One of our own board members, an American and an die-hard lover of Czech language, culture, and music – Elizabeth Shribman, or “Bětka” to most of you – is bringing a Czech folk music group (cimbalka) called “Muzicka” to the US on a West Coast tour. Czech School of California is excited to be part of this amazing journey! And how did it all started? You can find out in our short interview …
What is your background and what do you do for the San Francisco Symphony?
Bětka: I’ve played the violin almost my entire life, and I studied musicology (music history) in college.
While in college I discovered a passion for orchestra management that I have pursued ever since in my career and my graduate studies (MBA). I currently work for the San Francisco Symphony in Finance. Much of my career has been on the more operational side of the business, so working in Finance has provided me with a fascinating new lens through which to regard our industry and organization.
Where did your passion for the Czech language, culture and music come from?
Bětka: I moved to Prague after receiving a scholarship for a year of post-graduate study in musicology. Thanks to a twist of events in which the classes I was supposed to take (in English) got cancelled, I enrolled myself in Czech language school and started learning the language. I didn’t expect to fall in love with it, but I did, so I pushed myself to transition my whole life over into Czech and ended up staying for three years, much of which I spent working for the Czech Philharmonic. Learning Czech opened many doors for me, and it also allowed me to get to know Czech culture on a much deeper, more nuanced level. Many elements of Czech culture became very near and dear to my heart, and I’ve become an enthusiastic advocate for promoting it abroad.
What do you love the most about Czech music and Czech composers?
Bětka: I love that even though the Czech Republic is a small country, it is home to some of the giants of classical music. Much of its classical music has a strongly distinctive sound and character, resulting in a rich tradition that is fascinating to study and thoroughly enjoyable to listen to. I also love the ways in which many composers integrated themes and tunes from the folk music that is so pervasive throughout the country.
Why cimbal and why Muzicka? This is going to be your second US tour with them – how did it all get started?
Bětka: I happened upon a Muzicka concert while living in Prague and was compelled enough to ask if I could join the group. As an American who had never played any folk music before, let alone Czech folk music, my transition in was challenging but I very quickly fell in love with the music itself as well as all of the tradition surrounding Czech folk culture. Over time as I realized what a special thing it was to be a part of this group as an American and as I came to see what a treasure this music is, I wanted to do more. I wanted to share my culture with my fellow musicians, who had given me the opportunity to experience so much of theirs, and I wanted to share the music I had come to love with an American audience. So I set about fundraising and putting together a tour around the East Coast of the US (I’m from Pittsburgh). In July 2013 we played 17 concerts in 10 states over 25 days. Now that I live on the West Coast, I wanted to do the same here.
Can you tell us more about this upcoming tour? (Where and when can we find you, where to get tickets etc.?)
Bětka: We’ll be doing a big loop around the West Coast this September, starting and ending in San
Francisco. Our complete tour schedule will be available soon on our Facebook page, but be sure to catch us in the Bay Area on the following dates:
Sunday, September 10, 2017: Sokol SF’s annual picnic (Lake Chabot, Castro Valley), 12 noon
Monday, September 11, 2017: Café Prague (SF), 7:30 pm
Tuesday, September 12, 2017: Atherton – private event
Friday, September 29 – Sunday, October 1, 2017: Saint Wenceslaus Czech Festival (Orinda)
All performances are FREE but we will be collecting voluntary contributions at the door.
This rare opportunity to see a real cimbal band on the West Coast surely required the help of
many generous sponsors. Who are the sponsors you’d like to thank?
Bětka: Our tour wouldn’t be possible without the generous contributions of our sponsors and the
support of our partners. We’d like to extend our heartfelt thanks to:
Consulate General of the Czech Republic in Los Angeles
Friends of VIA
Gina Enriquez & Paula Fracchia / Paragon Real Estate Group
Honorary Consulates of the Czech Republic: Salt Lake City, Las Vegas
Kancelar bez hranic
Magistrat hlavniho mesta Prahy
Orinda/Tabor Sister City Foundation
…and the many friends and family who helped enable this tour
Is there anything else you would like to add?
Bětka: Check out some of our live performance videos from our concert in Prague’s Rudolfinum! Hope
to see you this September.