Flying Balalaika Brothers to perform at Coastal Bend College

The Flying Balalaika Brothers, an Austin-based music group, will perform for the Beeville Concert Association on Sunday, Oct. 9 at 3 p.m. at the Gertrude R. Jones Performing Arts Auditorium.

The concert is sponsored by the Coastal Bend Community Foundation, as part of their special Spring for the Artsprogram in celebration of their 30 years of philanthropy in South Texas.

Flying Balalaika Brothers

The Flying Balalaika Brothers, an Austin-based band, features Russian folk and classical music, tempered with American bluegrass.Performers are Zhenya Kolykhanov, Sergey Vaschenko, Chris DeVore, Derek Strahan and Nick Kantor.

The group’s name comes from the speed with which balalaika players’ fingers move while playing the instrument, which sounds similar to a banjo. Because of the tuning, they must employ a very fast technique with their left hands in order to play all the notes.

The original Flying Balalaika Brothers were formed in Los Angeles in 1995 by Zhenya Kolykhanov (a.k.a. Zhenya Rock), the former lead guitarist of the Russian surf/rockabilly group Red Elvises. The group started as a street band and later transformed into performers for clubs, motion pictures, and television shows in California. After Kolykhanov moved to Austin, he re-established the Flying Balalaika Brothers in the musically-rich capitol city culture.

The band performs a blend of traditional world music and original pieces.  

Kolykhanov graduated from Tchaikovsky Music College in Vologda, Russia, in 1984. He later came to the United States to study critical thinking, reading and fine arts at the University of Delaware. In addition to the balalaika, Kolykhanov plays guitar, composes songs for television, and creates art for commercials.

Sergey Vaschenko earned a bachelor’s degree in conducting and balalaika from Lysenko State Music College in Poltava, Ukraine, in 1980 and a master’s in orchestral conducting, teaching and balalaika performance from the Mussorgsky Ural State Conservatory in Sverdlovsk, Russia, in 1985. Vaschenko’s experience includes: Dean of the Faculty of Arts for Perm State Institute of Culture in Perm, Russia; guest soloist for the Latvian Chamber Orchestra in 1989; music educator in Russia, Latvia, Spain, Dallas and Austin; and guest conductor for the Houston Balalaika Society. He won an international award at the music festival in Segovia, Spain, and was a contender for a 2003 and 2008 Grammy award in the world music category.

Chris DeVore is a Virginia native with 15 years experience as a musician in Austin. A guitar instructor for Austin Community College, DeVore has studied with Kolykhanov.  He also plays drums.

Texan Derek Strahan plays the contrabass balalaika, piano, saxophone and bass. He also sings and composes music.

Nick Kantor has a master’s degree in business and teaches at the college and preparatory school level. He plays guitar and drums. Kantor has played with many noted songwriters and musicians, including Omar Sharriff, the Boogie Woogie piano king of Marshall, Texas;  Hence Phillips;  G.G. Amos; Jackie Greene; Earle Poole Ball; Burl Wilkerson; Kelly Cutler; and Clue and the Honkytones.

The Flying Balalaika Brothers have toured internationally, sharing their unique blend of Russian folk and classical music, influenced by American bluegrass and innovative acoustic music.

In addition to touring and performing, they began successfully presenting educational programs in three languages (English, Spanish and Russian) to students of Texas public and private schools, celebrating the arts in all its diversity by providing a unique approach to studying both the profound similarities and distinctive differences of people throughout history and around the world.

The concert is free to all students through high school age and to CBC students with their photo IDs.  This year any adult who brings two students through high school age will be admitted free. Other adults will pay $10 at the door if they do not have BCA season tickets.