Vasyl Yemetz

Vasyl Yemetz

Vasyl' Kostovych Yemetz (15 December or 27 December 18916 January 1982) (2 August 1890-4 January 1982) (also went by Wassyl, Vassyl) was born in the village of Sharivka, 40 km from Kharkiv, Ukraine. Son of Kost' and Yevdokia (Kurakhovych). Married to Maria Horta-Doroshenko. Virtuoso bandurist, founder and initial director of the Kobzar Choir in 1918 - the direct protege of the Kiev Bandurist Capella.


Yemetz was born to a Cossack family. His father was interested in Ukrainian ethnography and his family was one of the first to have a phonograph (1899) with which they recorded and collected folk songs. It is from one of the local kobzari, Ivan Kucherenko, that Yemetz became drawn to the culture of the kobzari and learned to play the bandura in 1908. His first performance as a bandurist took place in 1911, and became very controversial because of the text of the song he chose to sing.

He studied at the Kharkiv University (1911-13) but was forced to transfer in 1914 to Moscow University because of his political activities. In Moscow he became the first bandurist to perform solo in the Bolshoi Theatre in 1916. After this performance he was first hailed as a virtuoso in the Russian press.

In the summer of 1913 he was invited by Mykola Bohuslavsky to Yekaterinodar in the Kuban to teach bandura. He was instrumental is establishing the modern bandura playing tradition amongst the Kuban Cossacks.

After completing his studies at the Moscow University he received a teaching position in 1917 in Sosnytsia, Chernihiv province in Ukraine. There he was chosen as a delegate at the All-Ukr. National Congress held in Kiev in 1917.

In 1918 he moved to Kiev where he organized the first professional Bandurist Capella known as the Kobzar Choir. The first concert of the group taking place in the Bergone Theatre in Kyiv on November 3, 1918. The ensembles last concert was a Taras Shevchenko concert in March 1919.

In 1918-20 he served with the Ukrainian National Army.

Emigration in Europe

In 1921 he moved to Berlin where he continued his studies at the Berlin Conservatory. In Berlin he published a number of articles about the kobzari, which included materials about his interactions with them. This led to the publication of his first book on the Kobzari.

In 1923 he moved to Prague, which had become a major Ukrainian emigre centre. Here he set up a school for the teaching of the bandura in Prague and Podebrady in 1923 which had over 60 students. A workshop for the manufacturing of instruments was established which made over 100 instruments. In 1926 the first collection of works for the bandura was published in Prague.

On the basis of the many bandura students Yemetz established a second Bandurist Capella in Prague and also a number of smaller bandura ensembles in the Ukrainian Gymnasium, the Ukrainian Free University, the Drahomanov Pedagogical Institute in Prague and the Forestry Institute in Podebrady.

Yemetz's highly publicized activities stimulated the re-establishment of the Kiev Bandurist Capella, the formation of the Poltava Bandurist Capella and the establishment of formal bandura classes in Kharkiv in 1926. The students of the Czech bandura schools established a culture of bandura playing in Western Ukraine and Poland when many students returned there after completing their studies.

Yemetz's brother-in-law Hryhory Kopan wrote to him inviting him back to Kiev to re-establish the KievBandurist Capella in the early 1920s, however he declined to return.

In 1926 Yemetz continued touring Eastern Europe with solo recitals. In 1927 he first performed in France and Belgium. In early 1929 he tour Transcarpathian Ukraine and Romania, before returning to France and setting off for North America.

North America

In 1929 Yemetz toured North America for the first time to great success recording his first record there in 1932.

In 1934 Yemetz returned to France. He returned to North America in 1937 touring all the major cities of Canada and the United States. He married and in 1941 became an American citizen.

Yemetz settles in Hollywood and starts work in 1945 on constructing a chromatic concert bandura. He develops a new repertoire for the instrument and tours the United States in 1946 with classical transcriptions played on the new chromatic concert bandura. This is the first time that such works as Beethoven's "Moonlight sonata" and Tchaikovsky's "Arabian dance" were performed on the bandura.

In 1952 he records an LP record, however it was not commercially released.

After 1956 he retired from performing and spent most of his time collecting materials and writing memoirs many of which remain unpublished. Much of his archives including music, photographs and concert programs were stored in a trunk he had left with a musicologist in Winnipeg and were destroyed during the Great Flood.

He died in Hollywood January 4, 1982.

Address: 2531 Dearnborn Dr, Hollywood, California 90068.


He published over 40 articles on various aspects of the bandura. For a complete list of articles and books please see the Ukrainian version of this article


O. P. Obabko, Kuzma Nimchenko, Antin Chorny, Mykhailo Teliha


*Kudrytsky, A. V. - Mystetsvo Ukrainy - Biohrafichnyj dovidnyk - Kyiv 1997
*Ukrainians in North America, USA
*Горлиця. Л. Василь Ємець – кобзар віртуоз, композитор // Вісті, №34, 1970.
*Кіндзерявий-Пастухів, С. - Думки вголос – Кобзарський листок Рік 5 ч. 39, Січень 1978, (Про записи з грою В. Ємця)
*Литвин, М. – Струни золотії – “Веселка”, К.:1994 (117с.)
*Мішалов, В. і М. Українські кобзарі-бандуристи – Сідней, Австралія, 1986 - 106с.
*Самчук, У. - Живі струни - Детройт, США, 1976 (468с.)

Documented performances

Ukraine : Chernivtsi, Kiev, Kharkiv, Ternopil, Uzhhorod

Russia: Yekaterinodar, Moscow,

Europe: Antwerp, Berlin, Bern, Brussels, Montarge, Nice, Paris, Podebrady, Prague, Warsaw, USA : Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Hollywood, Minneapolis, New York, Northhampton, Philadelphia, Canada: Edmonton, Montreal, Saskatoon, Sudbury, Toronto, Windsor, Winnipeg, Vancouver.

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