Village Harmony

Bosnia Camp – July 19 – August 2 (15 days) – $1700

Date: July 19 – August 2, 2016 (15 days)
Venue: Hotel Sanus, Sanski Most, Bosnia
Leaders: Mary Cay Brass, Suzannah Park, Vahidin Omanovic, Samira Merdzanic, Zorana Guja, Alma Karabeg, Alma Karic
Price: $1700

Village Harmony is pleased to announce its third camp in Bosnia and Hercegovina in a unique collaboration with the Center for Peacebuilding  in the town of Sanski Most. ( The Center for Peacebuilding (CIM) has been working for a decade in Bosnia with the motto Naš Put Je Mir / Our Way Is Peace with a mission to foster reconciliation among all the peoples of Bosnia. CIM’s inter-religious, multi-ethnic and intergenerational choir Harmonija will host Village Harmony in their home town. CIM’s co-founder, Vahidin Omanovic, an Islamic imam,  skilled peacemaker and visionary leader will be one of the chief organizers of the camp together with Samira Merdzanic, choral director extraordinaire from the town of Bugojno.

This year’s Bosnia camp is a rare and exciting opportunity to participate in the inner workings of a non-governmental organization dedicated to fostering dialogue, non-violent communication, and intercultural cooperation through varied and creative ways. And we will have a special opportunity to observe the role of music, singing and community choirs as a direct means of fostering those goals.

The rehearsal week will take place at the Hotel Sanus in the western Bosnian town of Sanski Most on banks of the Sana River. In addition to working with the local choir Harmonija we will have the opportunity to work with several excellent choral leaders from around Bosnia. After the rehearsal week we will have homestays with members of Harmonija led by Alma Karabeg, doing joint concerts in a local village and in a cave (yes, a cave! with amazing acoustics). From Sanski Most we will travel to Bugojno in central Bosnia where local choral leader, Samira Merdzanic will organize homestays and concerts with her local choirs. Our final concert with homestays will be in Sarajevo with another local choir led by Alma Karic.

Participants in this camp will explore Bosnia’s rich, diverse vocal music from both village and urban traditions of the Croatian, Serbian and Muslim peoples who live there. We will learn ancient village styles, melodies based on narrow, non-tempered tones and sung with great dynamic intensity as well as songs from the great sevdalinka tradition – lyrical love songs of the urban Muslim population (often called the Bosnian Blues). We will also study the sacred music of all of Bosnia’s spiritual traditions – Orthodox, Catholic, Islamic and Sephardic. Men on this trip will have a rare chance to learn traditional Sufi chants. A dance choreographer from a local ensemble will teach us folk dancing each morning to start our day.

Veteran Village Harmony leader, Mary Cay Brass, who organized the first two Bosnia camps and all four Macedonia camps, will be joined by popular, dynamic Village Harmony teacher, Suzannah Park. Together they will teach a set of American and, likely, South African songs. We have gathered a wonderful group of skilled choral leaders and musicians from around Bosnia to teach a cornucopia of styles. Samira Merdzanic, Alma Karabeg, and Alma Karic are all highly trained and inspiring choral leaders whose choirs will host us and with whom we will sing joint concerts. Vahidin Omanovic will teach the men ancient Sufi chants. And Zorana Guja, a young ethnomusicology student from the Academy of Music in Sarajevo and member of the ethno choir there will teach women’s village music. Zorana is one of the rare young women who comes from a strong living tradtion of singing village songs with her peers and elders.

This camp is open to teens 16 and older. There is a firm limit of 25 participants and there is already strong early interest in this camp. While at the camp, most rooms will be doubles and triples until our homestays. We will stay 9 nights in a hotel and 5 nights in homestays.

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Mary Cay Brass

MARY CAY BRASS of Athens, Vermont, co-directed at her first Village Harmony camp 27 years ago. She directs two very popular community choirs in Vermont and Massachusetts and is the co-musical director of Hallowell Hospice Choir. Mary Cay is also a dynamic contra-dance keyboardist and accordion player. She spent two and a half years in the former Yugoslavia on a Fulbright Scholarship in ethnomusicology. She has published two book/CD collections of music from that region. Mary Cay has  organized and led four Village Harmony trips to the Republic of Macedonia and three to Bosnia, with this fourth one planned for 2018.



