc and one of those places was to the local post office. When I got out of the car-the pick fell out of my pants into the snow. It then froze into the snow. The place where I normally park is off to the side. What amazed me the most is that through the snow-the rains-the freezing cold-the salting-trucks-tires-cars-plows and melting thaws of spring--the pick stayed in the same area until the last of the spring thaws and that FATEFUL day when I found the pick again. It was in good shape-no worse for wear!

Yes I know-it sounds ridiculous-however-as a testimony to the story of the pick being found & reunited with its rightful owner-ME-I have RETIRED said pick-to a place of honor and glory with my picks of yesteryear and my future picks of honor to come-a rightful resting place for an honored moment in TBL history.

I do hope this story made you smile in its absurdity-while it drove me nuts-I’ve told the “Pick Story” a couple of times and tamburash and friends alike have had a good laugh over its JOYFUL conclusion-I “PICKED” it as my first archive story-from the hands and realm of TBL-for you-your reading and enjoyment!

Got a funny story-or unique moment you would like to share? Send it to me and well try to get it posted here.

My next story deals with “Embarrassing Moments”! Thank you for stopping by-see you with the next installment of the TBL Tamburitza Stories and Memories Archive!


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