Szászka was formed in 1996 to perform traditional Hungarian village dance music for events and workshops in the United States. Szászka has been performing regularly at táncház events in Minneapolis and Chicago, and at festivals and concerts in the Midwest. The group has studied with Hungarian and Transylvanian musicians in Hungary, Romania and the United States.
Dr. Colleen Bertsch is a violinist and music arranger who specializes in east-central European folk music. She has received multiple Minnesota State Arts Board's Artists Initiative grants, all of which have supported projects relating to folk music found in Romania. Colleen obtained her Ph.D. degree in ethnomusicology from the University of Minnesota. To conduct her dissertation research, she lived in Transylvania for a year, working side-by-side with string musicians - most prominently Ovidiu Barteș (Cluj), Florin Codoba (Pălatca), and Carol Țuli (Mociu). That research was supported by a Fulbright U.S. Student Research Award to Romania and a Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship from the University of Minnesota.
In addition to Szászka, Colleen is the fiddle player for Balkan party band Orkestar Bez Ime (OBI), director of the Ciprian Porumbescu Choir of Minnesota, and often serves as the music director for Ethnic Dance Theatre. As a member of OBI, Colleen received a McKnight Fellowship for Performing Musicians.
A native of Duluth, MN, Anastasia Verdoljak is a product of the public school orchestra program. She graduated from Macalester College, studying violin under Mary Budd Horozaniecki and abroad in Vienna and then obtained her K-12 instrumental music teaching license and MAE from Augsburg University. Anastasia served as the string ensemble teacher at a Waldorf school in Minneapolis for several years and joined the Robbinsdale Area Schools district in 2019, teaching middle and high school orchestras. She is a member of professional music educator organizations MMEA/NAfME, MNSOTA/ASTA and Suzuki Association of the Americas. Other endeavors include studying piano and training as a ballet dancer as a young person, being on the faculty for Delaware Valley, PA Performing Arts Camp for almost a decade, performing with Ethnic Dance Theatre since 2014, attending her first Ti Ti Tábor Hungarian folk camp in 2019, and joining Minneapolis-based Transylvanian folk band Szászka in 2020.
Sara Bruins plays string bass and violin and was one of the founding members of Szászka in 1996. Her desire to learn the many different styles of the traditional music of the Hungarian villages in Transylvania has led her to study with many of the most famous village musicians of this region. Sara holds a Masters degree in library science and resides in the Minneapolis area.
Violist Doug Code is also one of the original members of Szászka. After many years of performing with the Madison based Balkan music lounge band, The Reptile Palace Orchestra, Doug decided to focus his interest in Hungarian music. In 1994 he began studying the Kontra (3-string viola), an instrument unique to Transylvania. Doug is a consulting electrical engineer now residing in the Minneapolis area.
Eric is accomplished in many folk genres of accordion performance, and has studied with many renowned artists.
Eric performed for 4 years as a dancer and lead accordionist of the Duquesne University Taburitzans, the country's longest-running company dedicated to the performance of eastern European music, song, and dance. Eric's other performance highlights include appearances with the 2006-2007 All-State Orchestra, Flying Foot Forum, Ethnic Dance Theatre Folk Orchestra, the Mila Vocal Ensemble, and the Minneapolis based Ukrainian Village Band.
All photos courtesy of Paula White, Madison, WI USA