National Accordion Association (NAA) Convention Report

March 6-8, 2014 Southfork Hotel in Plano, Texas
by Laura Niland

The National Accordion Convention was held at the Southfork Hotel in Plano, Texas on March 6-8, 2014. Norman Seaton, President of NAA, welcomed the crowd. There were over 300 participants in this yearly festival which gathered accordionists from across the US and beyond. The three-day event featured an Accordion Band Camp (both Youth and Adult Orchestras), Jazz Training Workshops, Gulf Coast JamFest Competition, & Youth Competition for Accordion, Piano and other instruments, as well as a host of other workshops, and concerts.

For those who arrived on Wednesday March 5th, there was Pre-convention Band practice with Dick Albreski’s Fun Band and Jim Rommel’s “More Fun” Orchestra. While conventioneers arrived, Ed Casper, Dale Wise and Debra Peters provided entertainment in the Cattlemen’s Club, which became a hub for conversation and idea exchange. Conventioneers attended workshops and viewed items for sale at the Swap Shop where you could purchase used accordions. Nick Ballarini showcased the Petosa, Roland and Gullietti Accordions, as well as trade-in accordion models and accordion accessories for all musicians.
Jessica Faltot, Faelyn Hearne, Rebecca Ratliff and Joe Natoli 
Debra Peters brought her CDs, Video Instruction for Accordion and other memorabilia for sale. Carol Garrison’s Accordion Stuff included embroidered items for sale. Mario Pedone brought his CD’s, accordion arrangements with background music for sale. Gordon Kohl brought his music arrangements and other accordion music books for sale as well as CDs. Randy McPeck from Castle Accordions was available for advice on accordion repair, Roland V-accordion, books and accessories as well as used and new accordions.
Debra Peters (accordion) with Carol Garrison (washboard) and Rebecca Huck (accordion).
Introduction Jazz Training Track The 2014 convention was used to debut a new jazz concept to the convention. In addition to the NAA Band Camp, the NAA Jazz Training Series began on Thursday with Paul Betken introducing the structure of chords, and illustrating how a simple piece of music can morph into a “sweet jazz” piece. The number of participants in the Jazz Training increased steadily to 80 eager jazz enthusiasts. The Jazz Training Series continued on Friday with Blues Training by John Simkus, and Essentials of Jazz with Denny Malmberg.
Mario Pedone and Greg Klugiewicz
This was followed by a demonstration of a full Jazz Ensemble with University of North Texas (UNT) Jazz musicians including: Brian Handeland (Sax, Clarinet, flute), Devin Lowe (String Bass), and Max Schaunstein (Drums). These UNT musicians joined Betken, Simkus and Malmberg to demonstrate a smooth jazz style while executing many of the skills taught in the NAA Jazz Training Series. This popular workshop series carried over to the Cattlemen’s Club where more great jazz music lingered well into the evening. Other performers at the Cattlemen’s Club included: George Secor, Max Frauenthal, and Ian Fries.
International Music Festival and dance with Matt Tolentino and the Royal Kobasneks
Thursday, March 6 The Convention was in full swing early Thursday morning with the NAA National Band Camp. Dick Albreski conducted the Albreski Fun Band with over 40 participants. Later, Jim Rommel conducted the “More Fun” Orchestra with 40 participants. After much practice, the groups were eager to perform. Albreski’s Fun Band performed arrangements by Albreski including: Beer Barrel Polka, Music Music Music, I Want A Girl Medley, Yankovic Waltz Medley, and Sentimental Journey.
Friday night Polka Dance with instructor Valina Polka with Glen Haskie, Grace and Tamminga
Rommel’s “More Fun” Orchestra performed: Comrades March, Beauty and the Beast, Calypso Washerwoman, Swinging Safari, and Eviva Espana. Both the audience and performers thoroughly enjoyed the experience of working with Dick Albreski and Jim Rommel. Many thanks go to Albreski and Rommel for their guidance at the NAA Band Camp. Meanwhile, Shelia Lee presented a mini-band camp with “Hits of the 60’s” which is always popular. Dr. Lynda Griffith presented a workshop titled Master in Movement, based on understanding how the body handles the stresses and strength required in musical performance.
Norman and Sharon Seaton having fun, trying to dance the polka!!!
The evening was punctuated by the Circle of Champions, moderated by Jessica Faltot, with performances from Annie Gong, classically trained in China, currently living in New Zealand, playing her Roland accordion. Gong’s many accomplishments include placing second in the National Chinese Professional Accordion Championships at age 18. Her masterful performance of the Flight of the Bumble Bee at NAA was punctuated with “rock-n-roll” style. Other Circle of Champions performers included: Joe Natoli, Nick Ballarini, Mario Pedone and his friend Luciano, Jessica Faltot, Rebecca Ratliff, Linda Hearne and Lynn Adler, Faelyn Hearne, Sharon Foxx, as well as Lou LeBron, Greg Klugiewicz, Laura Niland, Debra Peters(accordion) with Carol Garrison (washboard) and Rebecca Huck (accordion).
Gordon Kohl
Friday March 7 Friday continued with Jazz Training and other special workshops. Elena Fainshtein presented a workshop on Orchestra/Band Musicianship and Dynamics. Fainshtein has an MS from the Russian Music Academy and teaches both piano and accordion. Recently, she has been conducting the “Happy Fingers” Accordion Band in the Dallas area. Debra Peters kept the crowd moving with her presentation of Ragtime Patterns and Scale Walks. Valina and Ross taught participants how to Yodel and later incorporated this into their Polka Party Prep.
Dick Albreski Youth Band - left to right: Becca Smith, Hannah Swinney, Abigail Bingham, Job Elliott, Isaac Elliott, Timothy Granger, Brianna Smith, Maddie Smith, Lazarus Elliott
Jim Rommel continued his presentations with Musicality Plus. His workshop showed participants how to improve your musicianship. Tom Visentin presented his workshop on Mr. Kite’s miniband camp showing how to play “rock-n-roll” style and perform with a group. Jeff Crilley gave us information on how to garnish Free Publicity. Sharon Seaton showed a method to effectively critique one’s playing performance in Seaton’s Circle. Dr. Ian Fries, MD and accordionist helped us all by diagnosing the stresses of an Accordionist’s Hands.
Tony Lovello and Norman
Dr Lynda Griffith presented her work on the physical stresses on the body created by years of practice on the accordion. Griffith covered everything from posture to body stresses, physical strength, injury causes and prevention, as well as how to sit properly and what chair to choose for your best performance. Griffith’s book, Playing Well: Prevention and Biomechanics of Musician Injuries, is a detailed guide for all musicians with special emphasis on accordionists.
Saturday night Dinner
Mario Pedone demonstrated techniques for performance in a Duet and Trio Training workshop assisted by Laura Niland and Beverly Garcia. Pedone arranged two pieces for participants to practice. Pedone, Niland, and Garcia performed a trio arrangement of Hernando’s Hideaway to demonstrate technique of group performance. Gordon Kohl presented workshops on Scandinavian music and German music. Gordon is a master on demonstrating the techniques of playing different styles of ethnic music. Kohl’s is known for playing dance music and demonstrated his talent on his MIDI Concerto accordion.
Annie Gong learning the 2-step with Max Frauenthal
Friday evening was filled with International Music as well as a Jazz Step-up Concert hosted by Paul Betken, JohnSimkus and Denny Malmberg together with the UNT Jazz Ensemble (Handeland, Lowe, and Schaunstein). The International Music Festival Concert featured these master accordionists: Lori Brooke on accordion and vocals (Frohliche Harmonika, Wunderbar, Angelas’ Jodel, Harmonika Landler, Alpenzeller Jodler), Steve Albini on accordion and vocals ( Farina/Quando Quando Medley, Guarda Che Luna, Parlami Diamore Mariu), Gordon Kohl ( Traditional Scandinavian Music), Mario Pedone (Italian-French-International Music Medley), Eli Davidsohn on accordion and vocals (Semer Atik, Mayim, Tzadik Katamar, Hora Haktanah, Mizerlu-Etz Harimon) and Nick Bratkovich playing traditional Serbian music ( Setnja, Zikino Kolo, Moj Dilbere, Cacak).
The Signature Conga line that ends the annual Saturday Banquet
After the concert, there was more music with jam sessions held in different locations. Many folks gathered at the ever-popular 15- Minutes of Fame hosted by Arlyn Visentin, where they could perform individually or with other groups all day every day. It was as a great place to sit, relax, chat, listen to music and network with other accordionists. Arlyn kept the 15-Minutes of Fame schedule moving throughout the convention. Being close to the Cattlemen’s Club-Lounge was an added bonus, as you could get food or drink as needed.