Suzannah Park

SuzannahVH-2013SUZANNAH PARK comes from a family of three generations of ballad singers, storytellers, and dancers and lives in the North Carolina mountains of her birth. She began teaching at Village Harmony in 2000 after participating as a camper since the age of twelve. Her joyous and intuitive teaching style, born of a lifetime of familiarity with traditional music, makes singers old and young feel at home in the songs that she shares and with each other. Weather she’s teaching American ballads, South African songs and dances or Appalachian clogging, laughter and good times abound. When not on tour with Village Harmony Suzannah can be found singing with the Starry Mountain Singers, leading the Wild Asheville Community Chorus and kicking up her heels with the Green Grass Cloggers.


Vahidin Omanovic

Vahidin 2VAHIDIN OMANOVIC is the co-founder and co-director of the Center for Peacebuilding in Sanski Most, Bosnia.  He is an Islamic imam, and professional trainer in nonviolent communication with a masters degree in conflict transformation from the School for International Training in Brattleboro, Vermont. Vahidin experienced a personal transformation while participating in inter-ethnic dialogue and trauma healing sessions with an American organization in the 1990’s. He found that reconciliation was the only way forward in his country. He is the recipient of several peace prizes from international organizations and is in demand in many countries as a skilled peace builder. In addition to organizing many aspects of this camp he will be sharing his knowledge, skills and stories about peace building with all of us.


Samira Merdzanic

samiraSAMIRA MERDZANIC was a dynamic co-leader at our 2016 Bosnia camp. She subsequently came to the US to teach at a Village Harmony teen camp during the summer of 2017. Samira teaches accordion and leads many choirs in her home town of Bugojno. Since 1996 she has led an all girls’ choir, Bugojno Vocal Ensemble which focuses on preserving the traditional and sacred vocal traditions of Bosnia and neighboring countries. (Two girls from this choir attended a Village Harmony teen camp in 2009.) She also leads a children’s choir and a choir focusing on Croatian folk and spiritual traditions in Bosnia. Samira is very active in promoting concerts, choir festivals and exchanges throughout Bosnia and the Balkans. At the 2018 Bosnia camp Samira will teach a diverse repertoire of traditional sevdalinka, village songs and sacred songs from all around Bosnia.



Zorana Guja

ZoranaZorana Guja is a masters student in ethnomusicology at the Academy of Music in Sarajevo. In addition to doing field work in village traditions around Bosnia, she comes from a living aural tradition in her family. She is the editor of the student magazine Modus Musicus and a member of the vocal ensemble Etnoakademik which focuses on reviving and nurturing Bosnian’s vocal heritage. She is the artistic director of the folk ensemble Barscarsija in Sarajevo and lead vocalist of her own band. With Village Harmony Zorana plans to teach several songs from rural village traditions with authentic styling.

Alma Karabeg

alma KarabegAlma Karabeg – is an active music teacher and choral director. Since 2012 she has been an active member of the Center for Peace Building. She directs their choir, Harmonija, in sacred and secular music of all the Bosnian peoples and religions. She will share some of that repertoire with Village Harmony. Many members of all ages from Harmonija will likely join Village Harmony for rehearsal week and joint concerts.

Alma Karic

Alma-KaricAlma Karić – has taught both choral and orchestral music for the past 15 years in a Sarajevo music school. In addition to her school ensembles she directs the children’s choir «Sunflower» and an all women’s choir «Chorus Cadenza». She has won numerous prizes for her work at both the local and international level. She loves a diverse repertoire of traditonal Bosnian sevedalinka as well as music from around the world. She is fluent in German and English and plays accordion and piano.


Hotel Sanus, Sanski Most, Bosnia

Rehearsal week will be at the Hotel Sanus in Sanski Most, Bosnia & Herzegovina.