Join Us!

Play Music with Us

Peter JoinThe American Balalaika Symphony is always looking for enthusiastic people to participate in a variety of ways.

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 evening at the The Hermitage in Alexandria, Va. In addition, the string sections (and anyone 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 throughout the greater Washington, DC-area, and smaller performances are held in special locations such as the Russian Embassy and other cultural 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, contact the ABS.

Strings

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.

Domra Section

Most of the domras in our orchestra have four strings that are tuned in fifths like a violin or mandolin. The prima domra and tenor domra are tuned just like a violin, while the alto and bass domra are tuned like a cello. The smaller domras play the melody and harmony lines; the bass domras play harmony and bass lines. The domras are played with picks, both single-strike notes and "tremolo" style, which will be familiar to mandolin players (although the technique is not identical.) For violin and guitar players, the tremolo technique will be challenging at first, but is ultimately one of the great sources of excitement and pleasure in playing the domra.

Balalaika Section

The balalaikas all 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 & 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 vibraphone, although prospective percussionists need not be able to play every instrument.

Accordion, Bayan & Gusli

Finally, the orchestra has accordion, bayan (a 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 two guslis.

Participate in Other Ways

There are also ways to participate in the musical community of ABS without actually playing, including selling tickets, ushering, concert promotion, backstage assistance, and more. We are always open to suggestions about other ways to help. Of course, non-playing members of ABS are always invited to our outings, parties, and special events. Join us and see how much fun you can have.

Intern with the ABS

Each year, talented balalaika, domra and bayan musicians and students from Ukraine, Russia and elsewhere come to the United States to intern with the American Balalaika Symphony and learn how a non-profit orchestra operates without state support.

Interns get to interact with orchestra members, staff and volunteers, and learn about the American system of community art organizations, including how volunteer work, donor support, endowments and foundations function as vital elements of support for the arts within the framework of a free market economy.

The American Balalaika Symphony provides full room and board for the duration of an intern’s stay, visits to local attractions and historic sites, transportation to and from Symphony rehearsals, and the opportunity to perform in concert with the ABS. It does not provide any monetary consideration for participation in ABS activities, nor for any visa-related or travel expenses to and from the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area.

The ABS Intern Program benefits both interns and the orchestra. Interns benefit from becoming acquainted with the operations of a leading American balalaika orchestra, as well as with the cultural and other activities available in Washington, D.C., a world class city and capital of the United States. Orchestra members benefit from the opportunity to meet talented young performers willing to share their love and knowledge of these distinctive instruments so rare in the United States.

If you would like to participate in the American Balalaika Symphony Intern Program, please write us at:

The American Balalaika Symphony
ABS Intern Program
3811 North 14th Street
Arlington, VA 22201
or send an email message to americanbalalaikasymphony@gmail.com