Members of the Yale Slavic Chorus study and work in a variety of fields while at Yale. “Slavs” alums have gone on to amazing things in public service, medicine, law, education, and other fields.
Many alums have continued to be involved in the arts. This page highlights their achievements. It contains information on groups that alums have formed or joined across the U.S. (many of which specialize in Balkan music), the honors alums have received, the projects they are currently working on, and ways that you can support their work. We hope that this page can also serve as a resource for alums: if you’re moving to a new place and want to keep singing with alums of the Chorus, many of the groups featured here would be a great place to start.
If you would like to showcase your work, please send a blurb like the ones you see here and a photo to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ayanna Woods (Chicago, IL)
Ayanna Woods (YSC ’11-‘15) is a composer, performer and bandleader from Chicago. Her music explores the spaces between acoustic and electronic, traditional and esoteric, wildly improvisational and mathematically rigorous. A collaborator across genres and forms, her work spans new music, theater, film scoring, arranging, songwriting, and improvisation. She was recently nominated for a GRAMMY along with the ensemble of PLACE, an oratorio by Ted Hearne and Saul Williams. She is currently working on the debut solo EP for her band, Yadda Yadda.
Amy Herzog (New York, NY)
Amy Herzog is an accomplished playwright, whose works include After the Revolution (Williamstown Theater Festival; Playwrights Horizons; Lilly Award), 4000 Miles (Lincoln Center; Obie Award for the Best New American Play, Pulitzer Prize Finalist), The Great God Pan (Playwrights Horizons), and Belleville (Yale Rep; New York Theatre Workshop; Susan Smith Blackburn Prize Finalist; Drama Desk Nomination). Amy is a recipient of the Whiting Writers Award, the Benjamin H. Danks Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Helen Merrill, the Joan and Joseph Cullman Award for Extraordinary Creativity, and the New York Times Outstanding Playwright Award. She is a Usual Suspect at NYTW and an alumna of Youngblood, Play Group at Ars Nova, and the SoHo Rep Writer/Director Lab. She has taught playwriting at Bryn Mawr and the Yale School of Drama, where she received her M.F.A.
Sarah Larsson (Minneapolis, MN)
Sarah Larsson (’09-’12) is a folklorist, vocalist, and percussionist devoted to building resources for communities to preserve folk tradition. Since graduating from Yale, Sarah has studied music in Romania, Bulgaria, Bosnia, and Serbia, as well as with master-singers in the US, with teachers including Nataliya Danylkova (US), Nafie Hussein (Breznitsa, BG), Bojana Djordjevic (Belgrade, RS), Sanja Rankovic (Belgrade, RS), Irina Ivorciuc (Gura Humorului, RO), Susan Gaeta (US), Ethel Raim (US), David Harris (US), and Arielle Lekach-Rosenberg (US). Sarah arranges Balkan and Yiddish folksongs for contemporary ensemble, and performs with The Nightingale Trio and an as-of-yet unnamed backyard Klezmer band. As a student of singing traditions, Sarah presents at universities and community music events around the US. After working for many years at the Somali Museum of Minnesota, Sarah serves as an advocate for immigrant-led art institutions. Her podcast Folk Will Save Us works to deepen conversation about heritage, tradition, and identity.
Ellen McLaughlin (New York, NY)
Ellen McLaughlin (’76-’80) has worked extensively in regional, international and New York theater, both as an actor and as a playwright. Her acting work includes originating the part of the Angel in Angels in America, the Homebody in Homebody/Kabul (Intiman, Seattle, WA), Pirate Jenny in A Threepenny Opera (Trinity Rep. Elliot Norton Award), Claire in Albee’s A Delicate Balance (Arena Stage, Yale Repertory Theater), Margie in Good People (George St. Theater, Seattle Rep.). Her plays have been produced Off-Broadway, regionally and internationally. She is the recipient of the Writer’s Award from the Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Fund as well as other honors, including the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, The Helen Merrill Award for Playwriting, and grants from the NEA. Plays and operas include, Tongue of a Bird, Iphigenia and Other Daughters, Trojan Women, Infinity’s House, Helen, Oedipus, The Persians, Penelope, Ajax in Iraq, Pericles, Septimus and Clarissa, Blood Moon, and The Oresteia. Producers include The Public Theater, National Actors’ Theater, Classic Stage Co., New York Theater Workshop, The Guthrie, The Intiman, The Mark Taper Forum, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Actors’ Theater of Louisville, Shakespeare Theatre, DC, and The Almeida Theater in London. She has taught playwriting at Barnard College since 1995, and has also taught at the Yale School of Drama, Princeton, and the Middlebury Bread Loaf School of English.
