Derry Area grad expressed Croatian roots through song, dance
Leann Muchnok Gisvold was strongly attuned to her Croatian roots, a bond she expressed in song.
Following the example of her parents, the Derry Township native spent many years performing with the Tamburitzans, a Pittsburgh-based group named after a stringed folk instrument played in Croatia and neighboring Eastern European countries.
While attending Derry Area School District, she joined a junior Tamburitzan group in Trafford.
“My husband is Croatian and was an instrumentalist in the Tamburitzans,” said Gisvold’s mother, Barbara Muchnok. “He grew up loving the music, and she loved it, also. She had a love of the music that is rare for a young girl.”
Leann Marie (Muchnok) Gisvold of Derry Township died Sept. 3, 2019, at home. Born June 8, 1966, in Derry Township, she was a daughter of Charles J. Muchnok and Barbara A. (Kindl) Muchnok of Derry Township. She was 53.
Upon graduating from Derry Area High School in 1984, Mrs. Gisvold auditioned for and was accepted into the senior Tamburitzan group, garnering a full scholarship to Duquesne University. She earned a bachelor’s degree in communication, receiving her diploma in 1987.
“Her talents got her the scholarship, with room and board and tuition,” her mother said. “She was a singer and a dancer, and of course, all the ‘Tammies’ had to learn to play the prim” — a small, pear-shaped string instrument.
Muchnok said her daughter was outgoing and was “an outstanding performer. She loved performing.
“She did dances from Croatia, Serbia, Russia, Poland, Slovenia — all of the Slavic countries in Europe.”
That included the “kolo,” a circle dance considered the national dance of Croatia.
Throughout her college years, Mrs. Gisvold toured with the Tamburitzans. She also participated in the Pittsburgh Folk Festival.
“One of the highlights for her was when my husband and I and another former Tammy organized the group’s 50th anniversary celebration, in 1987,” her mother said.
Mrs. Gisvold remained a member of the Tamburitzans’ alumni association. When she married and moved to Minnesota, she became involved with the Croatian community there.
According to her mother, she became friends with Jerry Grcevich of North Huntingdon, who is a member of the Tamburitza Hall of Fame. He received a National Endowment for the Arts National Heritage fellowship, recognizing his skill playing Croatian folk instruments, and formed his own orchestra to perform that country’s music.
“She and Jerry made a CD of songs for my husband and I for a Christmas present,” her mother said. They treasure the gift that features Mrs. Gisvold singing a Croatian song with a title that translates to “Thinking of You.”
Mrs. Gisvold moved back to the Latrobe about three years ago.
In addition to her parents, Mrs. Giosvold is survived by her husband, David Gisvold of Osseo, Minn.; a daughter, Lindsay M. Heidt and her husband, Scott, of St. Michael, Minn.; a grandson; and three siblings.
A funeral Mass will be celebrated at 10 a.m. Saturday at St. Rose Church, 4969 Route 982, Latrobe. Interment will follow at St. Mary’s Cemetery.
John J. Lopatich Funeral Home of Latrobe is in charge of arrangements.
Jeff Himler is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jeff at 724-836-6622, [email protected] or via Twitter .