In this episode, I talk with Milan Opacich a National Heritage Fellow, tamburitza musician and luthier. We discuss his life’s work of collecting artifacts, instruments and ephemera related to tamburitza in the United States. Writing for the ethnic magazine, Serb World USA, he has chronicled the history of this often-overlooked genre of music. Opacich received the prestigious National Heritage Fellowship in 2004, along such notables as Koko Taylor and Jerry Douglas. From the Smithsonian’s Renwick Gallery as well as the Roy Acuff Museum in Nashville, Milan has exhibited his instruments. Though well into his eighties, he continues to make tamburitzas for musicians in the Serbian and Croatian communities of Indiana’s Calumet region. While many of the old luthiers were secretive about their trade when Milan was learning, Opacich is an open and supportive teacher having taught hundreds of enthusiasts to make their own instruments.
Also in this program, Milan and I discuss our concerns about proposed changes to the National Heritage Awards in Washington DC and its potential affects to the ongoing well-being of our countries diverse cultural arts and traditions.