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The American Accordionists’ Association turns 80!!

Joan Grauman, AAA HistorianIn March of 2018, the American Accordionists’ Association (AAA) will turn 80 years old. We hope to see all of you this summer in beautiful Alexandria, Virginia, where we will celebrate this special milestone! As the organization’s historian, I will be writing monthly articles on events that led up to the creation of the AAA, some of its influential members, as well as special events throughout the decades, and more.

Below is the third article.
Joan Grauman, AAA Historian

Women in the AAA Through the Decades

During the first few decades of the AAA, it was still very much “a man’s world” in society. Yet, and very fortunately for the rise of the accordion in the USA, the AAA welcomed several women no longer with us but never forgotten, who were respected leaders, teachers, composers, performers and music publishers. These women remained dedicated to the AAA their entire lives: Maddalena Belfiore Greco, Addie Cere, Theresa Costello, Elsie Bennett and Faithe Deffner. I will be featuring these extraordinary women as part of the AAA archival exhibit at our 80th anniversary festival this coming July in Alexandria, Virginia. Hope to see all of you there!!
Joan Grauman, AAA Historian

Beverly Roberts Curnow – Accordion Queen and World Accordion Champion still bringing joy with her beloved instrument!

Beverly Roberts was born and raised in Bath, Pennsylvania, a small rural town where she attended grade school in a one-room schoolhouse. When she was five, her ballet and gymnastics lessons began. Beverly loved the classical music that she danced to and, at age eight, she asked for piano lessons. Their small house had no room for a piano, so when a door-to-door salesman came by selling accordions, Beverly agreed to try this instrument instead. The salesman was her first accordion teacher. After he moved, she took lessons at a local music center.
When Beverly was 12 years old, her dancing and gymnastic skills were receiving notice, so plans were made to take her weekly into New York City to study at the June Taylor Dance Studio. At the same time, she had outgrown the skills of her music teachers, and the music store’s owner suggested that she study accordion in New York City with the up and coming young excellent accordionist, Carmen Carrozza. Little did Beverly know, that first day in Carmen’s studio at the Pietro Deiro Conservatory, that this would be the beginning of a lifelong bond with this amazing man.
Carmen was a firm, yet kind teacher. In Beverly’s words, “It took Carmen two years to undo all of my bad habits and to instill the discipline I needed.” At age 14, Carmen signed Beverly up for her first AAA competition. There were 75 other 14 year olds competing with her! Beverly took first place in that competition with Mendelsohn’s “Violin Concerto in E minor”.
Carmen Carrozza moved his studio to Greenwich Village and taught above “O. Pagani Publishers”. Beverly would head up the stairs for her lessons and hear Carmen practicing. She loved listening to him! One of her fondest memories is of the day she took her parents to hear Carmen play at New York’s Historic Town Hall. It was May 6, 1962. Carmen performed an entire program of new and original difficult compositions for accordion. The composers were in the audience. Beverly was so impressed with Carmen’s ability to memorize all of this music. Another wonderful memory for her was when Carmen took her, when she was 19 years old, to meet the celebrated composer Paul Creston, where she watched in awe as these two men worked together on one of Creston’s compositions.

Still totally immersed in ballet and studying the accordion, Beverly graduated from high school and enrolled at Syracuse University to study music education. After two years there, her father was diagnosed with cancer. Beverly wanted to be closer to home. Carmen encouraged her to move back to the New York City area. He found a family for her to live with, paid her to teach part-time in his studio, and urged her to finish her studies at New York University (NYU).
This incredible picture of the triumphant return to NY with Carmen Carrozza and Tony Ettore. A picture like this is unthinkable today with all the modern security regulations.
The 1964 World’s Fair was held in New York City. Excitement for this extravaganza filled the city! The AAA decided that they were going to feature an Accordion Queen at the Fair. Nominated for this honor was Beverly Roberts. As the Accordion Queen, Beverly made appearances for newspaper articles and played at the famed “Tavern on the Green” to promote the accordion at the World’s Fair. This was a spectacular event, and the AAA held a major concert of the greats at the Fair’s “Singer Bowl” on Friday evening, August 7, 1964. The concert, “The Accordion Cavalcade”, featured Andy Arcari, Joe Biviano, Carmen Carrozza, Joan Cochran (Sommers), Art Van Damme, Pietro Deiro, Jr., Anthony Galla-Rini, Skeets Langley, Charles Magnante, Mat Mathews, Tony Mecca and Beverly Roberts. Held close to the airport, Beverly still remembers the airplanes flying overhead making it almost impossible to hear themselves as they played!
Preparing to graduate from college, with a teaching job lined up at a high school in Easton, Pennsylvania, Beverly was being coached by Carmen Carrozza to compete in the 1965 AAA US Virtuoso Accordion Competition. Beverly took first place. Then her work with Carmen really began as she prepared to compete as the AAA US representative to the World Cup of the accordion (Coupe Mondiale), which was being held in Malta in October 1965.

Somehow, during this busy time, Beverly was able to fit in a guest appearance in the popular television show, “To Tell the Truth” in the segment, “Who is the real Beverly Roberts?”, and performed along with other US accordion contestants on “The Steve Lawrence Show”.
Carmen wrote a special arrangement of the “Piano Concerto, #2 in A Major” by Franz Liszt for Beverly to perform in Malta. Although her teaching job began in early September, which included the preparation of choral, general and instrumental lessons for the students, she still managed to find time to practice and memorize the test piece as well as the Liszt arrangement. Beverly took a three week leave from the school and flew to Italy with Carmen Carrozza and Tony Ettore. They almost didn’t make it to the competition, however. The airline Alitalia went on strike that day!! They finally arrived in Malta in the early hours of the morning of the competition. With just 1½ hours of sleep, Beverly was competing. She became the first American woman to win the title of World Accordion Champion!
Beverly Roberts Curnow resides in Easton, Pennsylvania with her husband Bill Curnow, a retired band director and still active trumpet player. Beverly holds BS and MS degrees in Music Education from NYU and Columbia University. She taught choral, instrumental and general music at all levels in the Wilson Area public school system of Easton for 35 years.

Remaining an active accordionist throughout her teaching career, she has played in many pit orchestras for area colleges and community theater groups. Beverly has been very active with the AAA and serves on its Governing Board. She is frequently a guest performer for AAA events including the AAA’s “Afternoon of Music, Food and Fun” to benefit the Carmen Carrozza scholarship fund, at its festival luncheons, and in a series of four contemporary music concerts featuring commissioned works of the AAA. In 2008, Beverly performed the world premiere of Samuel Adler’s “Canto XVIII” at the AAA’s 70th Anniversary Concert in Valhalla, New York. She is also a regular adjudicator for AAA competitions.
Beverly remained close to her beloved accordion teacher Carmen Carrozza until his death in 2013. In her words:
“It was a blessing to have had the tutelage, support and friendship of the late great Carmen Carrozza. Through the years, Carmen and his wife Jean made a ‘home away from home’ for me in New York. His brothers and their wives, Pat and Connie, and Tony and Mimma welcomed me like family, too. Carmen always said he was making me an ‘honorary Italian’ by association. That association resulted in great music, great food and wonderful times together.”

In closing, I would like to say a few words about my good friend, Beverly. In all the years I have known her and worked closely with her, she has always been a kind and fair adjudicator, and a wonderful, encouraging friend. I always look forward to her terrific performances and watching her warm smile as she plays – a smile that speaks of her lifelong love for the accordion and the music.
Beverley Roberts Curnow in full power mode performing for many well known accordion identities at the Faithe Deffner Lifetime Achievement Award in NY in 2009.

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