Atlanta Balalaika Society

Who We Are

Beginning in 1981 as a small group of balalaika aficionados, the Atlanta Balalaika Society is one of the most highly-regarded orchestras of Russian folk instruments outside of Russia, and is the primary promoter of Russian folk culture in the Southeast. Celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2006 at Spivey Hall, the orchestra is known for presenting world-class artists such as domra virtuoso Alexander Tsygankov and bayanist Vyacheslav Semyonov, as well as top vocalists and dance ensembles.

The original orchestra was made up of professional and amateur musicians who, after attending the national convention of the Balalaika and Domra Association of America (BDAA), returned home committed to bringing Russian and Eastern European folk music to Atlanta’s audiences. The original ensemble was led by Charley Rappaport, a professional musician who grew up in New York City’s environment of Eastern European folk culture, and co-founded several Russian folk music groups, as well as the BDAA.    

The make-up of today’s Atlanta Balalaika Society reflects the cultural richness of Atlanta’s vibrant international community. In addition to American-born musicians, the orchestra includes members born in Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Moldova, Latvia and Sweden. The orchestra’s large audience also reflects Atlanta’s international character, with many languages being overheard during our concert intermissions!

David Cooper

The orchestra’s music director and conductor, David C. Cooper, is a charter member of the Atlanta Balalaika Society. A multi-talented professional musician, David is a member of numerous ensembles, performing on everything from the Russian garmoshka to Caribbean steel drums. He can play all the instruments in the Russian folk orchestra, and has taught workshops in Russian folk wind instruments and jamming at BDAA conventions. In 1987 he was selected for a fellowship at the Glier Institute of Kiev, where he studied prima balalaika with Anatoli Ryabinin and Yuri Alexi. David conducts from his orchestra chair where, with zhaleikas and sopilkas at his feet, he frequently performs balalaika solos.

 

Angelina Galashenkova-Reed

 

Angelina Galashenkova-Reed was eight years old when she began her musical journey at music school in St.Petersburg, Russia. As a child and teenager she won three junior competitions among young domra players of North-Western part of Russia. During her formative years at Mussorgsky College of Music in S-Petersburg and Russian Academy of Music in Moscow, Angelina won top prizes and titles of "Laureate of All Russia National competition among professional domra players" (1990) and "Laureate of International competition among professional folk artists" (1992).

Before moving to the USA in 2001, Angelina had collaborated as a soloist with the famous Andreev Russian Folk Orchestra in St.Petersburg, the Police Orchestra of Moscow and numerous small ensembles. She was also classical mandolin soloist with the Chamber Orchestra of St. Petersburg, Russia. As a concert performer, she traveled throughout Russia, to the United States, where she performed at the 100 year Anniversary of Carnegie Hall concert in 1991, to several European countries, Japan and Australia. In the USA, Angelina has been involved with Atlanta Balalaika Society and the Balalaika and Domra Association of America as a member and soloist, as well as pursuing teaching career.

 
 

Alla Melnik

Alla Melnik is the orchestra's bayan soloist. A native of Vinnitsa, Ukraine, she has been playing the bayan (Russian button accordion) since age eight. She completed studies at the Leontovych Music College in Vinnitsa, and later received an advanced degree in music education from the Kiev University of Arts and Culture. After graduating from the university, Ms. Melnik worked as a music teacher and accompanist at several music schools in Ukraine, teaching piano, bayan and music theory. She immigrated to the United States in 2003, and has been a soloist and member of the Atlanta Balalaika Society since 2007. Ms. Melnik is a popular performer in Atlanta and the Southeast, with a vast repertoire of ethnic folk, classical and contemporary music.

The Atlanta Balalaika Society rehearses on Wednesday evenings from 7:30 to 9:30 pm (and on some Saturdays) at the Winters Chapel United Methodist Church, 5105 Winters Chapel Road, Atlanta, GA 30360. We have members of all ages and levels! If you are interested in joining the orchestra, please visit our “Contact Us” page.
 

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