The Duquesne University Tamburitzans, America’s longest-running multicultural song and dance company, will celebrate their 75th anniversary this season.
Since 1937, the ensemble of musicians, singers and dancers have performed across the country—in their authentic traditional attire—to preserve and promote the cultural heritages of Eastern Europe and neighboring folk cultures. The performers are full-time students and awarded Duquesne scholarships for their efforts to continue the Tamburitzans’ legacy.
Susan M. Stafura has been an integral part of the Tamburitzans’ history. She is in her 40th year of involvement with the group and has served in numerous capacities from performing and instructing at camp to cataloguing the special costume collection and sewing. She is now in her 13th year in her current role as head of wardrobe and resources.
“Seventy-five years is a heck of a long time,” Stafura said. “Our program has remained consistent with its tradition. To think, this could go on for many, many more years.”
For all of the performances she has contributed to, her favorite aspect is how the experiences have been a family affair. Her husband, Paul G. Stafura, has been involved with the organization since 1967—first as a performer and now as the managing director for the past 23 years. The two met as Tamburitzan performers, and all seven of their children followed in their footsteps to also join the group and graduate from Duquesne.
“I am very proud to be part of the Tamburitzans for the past 42 years,” Paul Stafura said. “As the longest running managing director of the group, I am particularly proud to be here during this special time in our history.”
The Tamburitzans, with an average cast of 34 performers, travel extensively throughout the country from August through June, presenting an average of 80 shows. Their training camp will begin on July 12 to prepare for the upcoming anniversary season. The group has more than 500 living alumni.
“Our 50th season was great, and the 75th will be even bigger,” Susan Stafura said. “There are now many more students who have gone through the program, and we look forward to the young alumni meeting fellow alums who went through the program before even my husband and I started here over forty years ago. It’s not just an anniversary but a reunion.”
Much of the Tamburitzans’ history has been preserved in their headquarters at 1801 Boulevard of the Allies. The space is not only for rehearsal but a cultural center that serves as a valuable resource for the performing ensemble. The walls are lined with headshots and names of every performer in the group’s history and program posters from past seasons. Purchased in 1965 from Warner Bros., as a result of the Tamburitzans’ Development Fund efforts, the building houses the following:
- A library of more than 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, which contains more than 300 films depicting the various cultures of Eastern Europe.
- More than 8,000 costume pieces and 400 musical instruments, a collection that began over 50 years ago. Some authentic costumes have come directly from the country of origin and are over 100 years old.
The history and tradition of the various cultures the Tamburitzans represent is critical to their mission. “It’s a huge bonus for our students to be exposed to these other cultures that our worldwide talent base originates from,” Susan Stafura said. “They get to experience these other cultures, understand their customs and appreciate their music.”
The following events have been planned to celebrate the Tamburitzans’ 75th season:
- 55th Annual Tamburitzans Heritage Liturgy & Reception, Sunday, Sept. 11, at 11 a.m. in the Chapel and the Africa Room.
- Homecoming Celebration Performance, Friday, Sept. 30, at 8 p.m. in the Union Ballroom.
- Anniversary Celebration Weekend: There will be a Tamburitzans welcoming reception on Friday, March 23, 2012, in the Power Center Ballroom and a 75th anniversary performance on Saturday, March 24, 2012, at Upper St. Clair High School.
“We not only look forward to having all of our alumni return and see the performances but to also see the many beautiful changes to Duquesne’s campus,” Susan Stafura said.
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