Inducted - Pittsburgh 1984
Tamburitza musician, composer, instructor, direct ... George Beleg lived his life for these joys. He was born with a gift for music and spent a lifetime cultivating this love, especially for the tamburitza music which inspired him at a very early age.
George Beleg was born November 20, 1876, at Suhopolje, Croatia. At the age of four, he began his musical studies when he was given a crude violin made from a heavy cornstalk, strung and accompanied by a bow made from a tree branch. Young George cherished the instrument which soon prompted his father to buy him a real violin. His music progressed and his interests expanded to include the melodies produced by the tambura which led his father to have a tamburitza made for him to play. His early efforts to become proficient with the tambura are now tamburitza history.
Young George was a youth with deep religious affiliations, having been encouraged by his mother. He often composed music and lyrics of a religious nature which he played and sang for his mother. He served as an altar boy, attending Mass with his mother, and soon was involved in the church choir as the lead singer. He studied for the priesthood but when his father informed the bishop of George's love for music, young George was prompted to leave the priesthood to pursue a musical career.
Before his 18th birthday, George had formed his own tamburitza orchestra in Croatia and continued work with his music there until his departure for America.
George Beleg arrived in the United States in 1906 and settled in the Turtle Creek Valley Area near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. From 1906 until 1949, he organized and taught many tamburitza orchestras in Pennsylvania in such locales as Clairton, East Pittsburgh, Rankin, Braddock, Wilmerding, Trafford, Pitcairn, McKeesport, Duquesne, Homestead, North Side Pittsburgh and Monessen. As the years went by, he taught 12 orchestras, increasing in number to his involved with more than 34 different tamburitza groups. In some instances he taught three generations of families, first teaching the fathers, then the sons, and then their children.
Mr. Beleg, along with Dragutin Elias, is generally credited with having organized the beginnings of the tamburitza movement in the Milwaukee, Wisconsin area in the years following shortly after the turn of the century. Prior to 1910, Beleg directed the ensemble known as the 'Stara Sloboda' (Old Freedom), the original of a long line of Sloboda orchestras to follow.
By 1910, he organized the Tamburaski Zbor 'Sloboda' at East Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. This Sloboda Orchestra is reputed to have been the very first tamburitza ensemble ever to play over the pioneer radio station KDKA of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, which in 1924 was located on the ninth floor of the K Building in East Pittsburgh. The group presented broadcasts every Wednesday night for two years, receiving a fee of $25 for each performance.
George Beleg served as a proud member of 'Hrvatska Vila' Croatian Fraternal Union Lodge 141 of East Pittsburgh. He was highly regarded as a loyal lodge member and promoter of tamburitza music in the East Pittsburgh area. By 1912 he had performed with the 'Hrvatski Sokolski Zbor', a popular tamburitza orchestra at that time.
Another popular group of Mr. Beleg's was the 'G. Beleg Mjesovati Zbor' which included his daughter Julia on bisernica, Mary Prstac on bisernica, Helen Prstac on bugarija, Anthony Cvetnich on brac, Anthony Baburic on berde, and Mr. Beleg on cello.
From 1910 to 1920, George served as the instructor and leader of the Yugoslavenski Radnicki, Pjevacki, Tamburaski i Diletanski Zbor 'Bratstvo' which was organized in Old Allegheny City, Pennsylvania, now known as North Side Pittsburgh. 'Bratstvo' played for many dances and picnics in the greater Pittsburgh area and offered a variety of cultural and musical performances, including dramatic plays with complete chorus and tamburitza accompaniment under the direction of Mr. Beleg. Mr. Beleg is also credited with providing tamburitza entertainment at the first and second Croatian Days held at Kennywood Park in 1932 and 1933.
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