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History and Cultural Center

The Tamburitzans Mission Statement

The Duquesne University Tamburitzans is dedicated to preserving and perpetuating the cultural heritages of Eastern Europe and its neighbors through performance, while awarding scholarships to talented and deserving student performers.

The Tamburitzans History

When Dr. A. Lester Pierce met tamburitza musicians Matt L. Gouze, Frank Gouze, and Anthony Antoncic at St. Thomas College in St. Paul, Minnesota in the early 1930's, his intrigue with the folk instrument sparked an idea which has endured as one of the world's finest, longest-running live stage shows of its kind. Dr. Pierce was able to secure a position for himself at the college, and at the same time, negotiated work scholarships, and formed the "St. Thomas Tamburitza Trio."

In 1934, Dr. Pierce transferred to St. Edward's University in Austin Texas and expanded the group to seven members to form the "St. Edward's University Players," later to be called "American Tamburitza String Orchestra." He continued to be the Managing Director, while Matt Gouze assumed the position of Musical Director.

In 1937, after a two and a half-year residency, the young troupe headed east with their musical variety show, stopping in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Impressed with the cultural diversity of the city, Dr. Pierce accepted a faculty appointment, made a permanent home for the ensemble, and secured a work-scholarship agreement with Duquesne University. Shortly thereafter, this newly formed group, now called "Slavonic Tamburitza Orchestra," would be known as the "Duquesne University Tamburitzans." The word "Tamburitzans" was actually coined by a Duquesne University reporter sometime during the late 1940s.

From these simple beginnings, the Tamburitzans ensemble, named after the stringed folk instrument, the tambura or tamburitza, expanded its repertoire throughout the past seven decades to include a wide variety of folk dance and music representing Eastern Europe and many neighboring cultures. Seventy-five years, several international tours, hundreds of performers, and tens of thousands of audience members later, the Tamburitzans' show is an annual tradition for some and a delightful new surprise for others.

Year after year, generation after generation, The Tamburitzans dazzles audiences across the country with elaborate costumes and incredibly versatile musicians, singers, and dancers. The talented young performers are full-time students who have chosen to continue the Tamburitzans' legacy by bringing eastern European folklore to the modern stage.

Besides producing the longest-running live stage show in the country, the Tamburitzans organization is also a cultural and historical legacy at Duquesne University and in Pittsburgh. A part of Duquesne University's Division of Student Life, the Tamburitzans Department is housed in the Tamburitzans Administration Building (TAB). It is home to offices, rehearsal space, wardrobe department, a library, special collections and displays. Hundreds of books, costumes and instruments, as well as a significant music and film collection are housed in this building just a few blocks from Duquesne University's main campus.

Throughout our 75-year history, our mission and purpose has never changed. The Tamburitzans organization allows the traditions of the past to live on through music, dance, and many cultural resources. With the support of Duquesne University, and of our alumni and friends, we plan to remain both a tradition and a treasure not only in Pittsburgh but throughout the United States, Canada and Europe.

The spirit of the Tamburitzans' experience is contagious. The successful fusion of student and performer has astounded audiences from near and far. It is wonderful. It is incredible. It is uplifting. It is.......TAMBURITZANS! (You may even dance home!)

 

 

How do Tamburitzans become Tamburitzans?

Most Tamburitzans saw their first concert as children, belonged to a children's performing group, took private lessons, had parents who took a keen interest in their artistic progress, and most important, worked hard at perfecting their talents prior to auditioning for a position in the ensemble. After a general audition, either in person at the Tamburitzans Administration Building, or via video (many applicants live across the country or overseas, and cannot travel to Pittsburgh), those applicants who meet the academic and talent criteria necessary to fill vacancies in the ensemble are chosen to compete in an all-day session similar to the rigors of a day of Tamburitzans production camp. Just as in the sports world, the judging panel (comprised of Tamburitzans staff and local experts in the fields of musical, vocal and dance performance) scrutinizes all hopefuls, and makes the next round of selections. Interviews with the finalists are held, and final selections are made, transforming those chosen into Tamburitzans -- members of one of the world's most unique groups of performing artists.

As Tamburitzans, we work to enrich lives by entertaining and educating our audiences. As students and ambassadors of Duquesne University, we serve as role models for young people everywhere -- a vibrant symbol of hope for future generations.

Cultural Center

The Tamburitzans is much more than a performing ensemble. To support the work of this unique group of performers, the Tamburitzans maintain a library of over 9,000 volumes of books and journals relating to the music, songs, dances, customs and traditions of the peoples which the ensemble artistically represents. The Tamburitzans' film library contains more than 300 films depicting the various cultures of Eastern Europe. This collection has been recently transferred to video, making them even more accessible to the general public. Rare 78 rpm recordings and long-play albums, as well as more recent audiocassette and CD recordings are also housed in the Tamburitzans record library for the public to hear and research old and new music from Eastern Europe and neighboring cultures. In addition to the ensemble's performance wardrobe and collection of authentic working folk instruments, the Tamburitzans possess a special museum-quality costume and instrument collection that began over fifty years ago with the first acquisition.

More than 8,000 costume pieces and 400 musical instruments are part of the Tamburitzans collection, and additional acquisitions are made each year.

Hours of operation are Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. To view collection pieces or arrange to use the library facilities, please call 412.396.5185 for an appointment, or e-mail stafuras@duq.edu