Band Bios

Oliver Schneider – alto  sax, bandleader
Oliver is the co-founder,  bandleader, and manager of Orkestar Slivovica. He has a lifelong love for traditional and folk music, and has in the past performed in and led projects playing music from Latin America, France, England, Italy, and many more cultures, performing on percussion, button accordion, and penny whistle. In 2007 he discovered the genre known as “Balkan Brass”, and after a research trip to Serbia in that year, he began to learn the repertoire on the saxophone. In 2008 he formed Orkestar Slivovica with his wife Kristina Zalite, and the band has experienced much success as it grew over the years. Oliver has studied with several teachers in the Balkans, including Dragan Ilievski, Blagoj Luminov, Stefce Stojkovski, Bajsa Arifovska. Much of his education came from listening to and playing along with all the recordings ever made by the legendary Macedonian Roma saxophonist Ferus Mustafov.

Kristina Zalite – tapan/goc, vocals
Kristina Zalite has been studying the traditional Balkan tapan drum in Vranje, Serbia and in Macedonia since her first lessons in 2009 in Berovo, Macedonia. She has since learned from illustrious teachers in the Balkans and in North America, including attending a ten day Balkan camp in Mendocino, California. Her love for the tapan coincides with her passion for Balkan folk dancing. She started Orkestar Slivovica with her husband, Oliver, in 2008. Kristina also sings traditional Macedonian songs with her troupe, Zlatna Mountain.

Jonnine Mahonen – flugelhorn, vocals
Jonnine Mahonen is a classically-trained trumpet player, with a BMus degree from UBC. She studied with Martin Berinbaum, in the tradition of William Vacchiano’s trumpet teaching. She has taken master classes with Wynton Marsalis, Hakan Hardenberger, Donny Clark, Allen Vizzutti, Jens Lindeman, Chris Martin, and Chris Jaudes. She has toured Europe with the VYSO. She has played in multiple small jazz ensembles and big band jazz orchestras in Nelson and Vancouver, and has worked with members of the Boss Brass and Phil Woods in Toronto. When a friend suggested starting a Balkan brass band, she said yes not really knowing what that meant. At the first rehearsal and first listen of the song Sat by Boban Markovic, she was hooked. Playing Balkan brass music has transformed her approach to trumpet playing. The shift from playing notes on the page to the notes you hear and feel is an exciting one. The love of all music is still there, but there is a freedom and deep joy in this music that infects every note and she feels the music flowing through her trumpet like it never has before.

Susan Gerofsky – tenor horn, accordion
Susan Gerofsky is a multi-instrumentalist and songwriter with a particular interest in traditional musical genres from the UK and Central Europe. She has been a baritone horn player with Orkestar Slivovica since 2009, and currently leads the baritone section and arranges tunes for the band. She has also played button accordion and penny whistles for traditional English Morris dance sides in Vancouver, Toronto and Durham, England for over 25 years. She was the pennywhistle player for the Vancouver ceilidh band Grist to the Mill for three years, and piano accordionist with the Euro-steampunk band Toot-a-Lute. She is a professor of Mathematics and Environmental Education at the University of British Columbia, and has taught music, mathematics and other subjects in Vancouver high schools. Music informs much of her research work in embodied, arts-based Mathematics Education, and she has performed traditional tunes and her original  compositions as part of academic conference presentations in Curriculum Studies and Mathematics Education.

Ashton Sweet – tuba, helicon
Ashton Sweet has studied music at Capilano University for 2 years and has been a professional touring musician for 5 years. Ashton Professionally plays Saxophone, Trumpet, Clarinet, Euphonium, Trombone, French Horn, and Tuba. He is well versed in playing melody, bass, rhythm, and harmony in various genres and styles. Ashton loves to compose. He has written numerous pieces for a variety of wind and brass ensembles. He writes busy melodic music that is as fun to listen to as it is for the musicians to play.

Luke Moore – percussion, clarinet
Luke has performed in musical projects as a clarinetist, guitarist and bassist, playing styles as diverse as klezmer, trip-hop, jazz, rock, and Turkish gypsy music.  In 1999, after being inspired by several movies and documentary programs which featured Balkan and Turkish music, he left his hometown of Victoria and took up residence in Istanbul.  There he studied the Turkish Romani repertoire with clarinet master Selim Sesler until returning to Canada in 2004 to study jazz at Concordia University in Montreal.  In Montreal he led Djoumbush, playing Turkish Roma and original Turkish-inspired music. During his first year in Vancouver, Luke played regularly with local World music group Tambura Rasa. Since 2013 he has been performing regularly as a clarinetist and percussionist with Vancouver’s favourite Balkan music group, Orkestar Slivovica.

Steve Clements – tenor horn, tuba
Steve Clements has a degree in jazz studies from Capilano University and a music education degree from UBC.  Steve is currently a music educator at New Westminster Secondary School.   As a founding member of such diverse ensembles as Mambo Jambo, the Barclay Singers, Jambo Salama, Jambalaya, and as a member of the Capilano “A” Band, Steve has gigged and played in Victoria and Vancouver, and had the privilege to play alongside such fantastic musicians as Ingrid Jensen, Arnie Chycoski, and Phil Nimmons.  Steve currently plays tenor horn in Vancouver’s renowned Balkan Brass band, Orkestar Slivovica.

Nikola Tosic – flugelhorn, vocals
Nikola is a trumpet player, composer and workshop facilitator. He received his BA/MA at The Royal Conservatory in The Netherlands. As a performer, he has been active in various music ensembles and contemporary dance circles (NDT, Korzo). As a project leader, he has worked extensively with musicians in The Netherlands, South Africa and Serbia, including collaborations with renowned institutions (Muziek Centrum van Omroep, Saariaho Festival, Theater Institute of Netherlands, Royal Conservatory, Black Market Theatre). Originally from the Balkans, Nikola is now focusing on re-discovering his musical roots, be it through the fiery expression of the Serbian ‘trubachi’ sound or the vocal intricacies of traditional songs from the region.

Jesse Whitehead – tenor horn
Jesse’s happiest when he’s dressed up in his Sunday’s finest and carousing through the streets pontificating loudly on his jazz nozzle. A product of East Van’s brass factory, The Carnival Band, Jesse went on to form the Yukon’s first street-brass band, The Brass Knuckle Society. Since then he has returned to Vancouver and picked up the tenor horn as Orkestar Slivovica’s most recent mid-brass blaster. When he is not playing music, he is studying to be a nurse and zipping hither and yon on his bicycle.

Pachiel Smith – tenor horn
A former resident of Lasqueti Island, Pachiel was the bandleader of the late and sorely missed “Bolting Brassicas”, with whom Orkestar Slivovica shared many a stage and even toured together in the early days. So it is fitting that having relocated to Vancouver, Pachiel is now in Slivovica!

Mik Bewsky – tenor horn