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Collection InformationPortrait of Kasura


Walter J. Kasura collection of Russian folk music


Sousa Archives and Center for American Music


Personal collection of Walter J. Kasura (1918-1983); donated to the University by his family after Kasura’s death. Holdings of Russian and East European music for folk ensembles have been complemented by subsequent acquisitions of the Alexander Kutin Collection and by smaller donations, notably from the estates of Mark A. Selivan and Emanuil Sheynkman.

As of April 2016 there is still some unprocessed Selivan material in a cabinet on the 2nd floor of the library; and a large number of boxes of Kutin material (containing some 800 items in all) are in the library’s Special Collections area awaiting processing.

When acquired

May 12, 1986


Walter Kasura was born in New York City to Russian emigre parents.  He studied music theory and arrangement under Alexander Ivanoff, a graduate of the St. Petersburg Conservatory.  He also received further guidance from the well-known Peter Biljo, who performed regularly on the CBS radio program “Around the Samovar.”  His performing experience included a small group called the Moscow Balalaika Ensemble, the professional wing of the Balalaika and Domra Society.  He played club dates, parties, on radio and television, at leading hotels in Miami, Quebec, and New York, and at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

In 1977 the Ridgewood Symphony Orchestra of New Jersey and the North Jersey Philharmonic with Leonard Davis as balalaika soloist performed one of his arrangements.  The latter concert drew a crowd of over 5,000 people.  In 1979 Walter was awarded a grant to teach balalaika and domra seminars at the University of Illinois and to direct in concert the University of Illinois Balalaika Orchestra.


The collection consists of manuscripts, research notes, personal papers, and published works, including Russian and gypsy folk songs, other vocal and choral works, instrumental solos, scores and parts for orchestral and chamber performing ensembles (including many arrangements by Kasura), instrumental methods books, and reference books on performance practice, repertory, and historical development of the balalaika, domra, and Slavik folk orchestra. It has been organized into three series: Series 1: Published Songs, Series 2: Instrumental Music, Series 3: Personal Papers. The entire collection was reprocessed in 2013-2015.

Access/Finding Aids/Bibliography

See the Walter J. Kasura Russian Folk Music Collection, 1960-1983 finding aid at the Sousa Archives and Center for American Music.

Index terms

Balalaika music; Belorussian folk music; Domra music; Grushko, Nicholas; Kasura, Walter; Russian folk instrument ensemble music; Russian folk music; Ukrainian folk music

See also

Collection file folder: Program flyer, “Dedication of the Walter J. Kasura collection of Russian folk music”‘ (includes biographical information, portrait, and brief summary of Kasura’s association with the University of Illinois)–incorporated into Sousa Archives collections files.