Meet the Ensemble
Joanna Buczko O'Flaherty
Joanna (second soprano) is a founding member of the WBE. She has played bandura for many years, and has been lucky to travel with ensembles throughout the US, Canada, and even tour in South America. She currently instructs at the Bandura at Bobriwka Reunion Workshop, and resides in Connecticut where she works as a trauma nurse.
Ukrainians around the world have been enjoying Olya’s music for over 25 years. This multi-talented vocalist & accomplished bandura instrumentalist has performed throughout the U.S. & Canada at numerous festivals, interactive children’s shows & concerts including Lincoln Center in NYC, Bloor Street Festival in Toronto, The Bushnell Theatre in CT, Chicago & Rochester Ukrainian Festivals, Soyuzivka, Garden States Arts Center, Eisenhower Park & the United Nations International Citizens World Music Concert. Olya has 4 popular Ukrainian CD’s that may be found on iTunes, www.cdbaby.com/olyafryz or at www.olyafryz.com
This year, Olya celebrates her 10th Anniversary of her very popular Ukrainian Children’s CD “Shcho za Hamir” and 5th Anniversary of Olya’s Ukrainian Christmas CD “Vozveselimsia” (Rejoice). Both CD’s were recorded with the very talented & gifted Slau Halatyn of NYC.
As a former member of the Homin Stepiv Bandura Ensemble, Promin Vocal Ensemble, Syzokryli dancer (Roma Pryma Bohachevsky Dance School), Olya is honored to celebrate & share her heritage and culture on stage with a new generation of Ukrainian dancers and musicians. In addition to Olya’s solo musical career, Olya is a part of the Yevshan Vocal Ensemble & the newly formed Ukrainian Women’s Bandura Ensemble of America. During the school year, Olya is a certified elementary school music teacher, and this summer she will be teaching for the 6th year at the “Bandura at Bobriwka” Workshop in Colebrook, CT.
Growing up in New York City, performing & teaching many years throughout North America, Olya is excited to be a part of the Ukrainian Women’s Bandura Ensemble & share her love of Ukrainian music with you! Visit her website at www.olyafryz.com
Natalka Gil is a graduate of the University of Toronto, OISE as well as Lviv State Music Academy named after M. Lysenko, class of prof. Vasyl Herasymenko. An active member of Ukrainian community she takes part of various concerts and performances as soloist and a choir member. As music educator, composer and conductor Natalka worked at various Public High Schools in Toronto and in Lviv, Ukraine. Natalka was part of O. Stachiv Folk group which toured Canada, US and Europe.
Christina Hlutkowsky is a proud banduristka and Alto 2 from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She has been singing and playing the bandura since age 10 and has attended and taught at Kobzarska Sich Bandura Camp in Emlenton, Pennsylvania and ODUM’s Bandura and Sports Camp in London, Ontario. In her Ukrainian community, she directs Poltava Ukrainian Dance Company, teaches bandura, sings with Zorya Ukrainian Female Vocal Ensemble in Cleveland, Ohio, and organizes youth retreats for the St. Josaphat Eparchy. Christina earned her Bachelors of Science in Psychology with minors in Spanish and Russian and Eastern European Studies from the University of Pittsburgh and is a Research Specialist at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center where she researches child brain development and emotional regulation in preschoolers. She is so blessed to be a part of this ensemble and to have the opportunity to make beautiful music with these talented ladies.
Olena has been playing bandura and singing for more than10 years with the Vira Zelinska Ukrainian Youth Bandura Capella “Zoloti Struny”. Growing up playing in Zoloti Struny sparked an interest in the creative world for her. Aside from bandura, she partakes in other creative activities such as painting, drawing, and creative writing. During the school year she is a student at Ryerson University studying in the Creative Industries program.