Elisa London (New York, NY)
Elisa London (’71-’74) is a professional actor who studied at the Lee Strasberg Institute and at The Actors Studio in NYC. Elisa has appeared in a number of well-received Off-Broadway productions, including Shirley Jackson’s “We Have Always Lived In the Castle” at Soho Repertory Theatre and the slapstick comedy hit “Grandma Sylvia’s Funeral” at the Soho Playhouse (much to her understudy’s dismay, Elisa never missed a performance in the show’s almost five-year run). Elisa’s comedic roles in film, television, and online features include her deadpan portrayal of historian Susan Eckman discussing the newly discovered verses of ‘The Star Spangled Banner’ on The Onion News Network’s “Today Now” program, Ludmilla Christova, the bad Bulgarian Folksinger, for Tri-State Pontiac Dealers commercials, and Susan the Timeshare-In-a-Shack Saleslady in “Maison de Cartes” for Vernissage TV (the German Arts TV Channel). More recently (and more seriously), Elisa has acted in “Ashes” (a play about the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire of 1911) at The Metropolitan Playhouse, as Ethel Rosenberg in staged readings of “The Brother” by Sam Roberts of The New York Times, and as the mother of one of the leads in the independent feature film, “37” about the 1964 Kitty Genovese murder in Queens, NY. Elisa is currently writing a series of short, interstitial, art and comedy segments for NYC tourism that she hopes to produce once the pandemic is truly over.
Folk Music Groups & Organizations
Dunava (Seattle, WA)
Dunava, based in Seattle, sings music from the Balkans and nearby countries and currently counts three Slavs alums as members: Steph Boegeman (‘12-’14), Olivia Gunton (‘05-’06, ‘14-’15), and Anne Egger (‘93-’95). Like the Yale Slavic Chorus, Dunava focuses on traditional arrangements and learning directly from singers and musicians who are native to those traditions wherever possible. Dunava belongs to the nonprofit arts organization Radost Folk Ensemble, which also includes a dance group.
In normal times, Dunava gets together for rehearsal every Wednesday evening, performs regularly at festivals and state parks in the Pacific Northwest, gives their own concerts with other groups from the area, and goes on the occasional tour. In 2019 Dunava went on a 5-day “Intermountain tour” to Yakima, Washington; Boise, Idaho; Salt Lake City, Utah; and Bend, Oregon; and in 2014 Dunava toured Bulgaria, becoming the first American group to perform at the Silver Buckle folk festival in Kjustendil. Dunava hopes to travel to the Balkans again someday soon. During the pandemic, the group has continued meeting over Zoom every week and collaborating on video projects, including a performance of ‘Heyamoli’ for the Northwest Folklife Festival and collaborations with Radost and Dave and the Dalmatians for CroatiaFest. Dunava’s creative use of cell phones and Zoom has even allowed them to sing synchronously together at a distance and add a few new songs to their repertoire. Dunava is currently putting the finishing touches on their third album, which they recorded last year.
Eastern European Folklife Center
(San Francisco, CA)
Established in 1982, EEFC brings together an inclusive, celebratory, and welcoming global community of passionate amateurs and professionals, to share the richness and complexity of Balkan music, dance, and cultures. Over the years, many Slavs alums have attended and helped run EEFC’s annual East and West Coast Balkan Music & Dance Workshops, affectionately known as Balkan Camp. Maclovia Quintana (‘07-’17) and Corinne Sykes (‘06-’10) are current EEFC board members. Anna Rose Gable (‘09-‘14) and Amanda Crego-Emley (‘13-’17) are longtime members of the EEFC community. Learn about the EEFC as an organization and the online classes, talks, and concerts EEFC is offering.
Photo: Maclovia Quintana (left), Corinne Sykes (center), and Anna Rose Gable (right) at EEFC’s ‘Balkan Camp’ in Mendocino, CA.