Later came the fabulous evening International Music Festival and dance with Matt Tolentino and the Royal Kobasneks. Tolentino’s band was fabulous with a variety of styles of music that was enjoyed by everyone. The dance floor was lit with flashing lights and a smoke machine adding to the fun. Many thanks to our incredible sound and lighting manager for the convention, Tom Jordan. The music lasted late into the night as we danced the night away. Later came the fabulous evening International Music Festival and dance with Matt Tolentino and the Royal Kobasneks. Tolentino’s band was fabulous with a variety of styles of music that was enjoyed by everyone. The dance floor was lit with flashing lights and a smoke machine adding to the fun. Many thanks to our incredible sound and lighting manager for the convention, Tom Jordan. The music lasted late into the night as we danced the night away.
Jim Rommel
Saturday, March 8 Chinese accordionist, Annie Gong presented a workshop on Accordions in Today’s Music, demonstrating the versatility of the Roland V-accordion. Shelia Lee was busy working with young musicians at the Gulf Coast Jam Fest Competition, an all-inclusive competition for accordion, piano and other instruments. There were more participants this year because of the open categories. There were approximately 40 entries, with 25 solo (7 were accordion), 6 duet category ( 4 hands piano, violin, accordion and vocal, 2 accordions) , 6 entries in JamFest, (5 were solos, 1 was a duet in JamFest). There were at least 45 observers during the competitions. This was very successful, as NAA included the piano as part of the convention emphasis this year. One of the piano students who won her event, also received an accordion as her prize. She is now taking accordion lessons. Thanks to all the judges who helped with this event. It was highly successful.
University of North Texas (UNT) 1:00 Jazz musicians Devin Lowe (String Bass), Max Schaunstein (Drums) and John Simkus on the accordion.
The workshops continued with Brian Berlin discussing Public Schools and Accordion Teaching. Berlin is an elementary school music teacher in Pearland ISD and has included the accordion in his music room for his students. Berlin aspires to introduce students to appreciate and participate in the musical experience. You can learn more about his work with elementary school pupils by emailing him at or visit the webpages at this address
Elena and Gregory Fainshtein
Dale Wise presented workshops on “Tricks of the Trade” to enhance your musical presentation with bass note rhythms. Eli Davidsohn presented Jewish/Hebrew music. Dr. Kott presented instruction on the usage of the IPAD, Texas Gospel Music, Texas Music and assisted with the Texas Jam for adults and youth. Sharon Seaton continued her workshop called Seaton’s Circle with positive critiques of individual performances. The ever-popular Tony Lovello gave us his secrets with Embellishment Techniques.
Joe Natoli

