Walter C. "Loddie" Roncevic, Sr.
Inducted - Chicago 2009
Throughout his life, Walter C. "Loddie" Roncevic, Sr. was a staunch advocate for the tamburitza instrument and its musical capibilities. Until his death at age 74, the tambura and tamburitza music were his passion. Anyone who knew "Loddie" (how his non-slavic friends pronounced "Vladi") believed it was his vocation - not just an avocation.
Loddie started his tamburitza career at the age of 7 as a member of the Bright Stars Junior Tambiritzans of Ambridge, PA. It was then that he developed his love for the tamburitza and its many musical possibilities. The ensemble was a mainstay of the Croatian community in Western PA, playing such diverse venues as Croatian dances, picnics, vaudeville shows, talent show competitions, and other multi-cultural events. During his lifetime, he played with many notable Tamburasi including Walter K. Kolar, Libby Fill, Vera Svoboda, Trubaduri, Gus Rogan, Tony Muselin, the Duquesne University Tamburitzans, and numerous others.
WWII did not stop him from continuing his love affair with the tambura. When packing his bags for the SeaBees, he made quite sure he always had room for his Perman prim. His stories about the "jam sessions" on the ship always ended by stating that whatever the nationality of the song his shipmates would play, it "always sounded better when it was played on a tambura".
With the end of the war and his military obligations satisfied, Loddie returned to Western PA and found an outlet for his love of tambura by becoming a member of the Duquesne University Tamburitzans. Shortly after that, he married his "life partner", Violet V. Kolar. Together they started a family and had three sons.
Loddie's greatest passion and calling came when he became director of the Ambridge Junior Tamburitzans, a position he held for 30+ years. In all, he was involved for more than 40 years teaching and assisting in the direction of junior tamburitza groups. Thousands of individuals were introduced to the tambura by Loddie, and many of those he taught are now teaching junior ensembles today.
As a tambura instructor, it became very evident to him that to keep the interest of the young people in the group, it was imperative that he provide them with the popular new songs and dances to play. It was then that he began to transcribe and arrange music. His mostly self-taught style enabled all his students to play the popular tunes and afforded the advanced musicians a way to expand their skills and abilities with the tambura. He transcribed and/or arranged over 1,500 musical pieces, including the music of nationalities other than the Eastern European Slavs.
Loddie's dream (like most parents) was to have his junior students live a better life than he did. To that end, Loddie encouraged all his students to further their education. He was successful in helping over 30 students receive full scholarships with the Duquesne University Tamburitzans.
After retiring from active directorship of junior tamburitza groups, he helped to develop several adult tambura ensembles. Loddie was the first director of Ansembl Sveti Nikola in Ambridge, PA. He continued to transcribe and arrange music throughout these years and was a pre-eminent source of written musical arrangements for anyone wishing to propagate the tambura.
He used his woodworking skills from his cabinetmaking experience and learned to build tamburas, selling them at just about cost so students could play the instruments without a large financial burden to their parents. He participated in folk festivals and other ethnic venues where he proudly displayed the tambura and its musical possibilities. He appeared on local radio and television, playing the tambura and expounding its virtues. His last wish was to have his vast musical library donated to the Croatian Fraternal Union so everyone could have access to his life's work and share his passion for the tambura.
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