Co-Director, Music of the Balkans Ensemble
Ivan Varimezov was born in Bulgaria and received a B.A. degree in folk instrument performance and ensemble conducting from the Academy of Music and Dance in Plovdiv. Raised in the traditions of his native region of Strandzha, he is one of the most outstanding gaida (bagpipe) players of his generation, and he has many solo recordings and awards to his name. During the 1980s Varimezov was the director of the instrumental ensemble of a regional professional ensemble of folk song and dance in the town of Pazardzhik. During the 1990s he moved to Sofia to become the soloist with the orchestra of folk instruments at Radio and Television Sofia, a position occupied for twenty-five years by his famous uncle, Kostadin Varimezov. He came to the U.S. in 2001 to teach at UCLA. During last ten years, Ivan and Tzvetanka Varimezovi have organized many concerts for the UCLA students in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Santa Barbara, Ventura, San Diego and other cities.
In 2005, 2008, 2010 and 2015 Mr. Varimezov organized Bulgarian tours for students from UCLA Balkan Ensemble. In 2005 the UCLA Balkan Ensemble and the directors Ivan and Tzvetanka Varimezovi were invited to perform at the International Folklore Festival in Bourgas, Bulgaria. The UCLA Balkan Ensemble performed in front of more than 2000 people and received the “Diploma at the Festival” from the Mayor of the town of Bourgas, Ioan Konstantinov.
On June, 27, 2008, in the National Palace of the Culture, Sofia, Bulgaria, Tzvetanka Varimezova performed for a big concert entitled “May It Fill Your Soul,” which included two big events:
1) Professor Timothy Rice, director of the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music and Bulgarian music scholar/performer, received a medal called the “Order of Saints Cyril and Methodius, second degree” from Bulgaria’s President Georgi Purvanov, for his significant contribution to the scientific study of Bulgarian musical folklore and for his popularization of Bulgarian culture in the United States.
2) 50th anniversary and 30-year professional artistic career of Ivan Varimezov, musician-bagpiper, and soloist at the Orchestra for Bulgarian Folklore Music at the Bulgarian National Radio and Television, Sofia, conductor of Ensemble Pazardzhik, and currently adjunct associate professor of Bulgarian folk music at the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music Department of Ethnomusicology.
During the concert on June 27, Ivan received the award “Golden Lyre” from Union of The Bulgarian Musicians and Dancers and Honorary Citizen Award from his native town, Sredetz, in recognition of his 30-year professional artistic career. At the concert he performed with the UCLA Balkan Ensemble, The Orchestra for Bulgarian Folklore Music at The National Bulgarian Radio and Television, Sofia, the folk ensemble “Pazardzhik” (town of Pazardzhik), folk group “Sredets” (town of Sredets), and the Varimezov Family Ensemble – Ivan, Tzvetanka, and daughters Radka and Tanya.
In 2010 Ivan Varimezov organized another Bulgarian tour for 150 people from all over the world with a big concert on August, 04, 2010 in Bulgarian Hall, Sofia, dedicated to the 50th anniversary and 30-year professional artistic carrier of his wife Tzvetanka Varimezova as a musician, singer, teacher and conductor. This concert was so far the biggest concert that ever happened in Bulgaria and included more than 150 people on the stage: the UCLA Balkan Ensemble (Los Angeles); Kitka Choir (San Francisco); Nevenka Choir (Los Angeles); Djanam Choir (Paris); Agios Lavrentis (Greece); Usmifka Choir (Glas, Denmark) which choirs and musicians Ivan and Tzvetanka were working with. At the concert two Bulgarian professional ensembles also performed: “Ensemble Pazardzhik” (from the city of Pazardzhik) and “Ensemble Trakia” (from the city of Plovdiv). Those 150 singers and musicians from all over the world were invited to perform on Aug, 07, 2010 at The 10th National Festival of Folk Art, Koprivshtitsa, Bulgaria.
In 2015 Ivan and Tzvetanka Varimezovi organized the “Koprivshtitsa Tour” for the Agnes of Montbrillant Choir (Geneva, Switzerladn); the Dunava Choir (Seattle, Washington); and the Superdevoiche Choir (UCLA). Those groups performed at the concert in the town of Pazardzhik, where the choir Ensemble Pazardzhik also performed.
In 2018 Ivan Varimezov received his biggest award to date: a cristal medal from the Union of Bulgarian Musicians and Dancers for his outstanding contribution to development to the Bulgarian music culture. He also received “The Bulgarian award for his contribution to the Bulgarian Folklore Music” from The Annual Folklore Awards.