Dick Albreski conducted the Youth Orchestra with nine young members. Their musicianship has improved significantly over the years. Their teachers include Dick Albreski, and Greg Klugiewicz. Youth included: Hannah Swiney, Abigail Bingham, Laz Elliott, Isaac Elliott, Job Elliott, Timothy Granger, Becca Smith, Bria Smith and last Maddie Smith Congratulations to all these young accordionists for a great performance. The Saturday evening NAA Banquet gave us all time to relax and recap the Convention highlights. The food was delicious and the Southfork Hotel Staff did a superb job with hosting the entire convention. The Conga Line signified the end of the banquet and time to get ready for the final evening concert.
Annie Gong

The Saturday Evening Concert was played to a packed house. Performers included: Jim Rommel (Phantom of the Opera, Fiddler on the roof, Haydn’s Surprise Symphony), John Simkus and UNT Ensemble (Beautiful Love, Bassa Curando, Green Dolphin Street), Gregory and Elena Fainshtein (Caprice Musette by Stas Venglevski, Flik-Flak , Waltz by Natoli, Tango by Amy Jo Sawyer, Waltz Mazurka, and Finnish Polka. Paul Betken (The Girl from Ipanema, Watch What Happens, Nuages), Joe Natoli (special performance on Roland for Ron, Carnival of Venice), Annie Gong ( Flight of Bumble Bee, Spanish Gypsy Dance, La Vie En Rose). After the performance, more accordion music could be heard in hallways, and in the Cattlemen’s Club and other locations as conventioneers said their farewell to another successful year.

From the Plano Convention and Visitors Bureau, the following remarks were made by Karen Fogle: “Plano was proud to host the 2014 National Accordion Convention and welcome NAA back home! The Plano Convention and Visitors Bureau enjoyed working with and providing servicing for NAA. The resounding success of the convention is a testament to NAA’s dedication to its members and the public. We look forward to many years of future collaboration!“

To all the Officers and Board Members of NAA, we express our gratitude for an outstanding 2014 National Accordion Convention. To Norman Seaton, President of NAA, and Greg Klugiewicz, Convention Manager, we express our heartfelt thanks. Many thanks go to Norman and Sharon Seaton, Greg Klugiewicz, Nick Ballarini, Judy Dillard, Chet Warzusen, Bill Kucera, Rebecca Ratliff, Jessica Faltot, Louise Kucera, Susie Thennes, Nancy Bernstein, Tom Jordan (sound man), Valina and Ross (stage managers) and many more who contributed their time and effort to making this convention special. To all the workshop presenters and concert participants, we salute you for a superb performance.

In addition, the Southfork Hotel Management and Staff did a magnificent job in attending to our needs. The hospitality given to our NAA Conventioneers was sincerely appreciated. We look forward to next year when we will see each other again and another National Accordion Convention, March 4-8, 2015.

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