The Kennedy Center

The Washington Balalaika Society Orchestra


The Washington Balalaika Society is a community-based organization dedicated to studying, preserving, and performing the rich musical heritage of Russia and Eastern Europe on authentic and traditional folk instruments.  It is organized for educational and performance purposes to promote the balalaika and domra and the Balalaika Orchestra as a musical art form.  The Society’s purpose is to educate both its members and the general public in the appreciation of Slavic instrumental music and dance.  Central to its mission, the Society strives to replicate the folk orchestra typically found in major cities and towns of Russia.  Our goal is to educate and entertain audiences by introducing them to our musical genre and expanding the musical diversity of the area.

The WBS was founded in 1988, with eight people rehearsing together in a McLean townhouse basement.  Its first performance was at the Birchmere in Alexandria.  In the past twenty years, the Washington Balalaika Society Orchestra of Russian folk instruments has grown to be the largest orchestra of its kind in North America with more than 60 musicians.  Since 2003, the orchestra has been led by Svetlana Nikonova, who is one of the foremost professional conductors of Russian folk music, a virtuoso soloist on the domra (a Russian mandolin), and a gifted teacher.

The WBS has an active educational and outreach program with several WBS ensembles of comprised of orchestra musicians:  The St. Petersburg Trio, Washington Balalaikas, the Russkiye Musikanti, and Beltway Balalaikas.  Through performances and educational programming in concert halls, school and colleges, retirement homes, public parks and festivals, the orchestra and its ensembles bring the Slavic cultural experience to residents of the Greater Washington area.  Members of the public who are interested in playing this music are invited to take lessons and join WBS.  It offers two free music lessons and loaner instruments to those interested in joining.

Watch Past Performances

Video 7/19/2017: The Washington Balalaika Society

Formed in 1988, The Washington Balalaika Society is now the largest orchestra of Russian folk instruments in North America and endeavors to pattern its sound and repertoire after the great orchestras of Russia. At the same time, they continue to explore new kinds of music and new musical possibilities for this fascinating family of instruments.

Presented in collaboration with International Music Convention of Russia.

The Washington Balalaika Society Orchestra