Bulgarian language, literature and history classes are taught according to Bulgarian Ministry of Education standards adjusted to local specifics.
Gergana works with the Bulgarian State Agency for Bulgarians Abroad, the Association of Bulgarian Schools Abroad, the American Foundation for Bulgaria in Boston, other Bulgarian educational and cultural organizations in New York, and liaises with Bulgarian and local media, local “ethnic” and other schools, educational and cultural organizations and programs in New York.
Gergana’s atmosphere is family-like, inclusive and nurturing, with constant individual focus on each child, and with close friendly relations between faculty and parents.
The Chorus was founded in October 2004 by jazz singer-songwriter Gergana Velinova, its director till 2006, and world renowned opera singer Stefka Evstatieva, its vocal coach till 2017. It is the oldest Bulgarian children's chorus outside Bulgaria.
Its first pianist was Daniela Stoyanova-Smith; Krassi Ivanchev joined as chorus director in early 2006, and Victoria Tzotzkova was pianist from 2007 to 2012. From 2012 to 2017, Magdalena Dushkina was pianist. In 2014, Lora Al-Ahmad joined as pianist.
In February 2005, a Bulgarian School initially for the Chorus children, the first Bulgarian school in New York, was headed by Neli Hadjiyska.
In 2006, the organization adopted the name Gergana. Since 2009, it participates in Bulgarian Ministry of Education Bulgarian language and culture programs for Bulgarian schools abroad. In 2010, Gergana was incorporated in the State of New York. In 2012, it was licensed by the Bulgarian Ministry of Education to issue official certificates of completed courses of study of Bulgarian language, history and geography, and was granted non-profit status by the US Internal Revenue Service.
Gergana has performed in 98 concerts at New York City venues including the Bulgarian Consulate General, the Sts. Cyril and Methodius Bulgarian Cathedral, Carnegie Hall, Symphony Space, the United Nations headquarters, the New York Public Library, the United Bank of Switzerland headquarters, Pace University, at the Global Fund for Children Gala at Rubin Museum of Art, and at the Museum of the City of New York, as well in a concert for the Bulgarian community in Chicago and two performances for the Bulgarian community in Paris.
Gergana produces its own free study materials such as The Gergana Songbook (Sofia, 2013) with 39 selected Bulgarian songs from its repertory with sheet music and lyrics, also translated into English. The Songbook was published by the State Agency for Bulgarians Abroad and is being distributed free of charge to Bulgarian schools all over the world.
Bulgarian Children's Chorus and School Gergana, Inc. is a Section 501(c)(3) non-profit school. Studies in the US have shown that its corporation type chosen upon recommendation by its lawyers is the best option for an independent school, providing for its continuous manageability, capacity for innovation, longevity, and quality service in children's best interests.
Iva Sabcheva, Chair
Anthem (Commissioned in 2012)
Lyrics: Angelina Zhekova
Music: Krasimir Miletkov
See: Media/Downloads - Химн "Гергана" - Ноти 1-4
Q.: Is Gergana a real school or is it a chorus as some people say?
A: Gergana is a real school: in fact, the oldest Bulgarian school in the City, the only one legally incorporated in the State of New York, and is also a chorus: it is a "unity of a school and chorus."
Q.: Is every Gergana student required to be in the chorus too?
A: No, we accept students in the school only as well; our extracurricular programs are optional.
That said, we consider our professionally managed chorus an extremely efficient way of getting the kids interested in Bulgarian culture and learning Bulgarian. It is also excellent for developing aesthetic taste and noble feelings, forming teamwork, deadline-keeping, and other professional skills, for building lasting friendships and enriching the kids by way of close communication with the amazing artistic individuals we work with. We attach similar importance to our drama studio/music theater class and dance studio as well.
Q.: But why is Gergana still called a "chorus?"
A.: Because it started as a chorus in 2004 and in a few months developed into a school. It's much like the magazine The Economist is called a "newspaper".
