How Did It All Begin?
In the 1960's, a number of music lovers in Wood River, Illinois, asked Lou Cavic to get a few tamburaši together for a jam session. Lou gathered a group of tambura players from St. Louis and Southern Illinois, and an event was scheduled at Green Hall in Madison, Illinois. Approximately 90 people packed into the building to hear a few tamburaši play.
News of the affair spread throughout the area, and Lou received numerous inquiries regarding the 'next' get together. On December 9, 1967, the Tamburitza Reunion was held, again at Green Hall. The accommodations were primitive and the amenities limited, but the number of participating tamburaši swelled to approximately 60 with many more music lovers in attendance.
In November of 1968, another event, dubbed the 'Tamburitza Jamboree', was held in Venice, Illinois. Approximately 500 people attended this event and witnessed Steve Bucherich, Sr., inducted as the first member of what is now the TAA Hall of Fame.
Overwhelmed by the enthusiasm for the 1967 and 1968 events, Lou announced that the affair would be held annually. In 1969, a planned event in St. Louis was postponed while Lou assisted Chicago tamburaši with the organization of a Tamburitza Testimonial Banquet and Dance. The 1969 testimonial, and a subsequent affair in 1970, were the first events to be held in a legitimate auditorium and the first to be promoted on a nationwide basis.
In 1971, the event moved to Schererville, Indiana. The name 'Extravaganza' was first used at this event, reused in 1972 and 1973, and adopted as the name for all future annual events in 1974.
With the success of the annual Extravaganzas, Lou was convinced his vision of a large US and Canadian organization would materialize. With the assistance of the St. Louis Committee and legal counsel, he made the necessary arrangements to formally establish the Tamburitza Association of America, a Missouri non-profit corporation.
Lou hoped the organization would serve as a catalyst for the preservation and promotion of the Slavic culture and tradition. He hoped the organization would help tambura players of all ages from all geographic areas in the US and Canada come together to share their common love of tambura music.
Years after that first reunion, it's safe to say that Lou's vision has been realized, and his hopes for this organization fulfilled. The ranks of the Hall of Fame have swelled, many young people have been presented the Founder's Award for their commitment to the preservation of our culture, and numerous tamburaši have been honored for musical careers spanning more than 50 years.