"Girls can sing AND do math!" says the WBE treasurer, who at one time was the only engineering major in UConn's Concert Choir. A classically trained vocalist, Christina studied opera and graduated with a degree in Finance from the University of Connecticut in 1989. When it comes to bandura, the Connecticut native is really from Detroit! She learned to play at age 12, and later, she performed extensively in the Northeast with the Eternal Echo Bandura Ensemble, the Dibrova choir, and the Yevshan Vocal Ensemble. Today, in addition to her work with the WBE, she is one of the organizers of the annual Bandura At Bobriwka Reunion. Christina lives with and husband David, and two children - Gregory, 16, and Elise, 14. Christina is a Project Manager and works in IT.
Lesya Klimchenko is a graduate of Lviv College of Music and Lviv State Conservatory where she studied Bandura. She was a member of the Ostap Stakhiv Folk Theatre which toured Canada, the United States, and Europe. Currently, she performs as a soloist and with Bandura Ensemble Char-Zillya.
Alina Kytasty Kuzma
Alina Kytasty Kuzma is a vocalist/bandurist and Arts Administrator based in Toronto, Ontario. She is in the fourth generation of her family to take on the bandura tradition. Since the age of 17, she has instructed at Kobzars’ka Sich Bandura Camp (Pennsylvania) and at Bandura at Bobriwka (Connecticut). Alina has been the lead singer of Korinya Ukrainian Folk Band since 2008, and began performing with Yara Arts Group of LaMaMa Experimental Theater in York City as an actor and singer in 2012.
Music has given her the opportunity to perform at house parties, concerts and festivals throughout the United States, Canada and Argentina, including the Harbourfront Centre (Toronto), the Harris Theatre (Chicago), and the Kathryn Hepburn Theater (Connecticut). Her love for bandura and folk music inspired her to form the Women’s Bandurist Ensemble with her mother, Irene Kytasty Kuzma in August of 2014, where she serves on the Executive Committee. Alina holds a certificate in Arts Management from Humber College in Toronto, and teaches bandura to students of all ages.
Teryn Kytasty Kuzma
Teryn Kytasty Kuzma (soprano) is a full-time participant and member of the Artistic Committee. She began learning bandura at the age of seven, and since then has worked with many instructors, including Julian Kytasty and Ludmilla Yurkevych. She has participated at the Kobzars'ka Sich Bandura Camp in Emlenton, Pennsylvania and the Bandura at Bobriwka Workshop in Colebrook, Connecticut as a camper and instructor. She is a graduate of the University of Connecticut with a Bachelor’s degree in Vocal Performance. In 2018, she attended the SongFest Program in Los Angeles as a Young Artist and won the University of Connecticut Concerto & Aria Competition. Most recently, she sang with The Ohio Light Opera, the Ukrainian Art Song Project, and Hartford Opera Theater. Teryn is looking forward to continuing her vocal studies at Bard College-Conservatory in 2021.
Irene Kytasty Kuzma is the founder and Administrative Director of the Women’s Bandura Ensemble. Born and raised in the Detroit area, she and her three brothers are descended from a long line of Ukrainian singers, bandura virtuosi, composers, conductors and music educators. She received her teaching degree from the University of Michigan and her Masters in International Management from the School for International Training in Brattleboro, Vermont. Irene began as a bandura instructor in the Detroit area and at summer camps at the age of 16 and continues this important task to this day. Throughout her life, she has brought the unique beauty of the bandura to audiences in a wide range of venues, from intimate settings to major festivals and concert halls. She has introduced the bandura, its history and music through numerous workshops and has performed in groups and as a soloist across the United States, in Canada, Ukraine and South America. As the Educational Coordinator of New York Bandura, she established the successful “Bandura at Bobriwka” program in 2011 bringing together former instructors and members of the Homin Stepiv Ensemble to help teach and pass on the love for the bandura and Ukrainian song to a new generation. The establishment of the Women’s Bandura Ensemble of North America fulfills her goal to give women in the diaspora the opportunity to develop as musicians and to raise awareness of the bandura as a vital voice and an important cultural force in world music.
