Young Croatian Profiles

2018 Matthew Tweten

Matthew Tweten was immersed in the music and culture of the Croatian community in Anacortes, Washington at an early age so much so that it became his very being.  He recalls at the age of 3 going to parties at the Croatian Club and dancing to Tambura music.  His parents, Pamela Olich Tweten and Brian Tweten mention the influence of George and Marija Franulovich inviting them to gatherings at their home with other Croats playing music, dancing, singing and enjoying good food. 

“He found his grandpa’s accordion and started to play” said his mother, Pamela.  “It brought the family together in an intimate connection with music and culture”.

Matthew is a humble young man as he explains growing up in Anacortes and noting that his grandfather, Boris Olich, was a fisherman originally from Vela Luka, Korcula, Croatia, reaching Anacortes after first emigrating to Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.  Aunts, uncles and Grandmother Ann, emigrated to Canada from Sisak, Croatia.  There were frequent visits to relatives in British Columbia and Toronto, Canada and Croatia.  Matthew’s inspiration for his music comes from his passion and love of being a part of the Croatian community, the spirit of the people and their music.

Matthew’s introduction to playing the Tambura was by his grandmother’s cousin, Paulie Boroevich.  Initially he was loaned some instruments and began playing along with recordings for fun.  At age 10 he began playing with Vela Luka Croatian Dance Ensemble.  He became a member musician and singer in 2010 with Ruze Dalmatinke and now with Bonaca.  Community members and musicians including Hank Bradley, David Jackson, Maria Kesovija, Pasko Kesovija, Steven Mataya, John Morovich, Maria Petrish, Alma Plancich, Binki Spahi, Allan Swennson and Matthew Thompson were his mentors.  He is grateful for the time spent in their presence.

Between the ages of 11 and 14 the computer became his source to play videos and songs for 3 to 4 hours each day as he self taught to play wind and string instruments and sing.  He started piano lessons at age 5 and is a master pianist.  He played a full Gershwin concert at Croatian Cultural Center NW this year.

“Matthew is an astonishing package of musical comprehension and ability to play anything on any instrument over a range from Western, classical music to a whole rainbow spectrum of ethnic music, not least of which is Croatian, in which he speaks and sings fluently.  A very gracious person, generous with his talents and  time, from whom I have learned more about playing string music, just standing next to him in a band, than from any other source in the last three decades.  I’m still in recovery from hearing him play a whole tamburica band singlehanded on a piano, and will be saying “we knew him when . . .” for the rest of my days” – Hank Bradley, musician.

A graduate of Anacortes High School Class of 2016, Matthew played the trumpet in the band and bass in the Jazz Band.  He attended Cornish School of the Arts.

Matthew’s music permeates his surroundings as he performs in concert halls or in casual appearances indoors or outdoors.  As a solo musician he performed in Vela Luka, Korcula, Croatia, numerous times, and played in concert with Jerry Grcevich at the Croatian Cultural Extravaganza in Los Angeles, California.  He has accompanied local ensembles Dave and the Dalmatians, Dunava and Radost; participated in “Festa Tri Kralja” Three Kings celebration in the community orchestra, and at numerous local community events.  In 2013, he performed with Ruze Dalmatinke at the Croatian Embassy in Washington, DC, the Kennedy Center and the Library of Congress.  July 2018, Matthew proudly performed at the Paramount Theatre along with Bonaca and Vela Luka Croatian Dance Ensemble.

By Alma Franulovich Plancich and Beverly Prkacin Read

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