Oleg Kruglyakov, balalaika virtuoso, was born in Omsk, Siberia, Russia. Many of his early experiences centered around singing together with family members. He has a keen ear for musical styles and a deep respect for cultural tradition. He is fascinated by the history of the Russian people and well-versed in the etymology of the Russian language. Kruglyakov began playing the balalaika at age 7 and later was educated at the renowned Yekaterinburg Conservatory, studying conducting and pedagogy. He is a protégé of Yevgeny Grigorovich Blinov, the foremost balalaika virtuoso of the Soviet Union, who performed the world over and added many beautiful pieces of music to the balalaika-piano duo repertoire. While in conservatory he performed with many types of ensembles, including an ethnic music singing group.

Kruglyakov’s absolute dedication to his balalaika lineage, the repertoire written for the balalaika/piano duo, Russian folk instruments in general, and to a vast, precious body of Russian folk music goes beyond any of his colleagues, both in the USA and Russia. He is passionate about the culture in which he was raised – a combination of pagan, rural, urban, and classical traditions – and feels compelled to disseminate its wisdom and share its beauty. Many balalaika players who moved to the USA have found the struggle to earn a living and communicate about their music too difficult. Kruglyakov, who is bi-lingual, communicates to audiences, students, and presenters alike with hope, clarity, and humor, and is devoted to his art and craft.

He is a fascinating and passionate performer, playing at the highest level of musicianship, with an unmatched sensitivity and subtlety. He gives 100 percent to every performance and teaching interaction. His primary commitment has been to Russian Duo for 15 years, touring, performing, teaching, and recording two albums in the process. He is a consummate collaborator, with fellow musicians as well as other projects that he takes on – such as writing music, cameo appearances in a play, coaching movement for theater, audio- and video- recording and editing.

Kruglyakov is deeply aware of history, attuned to current events, and keenly aware that with the passage of time, people will forget the folk traditions of Russia and former USSR. He has taken it upon himself to create a material/cultural repository for the benefit of future generations of musicians in the form of a non-profit foundation dedicated to the preservation of Russian folk music traditions, best practices, and innovations. He sponsors domra and balalaika competitions (the over 190 entrants this year came from many countries including Ukraine), publishes newsworthy items, works as a forum for practitioners, publishes historical articles that exemplify the Russian/American connection, and serves as a network to connect balalaika aficionados and communities in Germany, Japan, Argentina, France, and the USA.

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