Kalyna is an undergraduate student at Fordham University majoring in Biology with a minor in Music. Since the age of 7, Kalyna has taken piano, bandura and voice lessons, and has been performing in the Tri-state Area. These appearances include the Yonkers Ukrainian Heritage Festival, Saint John the Baptist Church, Soyuz Ukrainok, CYM, Zlet, Whippany Ukrainian Annual Festival, New York Festival, and St. John’s Ukrainian Catholic Church in Newark. Kalyna has always loved sharing her talent with others. Every year, since 2nd grade, Kalyna played bandura in her school's talent show. She frequently performs bandura duets with her sister, Uliana Leshchuk. Kalyna is also a member of the women’s choir at Fordham University. Through middle and high school, Kalyna participated in the piano auditions at the Music Educator’s Association in New Jersey where she always received outstanding grades. Kalyna has been a participant at both Kobzarska Sich Bandura Camp and Bandura at Bobriwka. Her favorite style of music is Ukrainian Folk, and her favorite singers are Oksana Bilozir and Ruslana. Kalyna loves to dance and has been a part of the Iskra Academy Dance School in Whippany since the age of 5. She likes to play volleyball, basketball, run, swim, and ride horses. Kalyna is an active member of both Plast and CYM youth organizations. She is involved in research at Fordham and is an EMT. Her goal in life is to become a physician and a professional singer. Kalyna’s favorite saying is “Be honest, work hard and learn.”
Krystina Lewicki is thrilled to be playing bandura and singing with WBE. She is also a member of Zoloti Struny in Toronto directed by Oksana Zelinska-Shevchuk. Krystina plays a bandura made by her father-in-law, Ernest Lewicki, who was an assistant conductor of the O Koshetz Choir in Winnipeg, Canada. Krystina is a graduate of York University (Fine Arts Honors Music) majoring in voice, piano and percussion. She was a member of Cantores Celestes Women’s choir for seven years (soloist, percussionist) and recorded two CD’s with the choir. Krystina performed as a soprano soloist with Toronto Opera Repertoire in Bizet’s “Carmen” (Frasquita) and Gluck’s “Orpheo ed Euridice” (Euridice), Bellamusica Chamber Ensemble, Poculi Ludique Societas, Vocalway recitals, and the Hildegard Project ensemble (French, Italian, and Spanish early music and medieval chants of Saint Hildegard). She performed and participated in the Toronto Early Music Festivals, Amherst Early Music program (Anne Azéma, Boston Camerata and Glen Velez, world frame drum), and Vancouver Early Music (Benjamin Bagby, Sequentia). Krystina teaches voice in her Toronto studio, has coached voice in high school musicals and has adjudicated as a member of the National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS).
Khrystyna fell in love with the bandura when she was 10 years old. She then told her parents that she wanted to attend bandura classes at one of the musical schools in Lviv, where she would graduate magna cum laude 5 years later. During that time, Khrystyna joined the national bandura ensemble “Дзвіночок” (Dzvinochok), and performed with them throughout Ukraine and Europe. She later joined the bandurists’ ensemble “Галичанка” (Halychanka) and took vocal training at the Lviv National Academy of Music. By that time Khrystyna was already in the middle of her PhD studies and felt the need to leave her bandura career to focus on academia. She stopped playing bandura for ten years, but old loves never die. Missing bandura led her to join the Chicago-based bandura ensemble "Char-Zillia" in 2010 and the WBE in 2015 where she made new, great friends for life who are very passionate about music and Ukraine. Additionally, Khrystyna has performed with the Chorus for the Papal visit to Ukraine in 2001, the “Антей” (Antaeus) Choir, a Harvard Summer School Chorus, and the СУМ (SUM) Choir in Chicago.