Kitka (San Francisco, CA)
Kitka is an American women’s vocal arts ensemble inspired by traditional songs and vocal techniques from Eastern Europe and Eurasia. Kitka began in 1979 as a grassroots group of amateur singers from diverse ethnic and musical backgrounds who shared a passion for traditional Eastern European women’s vocal music. Since then, Kitka has performed, taught, and conducted cultural exchange activities in Poland, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Serbia, Turkey, Georgia, and Armenia, as well as in communities throughout the USA, Canada, and beyond. The ensemble has produced 14 critically acclaimed recordings on the group’s independent Diaphonica label (most recently, Evening Star), songbooks, soundtracks for major motion pictures and independent films, and Kitka and Davka in Concert: Old and New World Jewish Music, a PBS television special.
Four Slavs alums have sung with Kitka over the years: Corinne Sykes (‘06-’10) and Lily Huang (‘92-’94) are former members; Maclovia Quintana (‘07-‘17) and Erin Lashnits Herman (‘00-’03) currently sing with the group.
Photo by Vincent Louis Carrella.
Zulal (New York, NY)
Zulal, which means “clear water,” is a NY-based Armenian a cappella trio that features Teni Apelian, Yeraz Markarian, and Slavs alum Anaïs Tekerian (‘94-‘98). The trio rearranges and reimagines traditional Armenian folk melodies for stage and recording. Performing since 2002, Zulal has sung at venues such as the Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage, the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and Carnegie Hall. In addition to performance and arrangement, Zulal also creates soundtracks for film and theater and offers educational workshops for young audiences.
The three members typically rehearse weekly to create the arrangements and to prepare for concerts. The three women met in New York in 2002, and when they realized they all had backgrounds in a cappella, they decided to come together to create a group focused on Armenian folk music, which has been their great love ever since. For more information, e-mail email@example.com.
Libana (New England)
In 1979, a group of women sharing a passion for international music, dance, and women’s issues formed the global music ensemble Libana. Inspired by Judy Chicago’s groundbreaking exhibit “The Dinner Party,” Libana took their name from a woman honored by the artist—a 10th century Moorish poet, philosopher, and musician—symbolizing women’s creativity, vision and spirit throughout time. Libana illuminates the creativity, vision and spirit of women worldwide. Libana believes deeply in the power of song, the rhythm of the drum, and the spirit of dance to connect people across vast cultural differences. From ancient traditions to contemporary creations, from the political to the spiritual, Libana’s global repertoire covers a vast musical spectrum expressed with stunning close a cappella vocals and an impressive palette of instruments including oud, charango, saz, guitar, hammered dulcimer, panpipes, accordion, dumbek, djembe, frame drum, dholak, tapan, clarinet and double bass. Interweaving music, dance and story from diverse cultures of the Balkans, Africa, the Middle East, Asia, South America and Europe, Libana’s artistry inspires audiences with wonder at the beauty, breadth and wisdom of our world’s cultural diversity and common humanity.
Slavs alum Allison Coleman (‘81-‘85) is a current member of Libana. While Libana is on hiatus during the pandemic and not currently adding new members, interested women may contact Artistic Director, Susan Robbins, firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. In the meantime, follow Libana on YouTube, Spotify, and beyond.
Slaveya (Silver Springs, MD)
Slaveya Vocal Ensemble, named after the Bulgarian word for ‘nightingale,’ is a women’s vocal ensemble that performs East European a cappella folk music. In addition to folk songs, Slaveya sings sacred vocal music from the orthodox traditions of the Balkans and Georgia. Slaveya has been a member of the folk music and dance community in the Mid-Atlantic region since 1984, when it was founded by former former members of the Slavs. The group still includes Slavs alums Miriam Rollin (‘79-’81) and Jenny Lee (‘83-’86). Slaveya has performed at many folk festivals and events, including the Washington Folk Festival (FSGW), and Zlatne Uste Golden Festival (NYC).
Slaveya has worked with many talented teachers of Balkan traditional music including Eva Salina Primack, Tanya Dosseva, Tzvety Weiner, Elitsa Stoyneva, and Merita Halili. We were also able to learn the traditional Georgian polyphony with several teachers and song masters, including Zedashe Ensemble, Malkhaz Erkvanidze, Carl Linich, Aurelia Shrenker, and Frank Kane, and the ensemble Adilei. If you’re interested in auditioning, contact Miriam Rollin at email@example.com.
