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Sounds of Buffalo: Buffalo Tango Orkestra

The following is an updated interview fielded by multiple musicians in Buffalo Tango Orkestra:
Ana Vafai – Violin
Teagan Faran – Violin
Jessica Tufte – Violin
Evan Vafai – Violin
Paul Struckmann – Violin/Viola
Benjamin Levitt – Bass
Ivan Docenko – Piano
Victoria Perez-Maggiolo – Vocals
Moshe Shulman – Bandoneon, Accordion, Director and arranger for the group
How did the name of the band come about? When did it form? 
MS (Moshe Shulman): From Spanish it would translate to “Tango Band,” but that is not the feel we wanted in the name.  It really isn’t a traditional American “orchestra” of any sort, so I chose to keep it in the middle with the Russian word “orkestra.” The group formed in August 2012 the way that it exists today.
JT (Jessica Tufte): I remember being stuck on a ski lift with Moshe on the way up to play a mountain-side summer wedding a few months before we all started playing together.  I had seen him around UB’s music department years before, but this was really the first time I had met him.  It was my first time on a ski lift, and I’m not too crazy about heights, let alone trying to hang on to a violin, stand, music, and purse with my heels dangling from my big toe and he casually said, “You want to play some tango?”  Uhh…sure…?
Where are you from originally? If not from Buffalo, why are you here?
JT:  Most of the musicians in the group are from WNY.  I grew up in Clarence, Paul grew up in Lockport, Teagan and Ben in Amherst, Ana and Evan Vafai grew up in Buffalo along with Ivan Docenko.  Moshe is from Russia/Israel and studied studied at UB for PhD in Music Composition, and Victoria came from further south to NYC to study the performing arts and then made it up to Buffalo.

What’s it like to perform in front of a crowd? Give me three words.

TF (Teagan Faran): “dream come true”
PS (Paul Struckmann): “Stomach-churning, nerve-racking and fun!”
When and why did you start playing?
TF: I heard ‘Twinkle Twinkle’ being played at my brother’s fourth grade band concert and begged for lessons.
JT: My mother played violin, so when we were 8 my twin sister and I started lessons.  My younger sister later followed suit.  It was the natural thing to do.
Describe your voice/instrument. If you were to name your instrument (maybe you have) what would its name be?
PS: My violin’s name is Wilhelm which is a family name but I don’t have a name for my viola. Its still too young to have a name. The two of them together have a nickname though: Bread-n-Butter.

Did music come naturally to you? Or were you driven to learn and play/sing? What sparked the passion? Do you come from a musical family? 
PS: Some parts of the musical experience come naturally to me and others are a struggle and I think the combination of the two create the passion I have for it.
JT: I think everyone playing would agree that it did come somewhat naturally, but the only way each of us are still playing now is due to the many hours of hard work that we’ve put into it.  I don’t think anyone would have come this far if it was a real struggle or chore.
Are you schooled in music? From where?
Ana Vafai – went to Eastman School of Music
Teagan Faran – Is our young star that is still in high school (!)
Jessica Tufte – went to UB for a BA in Biological Sciences and English
Evan Vafai – goes to school for photography and other graphic arts
Paul Struckmann –  went to the Crane School Of Music at SUNY Potsdam.
Benjamin Levitt – was in the Navy, and has a BS in Social work, and is currently working on a nursing degree
Ivan Docenko – has a BFA in piano performance from UB
Victoria Perez-Maggiolo – studied the performing arts
Moshe Shulman – has a PhD in music composition from UB
Which famous musician(s) do you admire?
TF:  Too many to list! Some highlights: Heifetz, Regina Carter
PS: I admire Nigel Kennedy. I like his style of playing. Bela Fleck is also a musician I admire. His ability to crossover to different genres is very impressive. That’s something I try to do.
JT:  I am in love with Jaqueline Du Pre’s playing and story…so heartbreaking!
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Where is your favorite place to play/sing in Buffalo? Where would you most like to play/sing in Buffalo?
TF: I really enjoy playing outdoors or in the Ukranian Hall.  Kleinhans is
also a favorite.
PS:  My favorite place to sing and play is my home church in Lockport, Trinity Lutheran Church. In Buffalo I’d have to say the Statler because of its history and importance. As far as a place I would most like to play would be an empty grain elevator.
What’s your day job?
Currently everyone is…
Ana Vafai – Teaching keyboard at the JCC
Teagan Faran – Attending high school
Jessica Tufte – Working at a refugee resettlement agency
Paul Struckmann – Teaches 270 violin students at Global Concepts Charter School
Benjamin Levitt – Is a freelance musician while attending school
Ivan Docenko – Works in the Buff State music dept.
Victoria Perez-Maggiolo – Is a local actress
Moshe Shulman – Is a freelance musician
If you could play/sing for one famous person (alive or dead), who would that be?
PS: I would love to play for Mahatma Ghandi. I wouldn’t have to worry about him storming the stage.  Or needing to serve refreshments.
If you could play/sing with one famous band (any time in history), what would that band be?
PS:  The band I’d want to play with would be The Grateful Dead.
JT:  I think it would really cool to play with anyone!  I love joining in the fun.  I’m always jealous of those violinists playing with famous singers because it looks like it’s really easy music, and it would be a lot of fun.

How would you describe your music style? 
MS: Eclectic
Do you play/sing covers or all originals? Or a combination of both? 
MS: A combination of both
What are your strengths? 
MS: Artistry, musical expertise, directional abilities
Do you have a label? A recording studio? Have you recorded a CD?
MS: None of the above

Where and when is your next gig(s) in the city?
“Milonga Militar” – June 15th at 10pm at Ukrainian-American Civic Center (205 Military Rd.) – see Facebook


The first one is Saturday, June 15th at the Ukranian Cultural Center (on Military near Grote Street) in the form of a milonga (where tango dancers will dance to our music), and the other major one coming up is on the Main Stage at the Elmwood Art Festival (11:00-11:45 on Saturday the 24th of August, 2013).  There are a few more in-between.

The Elmwood Arts Festival – August 24th, main stage (Lafayette and Elmwood) at 11am

Lead photo: Peter Tsang
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See more Sounds of Buffalo: Free Henry!Mari McNeilDavey OTheresa QuinnJim BohmChae HawkNikki HicksFlatbedWhiskey ReverbDjambossaWhat would Mingus do?Prime ExampleWill HoltonGenkin PhilharmonicThe Andrew J. Reimers Country Punk ExtravaganzaSuzanne FattaJanice MitchellPoindexterMichael CiviscaMichael Oliver & The Sacred BandSkiffle Minstrels, The Buffalo Tango Orkestra


If you play in a group/band (or solo) here in Buffalo, and have an upcoming gig at a venue(s) in the city, consider sending Buffalo Rising an email requesting to be emailed a Q&A interview that we can then post, along with concert dates. It’s a fun and easy way to get your name in front of another audience that is interested in learning about the local music scene. 


The requirements are:

-You must be living in the Greater Buffalo region… or you must be plotting your return
-You must have a public show coming up in the city of Buffalo, as our focus is the urban landscape
-You must have a photo of the band
-Solo acts are also welcome
-Video is a plus
-CD/Album/poster art is welcome
-Links to Social Media sites are a bonus
-Ability to take accept both praise and/or criticism is a must

It is up to the discretion of Buffalo Rising whether or not to publish the interviews depending on nature of content submitted, or lack thereof. 

Please send requests here. Include “Sounds of Buffalo” in the subject box of the email.