Reflections on the
2006 Las Vegas Convention

The seventh Las Vegas International Accordion Convention held June 26 to 29, 2006 at the Gold Coast Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada was by all accounts a sensational success. Event organizer Paul Pasquali says the formula is simple, world class performances together with good friends, good food, and good service, you just can't go wrong. Add to this over 50 workshops and the largest list of accordion headliners and you have the Las Vegas International Accordion Convention.

Monday started with a welcome reception featuring the music of the British Trio featuring brother and sister William and Sara Jane Langton with Gina Brannelli. That evening we enjoyed dinner followed by a concert featuring Peter & Mady Soave (France), and Mario & Mary Mancini (New York). Peter played many of his famous tango and classical pieces on both accordion and bandoneon while Mady provided a wonderful accompaniment on accordion.

The second half of the concert featured Mario Tacca playing some of his wonderful stylings of Broadway tunes married to the wonderful voice of Mary Mancini. The evening concluded with free drinks for everyone at Club Concerto. Club Concerto is the after hours night spot where each evening attendees would take to the stage, hangout, and chat about the days events. This year the club was so popular that most evenings ended long after 1:00 AM.

Tuesday 9:00 AM, classes began followed by a wonderful lunch featuring the music of Joe Domitrowich (San Jose, California). Joe showed us a variety of styles and wowed the audience with his virtuosity, singing and sounds of his Concerto accordion. Then it was more classes in the afternoon followed by another memorable dinner concert. Sammy Thomas (Spokane, Washington) age 17 took the stage with confidence, abundant talent, and bravura. He proved he was a performer of international stature. Then Iona Reed Pukara was presented the 2006 Honorary Conductors Award in the presence of Art Van Damme, Dick Contino, Peter Soave and Gina Brannelli.

Next up, we heard an unforgettable performance by jazz legend, Art Van Damme and his quintet. The legendary Art Van Damme demonstrated his artistic style with a distinguished performance and seamless technique. Then all the way from Australia, proclaiming herself the luckiest girl in Las Vegas, Bernadette Conlon (left) had no problem in capturing the entire audience after Art's performance with her version of Bach's Toccata & Fugue in D Minor. Bernadette literally raised the roof of the Ballroom with her skillful playing and charming personality.

Wednesday, the second full day of classes with lunch music by Ron Borelli (San Francisco, CA), was followed by a magical moment as the present and past honorary conductors were gathered for an informal question and answer session. On stage were Art Van Damme, Dick Contino, Gina Brannelli, Peter Soave and Iona Reed Pukara. Questions were fielded about various topics including what we can do to promote the accordion as well as music and careers. Some nuggets of wisdom imparted were:

  • be yourself
  • your music should express yourself
  • and no matter what music you choose, make it your own.

Wednesday night was the biggest concert but it seemed to go by in a flash. First was a memorable performance by Don Lipovac (Kansas City, Kansas). Don showed us his clean style with clean technique and expression that captured everyone in the hall with a variety of middle European folk tunes. Then we heard from two of the Youth Scholarship finalists Gino Bagala (Santa Rosa, CA) and William Langton (Lancashire, UK). Gino at age 11 with his charm and enthusiasm showed us all, his love for the accordion. Then William (pictured with Gina Brannelli) played, made us laugh, and take note why the judges chose him to receive the Guido Deiro Young Entertainer Award. William was presented the award by our honorary guest Count Roberto Guido Deiro (son of Guido Deiro). Then Iona Reed Pukara (Ontario, Canada) performed with her guitarist Ron Kelly. A masterful performance! This humble performer showed us the meaning of balance, perfection and playing from the heart. The audience sat enraptured while she played. To finish out this memorable evening of music were of Kevin Solecki and Mike Zawojsky, two talented Michigan friends who brought the evening to a sparkling end.

Thursday the last full day of the convention was filled with classes and some very memorable moments. Gordon Kohl performed masterfully during lunch. The Larry Pino Inspirational Teacher Award was presented to Marjorie Konrad. Then tenor Peter Clegg sang 'Some Enchanted Evening' and 'Time to Say Goodbye' accompanied by Paul Pasquali. Followed by more music, we heard from the rest of the youth scholarship participants Jaymi Patterson, Jacqi Patterson, Gino Bagala, William Langton, Keith Church and Tyler as well as the UK Trio Gina, William and Sara Jane. Then it was off to more classes before the grand finale.

Thursday night brought the presentation of the coveted Frosini Award presented to the outstanding accordion club of the year. This year's recipient was the Northern California Accordion Society (NCAS) and President Vince Cukar accepted the award. Congratulations NCAS for a fine job in promoting and preserving the heritage of the accordion in your community!The gala evening featured a wonderful prime-rib dinner capped off by a brilliant performance of the K-Trio (Hartford, Connecticut) the precision, nuances and sound were divine.

Dick Contino and his quartet presented a memorable performance. Dick exhibited flare, sincerity, and an impeccable display of accordion skill. He is truly called 'Mr. Entertainment!' What a legend! Then the finale to the Convention came too quickly with a soaring and heart warming rendition of Amigos Paras Siempre (friends foreversung by soprano Mary Mancini and tenor Peter Clegg accompanied by Mario Tacca .

By all accounts the 2006 Las Vegas International Accordion Convention was a success! Paul Pasquali, the event organizer, announced next years dates as June 18 - June 21, 2007. Prices for hotel rooms and the convention will remain the same as this year.

Everyone is cordially invited to attend the 2007 Las Vegas International Accordion Convention, to celebrate 100 years of the piano accordion in America!

Stay tuned to for more information as it becomes available.