Maria Pleshkevich (second soprano) is a full-time member of the Women's Bandura Ensemble. She began pursuing music at age 5 with vocal lessons, started playing bandura at age 12, and piano at age 13. She joined Korinya: Ukrainian Folk band in 2011 as a vocalist and percussionist, and with them has performed throughout the United States, Canada, and Ukraine. In 2014 she joined Yara Arts Group, a resident company of LaMaMa Experimental Theatre in New York City. She has performed with Yara both as Korinya and as an actress, touring Ukraine in 2014 with Dark Night, Bright Stars. She frequently attends Bandura at Bobriwka and Kobzarska Sich to continue cultivating her bandura playing. She has performed bandura in various venues, including at the Ukrainian Museum in New York City, and has most recently played in Bad Quarto Production's Taming of a Shrew. She is currently working towards a BS in Psychology and a BA in Spanish Language and Literature, and is a member of Phi Betta Kappa and Alpha Sigma Nu honor societies.
Nadija Polanski is an undergraduate student at the University of Guelph, majoring in Accounting. She grew up in a very musical family, including her mother who was part of a Ukrainian ensemble "Pid Oblachkom" and her father who was part of the Canadian Bandurist Capella in Toronto. Her parents were born in Poland, but are of Ukrainian descent, from families that were deported under Operation Vistula in 1947. They began a new life in Canada and encouraged Nadija to stay involved in the Ukrainian community by sending her to Ukrainian school and youth organizations. In the summer of 2007, Nadija was first introduced to the bandura at the annual summer camp led by Zoloti Struny Bandurist Capella. Since then, she has developed many artistic playing and singing skills under the tutelage of her teachers, the late Vera Zelinska as well as the current director Zoloti Struny, Oksana Zelinska -Shevchuk. She has performed for many different audiences and communities at various events. She has also performed with her trio, consisting of fellow Women's Ensemble members Olena Hrynkiw and Adriana Tuz. Nadija has competed in various music festivals, including the annual Kiwanis Music Festival and the Ukrainian Music Festival in Toronto, receiving various awards and scholarships for her skills. She is currently living in Toronto, where she continues to stay active in the Ukrainian community and true to her Ukrainian roots.
Motria Poshyvanyk Caudill
Motria Poshyvanyk Caudill grew up performing in the ODUM Bandura Ensemble of Chicago, directed by her father Alex Poshyvanyk. She attended ODUM bandura camp in London, Ontario for a decade – first as a participant and later as an instructor. Now she has her own students and performs with the women’s group Char Zillya. In her professional life, Motria is an environmental health scientist and adjunct professor at University of Illinois at Chicago. Her skills in grant writing have been put to use as Director of Fundraising for the WBE. Motria is married and has two musically-inclined children.
As a conductor and music educator, Oksana Rodak has worked in Canada, the United States and Europe. Oksana is a graduate of the University of Toronto where she received her Bachelor and Master of Music degrees. She obtained a Certificate in Piano Performance from the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto and studied choral conducting and bandura at the Tchaikovsky National Music Academy of Ukraine. Oksana has held positions as Artistic Director of Young Naperville Singers, Artistic Director of the Cantate Children’s Choir, Conductor with Anima - The Glen Ellyn Children's Chorus, and Coordinator of Children’s Music at the Fourth Presbyterian Church of Chicago. Oksana began playing bandura in the ODUM Hnat Khotkevych Bandura Ensemble of Toronto. She is the winner of the Glenn Gould Memorial Scholarship and Leslie Bell Conducting Prize.
Roxolyana (Sana) Shepko began studying violin at the age of 2, piano at age 6 and bandura at 12. She studied violin with Leonid Polishchuk, Isaac Malkin, and others, and studied bandura at Kobzarska Sich with bandurists such as Oleh Sozanskyj, Yurij Petlura, and Olya Herasymenko. Sana participated in various symphony performances on violin including the NYSSMA 2012 All-State orchestra performance at the Eastman School of Music. She was the concertmaster of the New Paltz College Youth Symphony from 2011-2012 and has performed as a soloist at various performances with the symphony. Sana is manager and violinist in the folk band Korinya which has performed all over North America and Ukraine. She has been an instructor of bandura at Kobzarska Sich in Emlenton, and ODUM Bandura Camp in London, ON. She is a painter and graphic artist and has received various awards for her work, including the Ackerman Award for Art in 2013. Currently, Sana is finishing her degree in graphic design and is the Public Relations Coordinator (and website designer) of the Women's Bandura Ensemble.