Q.: Is the school "official" or "licensed"?
A.: Yes. Gergana is licensed by the Bulgarian Ministry of Education (MON) under PMS 334/2011 and issues official certificates of accomplished study, as other licensed schools do. Gergana is also a respected member of the Association of Bulgarian Schools Abroad (АБУЧ) and cooperates with the State Agency for Bulgarians Abroad.
Q.: Is Gergana part of something or is it independent?
A.: Gergana is an independent nonprofit corporation, a New York legal person, and the only Bulgarian school legally incorporated in this city and state.
Q.: C'mon, what's so special about Gergana?
A.: Gergana is a common lifelong cause of a group of friends and has unique family-like atmosphere. Teaching is conducted in small groups and a lot of individual work is performed with each student. Our teacher-to-student ratio is significantly better than in New York private schools, regular Bulgarian and American public schools. Our teachers are carefully handpicked for their commitment, professional and personal qualities to excel both individually and as a team. All students from pre-K to 12 grade have equal access to both rigorous academic programs and varied arts programs closely integrated with their academics and with each other.
Unlike other sister Bulgarian Sunday schools, our students can spend, if they wish, longer hours at school. All students get to know each other well thanks to arts programs and other extracurriculars bringing different age cohorts together and showing all participating students onstage. And while our students work in class or onstage, parents can join our programs for adults: mixed chorus, Yoga class, fashion workshops, dance workshops, and Bulgarian for adult beginners. Small wonder that both students and parents form long-lasting friendships.
Gergana is a truly innovative organization that pioneered most of the children-related services now available for Bulgarians in New York: a children's chorus, a Sunday school, a preschool program, a preparatory class for kids with limited command of Bulgarian, a drama studio, a music theater production for children's chorus, a music theater class for soloists, a contemporary dance, a rhythmic gymnastics, and a visual arts program, a free yoga class for parents, a men's chorus of dads and granddads, teachers and friends that grew into a mixed chorus with even more moms and grandmas, a fashion workshop club for moms and grannies, a published songbook with selected Bulgarian songs in Bulgarian and English with sheet music...
In fact, The Gergana Songbook has been distributed free to Bulgarian schools all over the world and is considered among the greatest publishing successes for the State Agency for Bulgarians Abroad so far; a second edition is in the pipeline. And our music theater adaptation "Как без музика?" was awarded the first prize by the Bulgarian Agency for Bulgarians Abroad in a 2013 competition with 22 other vocal groups, and has been requested for production by other Bulgarian schools abroad as their search for a good music theater piece in Bulgarian lead them to us of all places.
Bilinguality, enshrined in both the Songbook and music theater adaptation, with the Bulgarian originals translated into English (and vice versa) on the same page, is a guiding principle for Gergana: we educate bilingual Bulgarian American professionals of tomorrow.
