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STORIES & MEMORIES ARCHIVE
section of TBL regarding tamburitza music and history
is dedicated to those stories and memories that are
humorous-maybe embarrassing (Ive 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-Ive 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
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 Ive 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
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
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
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
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 Storythe 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 gunyep-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
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-Ive 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
Got a funny story-or unique moment you would like
to share? Send it to me and well try to get it posted
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!