About VFO





VFO plays music for international folk dancing with an emphasis on Balkan, including Greek, Macedonian, Bulgarian, Rom, Serbian, and Czech. Dancers will recognize much of our repertoire and we accommodate many requests. Founded as the Village Folk Orkestra in 1983 by Richard Geisler, VFO is grateful for Richard's many dance music transcriptions that we have played over the years. Ever evolving, our current incarnation's focus is on providing energetic dance music for today's dancers.


At nine yers of age, Lonna Whipple began playing classical violin, but is now a student of the folk fiddle. She fell in love with Balkan music when she saw the dancing at the Sacramento Camelia Festival many years ago. Although she thinks of herself as a dancer first, she's played on and off with VFO since its inception and loves playing for dancers. Several trips to Bulgaria have initiated her into learning their stringed intrument, the Gadulka.

Her other passions are Irish music and Contra dance music. You can hear her in the Contra dance band, Star Thistle, on the third Saturday of each month in Auburn. You can find her playing Irish music in the Starry River Ceilli Band, also in Auburn, as well as sitting in on Irish sessions at Latitudes on Sundays in Auburn, and on Thursdays in Nevada County.


George Kreshka has been a singer all his life, beginning with his mother who loved to sing and taught him songs from her Ukrainian homeland. He sang with church choirs in Bethlehem, PA as a boy soprano and later as a bass in the famous Bethlehem Bach Choir.As a student at the University of California in Berkeley, he joined the Berkeley Chamber singers, a leading vocal chamber group in the Bay Area, and continued singing with this group for 40 years until moving to Nevada City. George was a Slavic language major at Cal and enjoys singing all Eastern European languages, plus the large ethnic folk dance repertoire played by VFO.

He plays the autoharp, an original American instrument, and the guitar. He also volunteers weekly at Helping Hands, an Adult Day Care Center, and plays and sings weekly with six early childhood classrooms, including the Sierra College Child Development Lab Center.


David Ayala plays accordion, clarinet, and guitar. He began playing with VFO in 2007. His aunt gave him a 4-string guitar when he was 6 and he's been playing and singing solo, and in folk and rock-and-roll bands since 1962. He played saxophone in a high school band, and, finding VFO needing clarinet parts filled, has been fighting the clarinet for control. Wanting outside work, he started playing accordion for street fairs in the early 90s, playing festive tunes, dance music from the old and new worlds, folk songs, popular songs, etc.

He is currently a guest on about a third of the Clodhoppers show on Channel 11, playing shows in the song and patter folk tradition at rest homes in the area (or anywhere else that will let him), like George, volunteering at Helping Hands, and playing accordion for the winter and summer Nevada City street fairs.


Michael Smidt began playing classical flute in 1955 and progressed to early flutes, recorders, double reeds, and, most recently, Irish whistles. He was the instrumentalist with the Primavera Early Music Consort during the early 1980's, performing medieval music in the Bay Area. He began playing with VFO in 2007, finding the music to be challenging and engaging at the same time.

Lesley Schneider has been playing ethnic percussion for 20 years, having played for belly dancers for many years in the Bay Area. She first fell in love with Middle Eastern percussion, added Celtic, African, and Cuban, but kept eyeing that big, two-headed drum she kept running into at ethnic music concerts and camps. She is thrilled to have added Balkan music to her repertoire. You will see her switching between a doumbek, Albanian Daire, and tupan (that big, two-headed drum) throughout the evening. You can also catch her playing Celtic music with the Harvest Home Revelers each year at the KVMR Celtic Festival in Grass Valley, CA and the annual Mother's Day Weekend Cain's Crossing Renaissance Faire in Auburn, CA.

Philip Wright’s first exposure to the music of Eastern Europe was in 1980 when he played guitar in a Greek dance band. Over the years he has played blues, rock, bluegrass and Celtic music, while adding mandolin, cittern and the upright bass to his collection of instruments. Philip enjoys a wide variety of musical genres and takes in as much of the vibrant Nevada County music scene as he can. He also has a great time sharing his diverse musical interests as a community radio broadcaster with KVMR-FM in Nevada City.