Nicolae Feraru was the second youngest of seven children in a Bucharest, Romania, family. His father and grandfather played a small, portable version of the cimbalom, a stringed instrument similar to the hammer dulcimer. His father played weddings that lasted for days, then returned home and worked at his regular job sweeping chimneys. He discouraged his son from learning the instrument and engaging in this exhausting life. But by age 11, the boy was playing wedding processions with his father, and the elder Feraru paid for lessons from Mitica Ciuciu-Marinescu, one of the country’s top players. Soon, the teacher welcomed the student into his home and brought him along to engagements at concerts and weddings. Feraru’s studies focused on the larger, table-sized cimbalom. At 18, he won a competition to join the Romania Orchestra. While serving in the army, he played in a band. He attained the government’s highest ranking as a musician and worked regularly. In 1970, he toured the United States and Canada and was impressed by the abundance of food and the freedom of speech he found in the West. The situation in Romania continued to deteriorate. Despite his master musician status, Feraru faced discrimination as a Gypsy. Communist government censors dictated what music he could play, and he recalled a television appearance in which his music was used but a lighter-skinned actor was shown playing the instrument.
In 1988, while on a U.S. tour, Feraru defected. He was granted political asylum, then became a citizen in 2001. After about six years in Detroit, he moved to Chicago. Eventually he was able to bring his wife and four children to join him. For a number of years, Feraru also worked in a factory to augment his income and provide benefits for his family. Now he devotes himself exclusively to performing, teaching and making instruments. He has performed at restaurants and festivals, at community events such as weddings and funerals and at public events such as the 2009 dedication of the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center, whose participants included former President Bill Clinton. In 2007, Feraru took part in the Illinois Arts Council's Ethnic and Folk Arts Master Apprentice Program and was honored by the Romanian Round Table of Chicago with an award for his cultural contributions to the community.
"I feel like a very important person,” he told a Chicago Tribune writer. “I feel like, my God, too bad in my country they didn't appreciate this.”
Reich, Howard. “High honor for a Gypsy virtuoso.” Chicago Tribune, July 6, 2013.
_______. "A new day for Romanian cimbalom player in Chicago.” Chicago Tribune, September 9, 2014. http://www.chicagotribune.com/entertainment/music/reich/ct-ent-0910-jazz-nicolae-feraru-20140910-column.html#page=1
“NEA National Heritage Fellowships: Nicolae Feraru.” http://arts.gov/honors/heritage/fellows/nicolae-feraru http://www.nicolaeferaru.com/biography/
Feraru, Nicolae. Nicolae Feraru and his Romanian Gypsy Band. 2013 CD. http://nicolaeferaru.bandcamp.com/
Feraru, Nick, with Paul Gifford. Romanian Gypsy Cimbalom Solos. Ca. 1990 LP, Romachord 001.
________. International Favorites on Cimbalom. 1991 LP, Romachord 002.
Feraru, Nicolae, with Radu Simion’s Orchestra. Tresors Folkloriques Roumains. Ca. 1984, Electrecord LP, ST-EPE 02393.
Feraru, Nicolae, and Petre Mihalcea. Nicolae Feraru and Petre Mihalcea, with Radu Simion’s Orchestra. 1975 Electrecord LP, STM-EPE 01431.
Feraru, Nicolae, with Radu Simion’s Orchestra. Orchestra De Muzica Popoulara “Electrecord.” 1973 Electrecord LP, STM-EPE 01259.
Nicholae Feraru interviewed by Nicholas R. Spitzer and performing, 2013 National Heritage Fellowship Concert, Washington, D.C., Courtesy National Endowment for the Arts
Nicholae Feraru interviewed by Nicholas R. Spitzer, 2013 National Heritage Fellowship Concert, Washington, D.C., courtesy National Endowment for the Arts
Nicolae Feraru answers the question 'What is the name of the instrument you play?' Interview by Alan Govenar, Washington, D.C., 2013
Nicolae Feraru talks about one of the big problems that faced Gypsies when he was growing up. Interview by Alan Govenar, Washington, D.C., 2013
Nicolae Feraru answers the question 'Is there discrimination against Gypsies in Romania?' Interview by Alan Govenar, Washington, D.C., 2013
Nicolae Feraru sings the Gypsy song 'Jelem Jelem.' 'Interview by Alan Govenar, Washington, D.C., 2013
Nicolae Feraru answers the question 'What does tradition mean to you?' Interview by Alan Govenar, Washington, D.C., 2013
Nicolae Feraru talks about Gypsy wedding invitations, Interview by Alan Govenar, Washington, D.C., 2013
Nicolae Feraru sings a Gypsy song about life under the Communists, Interview by Alan Govenar, Washington, D.C., 2013