Adriana is a recent graduate of the University of Toronto. She has always been an active member in the Ukrainian community. Her family has always been very musically involved; her father sings in a bandurist capella and both her sisters graduated from vocal programs in high school. With this influence, Adriana began performing at a young age. At the age of 6, she joined the Ukrainian dance ensemble “Ukraina” and began playing bandura under the direction of Victor Mishalow. Adriana then continued her musical education in “Zoloti Struny” under the direction of the late Vira Zelinska. Upon joining this group, Adriana began singing lessons with Oksana Zelinska-Shevchuk in the group “Melodia”. Adriana has performed at numerous events in Canada and the United States and has received awards in the category of bandura and vocal at competitions such as the Ukrainian Music Festival and the Kiwanis Music Festival. In 2013, she graduated with a Vocal major diploma from Cawthra Park Secondary Arts School, where she participated in musicals and choir performances. Adriana continues to cultivate her musical skills with Zoloti Struny and the Women’s Bandurist Ensemble.
Irene Zawadiwsky has performed on the bandura for over 35 years. A student-protégé of Maestro Hryhorij Kytasty, she specializes in his solo bandura compositions. For over 20 years, she performed as a vocal-bandura duet with her sister Luba, playing original bandura arrangements of Ukrainian folk songs, along with contemporary, Broadway, and classical favorites. Performances included concerts, conventions, banquets, festivals, to both Ukrainian and non-Ukrainian audiences in most of the larger cities in the northeast US and Canada. Irene is an instructor with the H Kytasty School of Bandura in Cleveland, and has taught at Kobzarska Sich in Emlenton. She studied voice and piano both privately and at Cleveland State University. Irene is an entrepreneur and business owner, operating companies that provide consulting services in economic development finance, financing to small businesses, manage a commercial business and event center, and is VP of a charity she co-founded to provide food, clothing, shelter, medicine and education for destitute women, children and the aged, with a focus on third world countries. An avid traveler, she has explored all 50 states and 30 countries. Irene holds an MBA and Bachelor of Chemical Engineering from Cleveland State University, where she also played varsity tennis and volleyball.
Oksana Zelinska is a graduate of the Performance Diploma Program at The Glenn Gould School of The Royal Conservatory of Music (Toronto) and is the recipient of numerous awards and scholarships in both Classical Voice and Grand Opera at the Kiwanis Music Festival of Greater Toronto. In 2005, she obtained her Bachelor of Music through the Thompson Rivers University in BC. The same year, she became a teacher of voice and piano and later a Head of the Voice Department at the Merriam School of Music, Oakville (Ontario). Oksana started her music education at the age of six when she began to play piano and the Ukrainian national instrument, the bandura, under her mother's tutelage, an experienced bandura teacher in Ukraine. In 1993, she graduated from the Secondary State Boarding Music School in Lviv (Ukraine) and in 1998 was accepted to The Lviv State Academy of Music where she studied with Oksana Herasymenko, a renown teacher and a well-known composer of contemporary bandura music. As a vocal soloist, Oksana performed in Ravel's “L’Enfant,” sang the role of Marion from the twelfth century work “The Play of Robin and Marion” set to music by Milhaud, and Mendelssohn's “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”. A well-known instructor of bandura with over 15 years of teaching experience, in 2001, Oksana began teaching bandura and voice at "Zoloti Struny" Bandura Capella established in Toronto by her late mother Vira Zelinska, and as of 2012, took over the role of an artistic director and a conductor at the Vira Zelinska Ukrainian Youth Bandura Capella "Zoloti Struny".