This site serves as a digital database for three types of media relating to Hungarian/Slovak Roma-Gypsy musicians: recorded oral history interviews with members and close affiliates of Cleveland's Roma community, sheet music publications containing repertoire commonly performed by the community's musicians, and music recordings by established musicians from both Europe and North America. The oral histories published here are the result of the work of students in three Oberlin College courses taught by Dr. Ian MacMillen that partnered with Cleveland-based Roma historian Steve Piskor in 2017 and 2018. These interviews are presented digitally with the support of the Digital Initiatives department of the Oberlin College Library and through administrative assistance and a Mellon-funded course development grant from the Great Lakes Colleges Association's Oral History in the Liberal Arts (OHLA) initiative. Through an OHLA-supported collaboration with the University of Kentucky's Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, students in the three Oberlin courses conducted and recorded the interviews and also later segmented and analyzed them, supplying keywords, subject headings, synopses, and partial transcripts using the Nunn Center's Oral History Metadata Synchronizer (OHMS) platform. The result is a fully streamable and keyword-searchable database of oral histories, integrated with an online catalog of directly related media in the Oberlin Conservatory Library.
The course-based "A Storied People" project thus chronicles Cleveland's once vibrant Hungarian Roma violin- and cimbalom-band scene and the experiences of Roma who have called Northeast Ohio home. Simultaneously, it provides context for and enriches pedagogical use of the Conservatory Library's holdings of Romani sheet music and recordings. Together, the latter two collections constitute The George Batyi Collection, a donation of audio recordings (LPs, 78s, CDs, and audiocassettes) and notated music that document the Slovakian and Hungarian Romani styles of Batyi's heritage, as well as other styles such as Gypsy Jazz and Russian "Gypsy" Romances. Batyi, the donor, was born in Homestead, PA in 1959 and has been playing the violin since the age of ten, touring frequently in Cleveland and throughout the U.S. He currently leads a band called "Gypsy Strings," with whom he performed at Oberlin in October 2017 and contributed oral history interviews and a concert recording to this database's streamable media.