Briefly Noted

Issue Date: 
October 27, 2008

Pitt to Sponsor 18th Annual Slovak Heritage Festival Nov. 2

The 18th annual Slovak Heritage Festival—featuring authentic Slovakian song and dance, educational lectures and displays, ethnic foods, and vendors with Slovakian merchandise—will be held from 1 to 5 p.m. Nov. 2 in the University of Pittsburgh’s Cathedral of Learning.

This year’s festival will include artists and speakers performing in the Cathedral of Learning’s Commons Room, including singer Jozef Ivaska, the Singing Revil’ak Family from the Slovak Republic; The Pittsburgh Slovakians and Pittsburgh Area Slovaks, representing the Western Pennsylvanian Slovakian community; and Ben Sorensen from North Carolina.

This year, speakers will present the following lectures: “Surfing for Slovak Ancestors: Find Your Roots Online,” “Teaching Slovakia’s Roma (Gypsies): Outlooks for a New Generation,” “Slovak and Czech Cinema: A Reflection of History and Culture,” “Slovak Cuisine,” and “Rock the Folk: Popular Music in Contemporary Slovakia.”

Ivaska, known in Slovakia as the Man of a Thousand Songs, is making his fifth concert tour of the United States. Born in Ruzomberok, Slovakia, Ivaska graduated from the Bratislava Conservatory of Music, where he studied opera and was active in the rock and pop music scene in both Ruzomberok and the city of Zilina. During the Communist era, Ivaska was forced from the country by Soviet officials, and his music was banned.

The Singing Revil’ak Family’s repertoire includes Slovak and Carpatho-Rusyn folk songs and international favorites and has been featured for more than 20 years on European, Canadian, and U.S. stages. The family—the parents, two daughters, and a son—grew up singing in Bardejov, Slovakia, and has received many national awards.

Sorensen, an American musician, has studied the fujura, a Slovak shepherd’s flute, under the guidance of Dusan Holik, who has performed at Pitt’s previous Slovak Heritage Festivals. A member of the Spolok Fujarasov (Fujarists Guild), Sorensen is also a member of the Folk Group Vagonar.

The Slovak Heritage Festival is free and open to the public. Pitt’s Slovak Studies Program and the Pitt Students’ Slovak Club are cosponsors of the event. For more information, contact Christine Metil, festival director, at 412-624-5906, or e-mail

—Anthony M. Moore

Author Russell Banks to Give Literary Reading at Pitt Oct. 29

Author Russell Banks will give a literary reading at 8:30 p.m. Oct. 29 in the University of Pittsburgh’s David Lawrence Hall. The event is part of the Pittsburgh Contemporary Writers Series 2008-09 season.

A writer of both fiction and poetry, Banks is the author of the novels The Reserve (Harper Collins, 2008), Cloudsplitter (Harper Collins, 1999), Rule of the Bone (Harper Collins, 1996), The Sweet Hereafter (Harper Collins, 1991), and Continental Drift (Harper Collins, 1985). He also has contributed poems, short stories, and essays to such publications as The Boston Globe Magazine, Vanity Fair, The New York Times Book Review, Esquire, and Harper’s.

The eldest of four children, Banks grew up in a working-class neighborhood in Newton, Mass., a fact that has played a major role in the subject matter of his writing. His stories often depict characters facing tragedy and downturns in everyday life while showing resilience and strength in the face of adversity.

His works have been translated into more than 20 languages and have earned numerous literary awards, including the Ingram Merrill Award, the John Dos Passos Award, and the Literature Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. His novels also have been Pulitzer Prize and PEN/Faulkner finalists.

Banks also is one of the founders of Cities of Refuge North America, a nonprofit network of sanctuaries for writers exiled under threat of death, imprisonment, or persecution in their native countries. He is president of the International Parliament of Writers and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. As a professor of literature, he has taught at the University of New Hampshire, Columbia University, Sarah Lawrence College, New England College, New York University, and Princeton University. He is currently an artist-in-residence at the University of Maryland.

The 2008-09 Pittsburgh Contemporary Writers Series season is cosponsored by Pitt’s Department of English in the School of Arts and Sciences, University Center for International Studies, Asian Studies Center, China Council Confucius Institute, Cultural Studies Program, Women’s Studies Program, and Book Center and by the Carnegie Mellon University Creative Writing Program.

All events in the Writers Series are free and open to the public. For more information, contact Jeff Oaks at, or visit

—Anthony M. Moore

Twelfth Annual Model UN Conference to be Hosted by Pitt Nov. 10

Approximately 415 students from 28 Western Pennsylvania high schools will convene at the University of Pittsburgh Nov. 10 to participate in the 12th Annual Model United Nations Conference.

The Model UN gives area high school students the opportunity to assume the role of diplomats as they participate in mock sessions of several bodies of the United Nations, including the Security Council, Historical Security Council (simulating events of the world as of March 15, 1967), Disarmament and International Security Committee, Economic and Financial Committee, NATO, and the Pan American Health Organization. Each school delegation has been assigned a country to represent in the negotiations. The students prepare for this event by researching their assigned countries’ positions on a variety of real-world issues. Participants will discuss controversial matters facing the worldwide community within the context of a United Nations simulation.

Students will debate such issues as the global food crisis, the Arab-Israeli conflict, weapons in space, nuclear proliferation, NATO enlargement, Afghanistan, and health care for indigenous populations. Throughout the debates, students are evaluated on their abilities to realistically present the positions of the countries they represent. Awards will be presented to outstanding individual students and country delegations.

Members of the Pitt Model UN Club have played an integral part in planning the conference and will participate in such roles as the UN Secretary General, committee chairs, and members of the UN staff.

The Model UN will be in session from 8:30 a.m. until 5 p.m. in the William Pitt Student Union. The event is presented by Pitt’s University Center for International Studies with special acknowledgement of Pitt’s Asian Studies Center, Center for Latin American Studies, European Studies Center and the European Union Center of Excellence, Center for Russian and East European Studies, Global Studies Program, and Model United Nations Club, as well as Global Solutions Education Fund Pittsburgh and United Nations Association of Pittsburgh.

For more information, visit or contact Luz Amanda Hank at 412-648-7394 or

—Amanda Leff