Boston Slavs Singalong
Too long ago for any of them to remember exactly when, Slav alums in the Boston area have been singing together, in different groups and iterations. All this time, they have met every now and then to sing, have a meal and schmooze about their lives. Some fondly call this tradition, “Sing, Eat & Complain.”
Participants in these singalongs have included Louise Berliner, Erica Weiss, Sonia (Senkiwsky) Giandomenico, Robin Pelzman, Lyda Kuth, Lizzy (Kissinger) Vandermark, Amy Bressler Nee, Susana (Cheng) Lee, Rachel Sussman, Hannah Farber, Karen Edwards, Miriam Jaffe, Meg Reuland, Nina Calabresi, Liz Carver, Nancy Confrey, Allison Coleman, Lydia Siegel, Laurie Gould, Patty Correa, Anne Rogal and Eve Vogel and Audrey Thier (who travel from western Mass.). Nikki Greenwood joins when she is back from China. Catherine (Heimsath) Waldron and Jane Peppler (Hannah’s mom and another Slav alum) have joined sometimes, too. Some are recent graduates, others have been gone from college for decades. The group includes some conductors, but mostly sings happily with no one in charge.
Subsets of this group have performed at nursing homes and schools (under the name A Circle of Friends). As ‘Sestre,’ some iterations of the group have performed at Porchfests in Jamaica Plain, Arlington and Roslindale — wonderful annual events in the Boston area where musicians perform on (you guessed it!) porches all over town.
During the pandemic, this group still meets to chat and snack at a social distance on Zoom. Any Slav living in, moving to, or even just passing through the Boston area is welcome to join.
The Obscure Dignitaries (Dallas, TX)
The Obscure Dignitaries is a progressive world-music group made up of Dallas-based musicians who strive to recreate and reinvent intricate, traditional folk rhythms from around the globe. From Roma rhythms to Slavic torch songs, American folk melodies to Brazilian samba, Irish airs to Turkish grooves – the Dignitaries strive to showcase different musical traditions while pushing the envelope on those traditions with modern, jazz-tinged harmonies and rhythms. Slav alum Rachel LaViola (‘08-’12) is their lead singer!
The Austin Balkan Singers (Austin, TX)
The Austin Balkan Singers formed in 1975 and meet to sing weekly. They sing mostly Balkan folk music, with a mix of choral and village style songs (some with instruments), and perform at local events, festivals, and coffee houses. Slav alums Harriet Dinerstein (’73-’75) and Tania Culbertson (’97-’99) brought some beloved songs to the group from their years at Yale. The photo shows the Balkan Singers performing in costume at a Maslenitsa festival in February 2019. Contact Harriet (second from left in the photo) at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. Visitors welcome!
The Nightingale Trio
Nila Bala (‘09-’12), Sarah Larsson (‘09-’12), and Rachel LaViola (‘08-’12) – began singing together during their time at Yale, and started The Nightingale Trio in 2013. The Trio is devoted to studying and celebrating the rich women’s vocal traditions of Eastern Europe and the Balkans. They tour together while maintaining day jobs and study in the fields of law, cultural anthropology, and software engineering. The Trio has performed on “A Prairie Home Companion,” and collaborated with Prairie Fire Lady Choir, Ethnic Dance Theater, Sara Pajunen, Aida Shahghasemi, Siama Matuzungidi, Hummingbirds, and vocal ensemble ARTEMIS. In 2019, the Trio was awarded 3rd Place in the Irish International A Cappella Competition in Dublin. The Trio has studied vocal technique and music of the Balkans and Eastern Europe with master-singers Tsvetanka Varimezova (Bulgaria), Petrana Koutcheva (Bulgaria), Drazen Kurilovcan (Croatia), Bojana Djordjevic (Serbia), and Mary Sherhart (Bosnia). The Trio has commissioned and arranged new music with funding from the Howard B. and Ruth F. Brin Jewish Arts Endowment, Minnesota State Arts Board, and commissions from choirs around the U.S. and Europe.
‘Love Songs,’ The Nightingale Trio’s newest release, showcases the trio’s musical breadth alongside the nuanced interpretation that the three women have become known for.