And So, We Are
• The first and most renowned Bulgarian school in New York (February 2005)
• Licensed by the Bulgarian Ministry of Education to issue official certificates of completed courses of study of Bulgarian
• The first Bulgarian children's chorus outside Bulgaria (2004) and the only professionally directed one in New York
• The award-winning independent Bulgarian Sunday school on Manhattan's Upper East Side, tuition free
• A respected member of the Association of Bulgarian Schools Abroad
• Extensively covered by Bulgarian media in the United States and Bulgaria
• A singing school using singing, music, drama and dance to capture the students' interest in learning Bulgarian language, culture and history
• A fun school kids really enjoy; a vibrant, tightly knit community of students, parents, teachers and friends from the three-state area
• Аccomplished faculty with distinguished professional careers, advanced degrees, innovative ideas, and extensive experience in education and performing
• Weekly classes on Sundays at Wagner Middle School (220 E 76th Street, New York, NY)
• Children of all ages and levels of command of Bulgarian are welcome
• Preschool classes for children under 5; preparatory classes for children with limited command of Bulgarian
• School classes: kindergarten to 12th grade
• Drama studio: in June 2013, staged an adaptation of the musical The Sound of Music
• Dance studio: rhythmic gymnastics for girls, contemporary and ballroom dances and Bulgarian folk dances for all
• Teaching in small classes; individual tutoring in reading and writing, including cursive
• All students learn to read, write and speak standard educated Bulgarian and acquire a keen understanding of Bulgarian culture; students have won awards in Bulgarian essay writing competitions
• The students learn by heart numerous lyrics, including classic Bulgarian poems
• The students develop public speaking, improvisation, and teamwork skills, and get used to keeping deadlines
• Solid start for applicants to arts schools such as LaGuardia Arts
• Rigorous academic standards combined with a signature warm, inclusive, and nurturing family atmosphere with constant individual focus on each child
• Use of electronic gadgets is not permitted in class but students are encouraged to use the internet outside class for learning
"The New York Little Nightingales"
• Active concert schedule – 98 concerts at venues including the Bulgarian Consulate General, the Bulgarian Cathedral, Carnegie Hall, Symphony Space, UN headquarters, NY Public Library, UBS headquarters, Pace University, at the Global Fund for Children Gala at Rubin Museum of Art, at the Museum of the City of New York, as well as two concerts and one music theater performance for the Bulgarian community in Chicago and two performances for the Bulgarian community in Paris
• Rich and varied repertory, including Bulgarian and American choral classics, folklore, and modern music. New songs every semester, including original compositions and lyrics
• Publishing songbooks with selected songs from our repertory with lyrics translated into English for free use by Bulgarian school choirs worldwide
• Cooperation with the Bulgarian Concert Evenings in New York as well as with other "ethnic" schools: recently, joint concerts with an Armenian, a Czech and Slovak, a Turkish and an Indian school
• Participation in all Bulgarian celebrations in New York
• Gergana Alumni Vocal Group unites chorus alumni for concert participation after graduation
• Launched in 2006 by actress and NATFA professor Madlen Cholakova, since the fall of 2012, it has been directed by actress and singer Gina DiDonato. In 2012, it staged a dramatization of Foxy's Adventures ("Приключенията на Лиско") by Boris Aprilov, and in 2013, it is staging an adaptation of the musical The Sound of Music for children's chorus, translated into Bulgarian.
• The studio teaches performance and public appearance skills: speech, storytelling, characterization, mime, and movement; social interaction and communication skills, and enhanced self-esteem and confidence. It develops creativity, imagination, spontaneity, and the ability to learn to take risks in a safe, supportive and fun environment.
• In Fall 2014, a new music theater class was launched, taught by Gina DiDonato and Maggie Dushkina.
• The studio teaches the children to move their bodies in a graceful, healthy and safe way, provides exercise, and develops a movement vocabulary of emotional expression and social interaction. Dance skills are being integrated with singing and acting in music theater productions.
• Since 2013, rhythmic gymnastics coach Boryana Yordanova teaches a rhythmic gymnastics class for girls and a Yoga class for adults.
• In 2015, a class in ballet, contemporary and ballroom dances, and Bulgarian folk dances was launched, taught by choreographer Nadya Staneva.
Parents and Families
• Vibrant community life with family celebrations, concerts, singalongs, outings, talent shows, a fashion workshop for moms and grannies, lively Facebook and other social media experience
• The Gergana Community Mixed Chorus for parents, teachers and friends, during children's regular classes
• Bulgarian language, life and thought is a Bulgarian as foreign language class for adult beginners, during children's regular classes
• Boryana's Yoga class for adults, during children's regular classes
• Parents can participate in Nadya's Dance class and practice ballroom and Bulgarian folk dances
• Reaching out to all our English-speaking parents, family and friends, we translate and perform our Bulgarian songs in English too and publish songbooks with translations and sheet music