KS 2020 Music STAFF

Kobzarska Sich is sponsored by the Ukrainian Bandurist Chorus. Celebrating their 100th Anniversary this year, the UBC provides artistic and logistical support for Kobzarska Sich. The realization of our shared vision is led by dedicated Administrative and Musical staffs.

The KS 2020 Musical Staff is led by an incredible artist,

Oleh Mahlay.

Oleh Mahlay




Born in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1969 to Ukrainian immigrants, Oleh Mahlay began to study the piano at the age of five. He studied violin, music theory and form at the Cleveland Music School Settlement where he received scholarships for his studies. Oleh also studied piano with Dr. George Cherry of Baldwin Wallace College Conservatory of Music. His violin teachers included Elmer Seltzer of the Cleveland Orchestra and Jeannette Drinkold-Meyer, a student of renowned violinist Josef Gingold.

Beginning in his early teens, Oleh earned outstanding marks at various competitions on both the violin and the piano. At the 1986 Baldwin Wallace Conservatory Summer Music Clinic in Berea, Ohio, he won the piano competition, performing Mozart's Piano Concerto in G Major, K. 453 with orchestra, and later that year, Beethoven's Piano Concert No. 1 in C Major. He also played in various youth orchestra at the Baldwin Wallace Preparatory Department, and in 1987 was honored as the Outstanding Preparatory Student of the Year. That same year he was the piano soloist in Beethoven's Choral Fantasy with the Parma Symphony Orchestra.

Oleh received a bachelor of arts in music history and literature from Case Western Reserve University. He studied voice and piano at the Cleveland Institute of Music. He served as the concertmaster of the University Circle Chamber Orchestra for four years. During his undergraduate studies, the university awarded him the Kennedy Prize for Creative Achievement in Music, and the Charles E. Clemens Prize for Talent and Accomplishment in Music. He is also a member of the Pi Kappa Lambda music honorary society at C.I.M. and C.W.R.U. Mr. Mahlay was a magna cum laude and phi beta kappa graduate.

Oleh is the Artistic Director and Conductor of the Taras Shevchenko Ukrainian Bandurist Chorus of North America.

Andrij birko



Andrij Birko is the Concertmaster of the Ukrainian Bandurist Chorus. He began playing the bandura at summer camps in London, Ontario in the early 1980's and quickly became smitten with the instrument. At age 15, he was made an instructor and continued to teach bandura at these camps and additionally learned the Kharkiv technique of play. Andrij continues to teach bandura at summer camps to this day.

At the age of 16, Andrij was accepted as a candidate in the Ukrainian Bandurist Chorus and with the ensemble toured North America and was a participant in the Chours's tours of Ukraine in 1991, 1994, 2001, and the Centennial Tour in 2018.

In addition to being a bandura player, Andrij is one of the few people in the world who is a maker of banduras. He completed his first bandura in 1997 and is currently working on the next generation of instruments of his own design using modern techniques such as CAD design and CNC manufacturing.

Maksym Mahlay




Maksym Mahlay (Cleveland, OH) is entering his fifth year as a double major in Piano Performance and Music Composition at the College-Conservatory of Music. An alumni of Kobzars’ka Sich, Maksym has since been involved at teaching bandura camps, including KS, Cleveland Bandura Workshop, Detroit Bandura Workshop, and Bobriwka Bandura Camp. He is currently involved in composing new bandura music for musicians abroad.

Ivan shmilo



Born in Ukraine in 1981, bandurist Ivan Shmilo has performed on the bandura throughout Europe and America. He is a graduate of the Barvinsky Music Collegium in Drohobych and earned his masters degree at the Ivan Franko Pedagogical University in Drohobych. He plays with the Ukrainian Bandurist Chorus of North America and currently lives in Chicago. He teaches bandura to young students in Chicago. Ivan is excited to return to Kobzarska Such to teach again this year!

Oksana Telepko

Oksana Telepko.png


Banduristka Oksana Telepko graduated from the Lviv State Music College with a Bachelor of Arts, and then proceeded to attend the Lviv National Music Academy for her masters degree. Oksana performs at various festivals throughout the Tristate and New England areas, and currently lives in New Jersey. She has worked at various CYM camps, and has been teaching bandura along with vocals, to students for over 15 years. Oksana is very excited to bring her talents to the Kobzarska Sich family, and is looking forward to meeting the future of bandura!

irka zawadiwsky

Irka Z


Irene (Irka) Zawadiwsky considers the bandura, “the most beautiful instrument in the world”, and has performed for over 40 years in concerts and festivals for both Ukrainian and non-Ukrainian audiences in the northeast US and Canada. She studied bandura with world-renown bandurist, composer and director Maestro Hryhorij Kytasty, who taught not only bandura technique, but instilled a love for the instrument and the concept that you play the bandura with your fingers, but also with your heart.  

Irka is a member of the Women’s Bandura Ensemble of North America, composed of female bandurists from over 7 cities in the US and Canada, as well as the Zorya female vocal ensemble in Cleveland. She was one of the founding instructors of the H Kytasty School of Bandura in Cleveland, and has led the Junior Bandura Workshop at Kobzarska Sich in Emlenton. Irka enjoys sharing the beauty and richness of bandura music and song with new generations of students. 

Natalia mahlay

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Natalia B. Mahlay is the founding and current artistic director of the Zorya Ukrainian Female Vocal Ensemble of Cleveland, Ohio. Ms. Mahlay previously taught bandura at the ODUM Bandura Camp in London, Ontario as well as at Kobzarska Sich, with many years leading the Kobzarska Sich Female Bandura Ensemble. Natalia is a Bandura instructor and assistant administrator at the Hryhory Kytasty School of Bandura in Cleveland, Ohio and sang with the trio Ridna Dusha (Native Soul) which was born at Kobzarska Sich.


Natalia Mahlay received bandura instruction at the school of bandura in Cleveland since the age of 13, and at Kobzarska Sich in the 1990's and early 2000's.  Mahlay studied with various instructors who included Julian Kytasty, Oleh Mahlay, and Nadia Tarnawsky.  Mahlay also studied voice with Professor Norma Codispoti at Baldwin Wallace Conservatory in Cleveland.

Taisa Kulyk



Taisa is a banduristka from Cleveland. She has helped teach in Cleveland winter bandura workshops and recently joined the Women's Bandura Ensemble of North America. This spring semester she had the amazing opportunity to play with the bandura ensemble Zoryanitsya while studying abroad at Ivan Franko National University of Lviv. Taisa has also sung Ukrainian folk music with Zorya and the trio Lastivka. She cannot wait to teach kids and spark enthusiasm and curiosity for the bandura in this Junior Bandura Workshop.





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