it comes to how we regard the accordion, and, more importantly, how we'd
like others to consider the instrument, two words come to mind: (1) transference
and (2) transcendence.
we get it in our heads that our statements and actions have the most immediate
impact - and influence - on the reactions of others, then we must realize
the responsibility we have to be the most effective ambassadors on behalf
of the accordion.
accordion is only as ethnic as the person who's playing it or the material
not fair to try to categorize the accordion. It's a musical instrument
with a rightful place alongside all other reed instruments, plus the strings,
brass, pipe/electronic organ and piano. Any instrument could be categorized
as ethnic if you kept focusing on Russian, Italian, German, Hispanic,
African-American or Asian performers and the repertoire they prefer to
present. If you find yourself either caught or creating the context of
transferring ethnicity to the accordion, please make the effort to clarify
the diversity of the instrument. This "transference" of ethnicity
to the accordion should be "transcended" with broader statements
about the incredible versatility of it.
everyone who plays or enthusiastically supports the accordion can be comfortable
with this approach. If you practically "polka your eye out" with
one specific genre of music, that's terrific! Traditional folk performers
"fiddle", they don't play the violin. A "piano picker"
plays ragtime music, while a pianist performs a classical sonata. It's
a matter of association.
accordion has applications in all forms of music and should easily appeal
to anyone with the desire to learn an instrument and excel with it. Like
any other instrument, the accordion only makes as good an impression as
the person who's playing it. And, the advanced skill level of the player
should be inspiring - not intimidating. You may never match an advanced
player's skill note-for-note, but you can benefit from the experience
and certainly strive to improve your playing. All accordionists understand
and appreciate what is required to play a vertical keyboard, manipulate
a horizontal bellows and feel their way among scores of unseen buttons
- simultaneously! It's an accomplishment without equal outside of the
free reed family.
piano accordion has been in America for just over 100 years. It was first
popularized on the stages of vaudeville and on hundreds of radio stations
by a handul of virtuoso's including Guido Deiro, Pietro Deiro, Charles
Magnante, Charles Nunzio and Anthony Galla-Rini. (Pietro Frosini, who
performed on chromatic accordion, was among these pioneers.) They were
performing classical transcriptions...popular music of the day...and creating
hundreds of original works and arrangements. At the same time, there were
huge Italian-American events called "Accordionists' Picnics".
One of the last great events of this kind took place 75 years ago last
month, July 16, 1933, in California Park, north of San Francisco. Pietro
Deiro was the emcee. Frank Gaviani was one of the featured artists. Over
10,000 persons attended this event. It was both a celebration of the accordion,
as well as ethnic heritage.
are still a few large outdoor events today, notably the Cotati Festival
in northern California. A quick glance at the news articles in the June
posting on www.accordionusa.com revealed no less than 8 festivals and
conventions that have already taken place or will later this Summer or
Fall. These include: National Button Accordion Festival/successor to another
that ran 26 years/Bessemer, PA/also includes piano and chromatic accordions,
concertinas and bayans; ATG Festival (68th)/Nashville, TN; Los Angeles
Accordion Festival (brand new 1st annual); Accordions Now! Festival (brand
new 1st annual)/Manchester, NH; Tenjano & Conjunto Festival (27th)/San
Antonio, TX; Las Vegas International Accordion Convention; Rocky Mountain
Accordion Celebration (27th)/Philipsburg, MT; Leavenworth International
Accordion Celebration (15th)/Leavenworth, WA. In addition to the ATG,
the AAA and NAA both have conventions and there are other state and regional
accordionists' names from the "golden age" (1910-1960) are as
diverse as the accordion's versatility: Bill Hughes, Bill Palmer, Mort
Herold, Carmen Carrozza, Leon Sash, Art Van Damme, Victor Hager, Janet
Dillingham, Alice Hall, William "Bud" Kuehl, Lois Halfpapp,
Carl Lucas, Kathryn Lennerd, Art Metzler, Myron Floren, Lawrence Welk
and so on. These folks were concert artists, players in dance bands and
orchestra's, teachers (often in their own studio), radio (and TV) performers
and composers. Some names are more familiar than others, and all shared
the same experiences with their accordions.
Magnante was the first person to take the accordion to the main stage
in Carnegie Hall before an audience of 3,000, April 18, 1939. (That same
year Benny Goodman elevated the "Big Band" as a classical art
form when he gave a concert there.) The accordion was back in Zankel Hall
in the Carnegie Hall Complex on January 13, 2008, when the "Motion
Trio" from Poland performed a concert of original and contemporary
music. Concert accordionist Henry Doktorski has performed and recorded
classical music with chamber ensembles this year. In Central Illinois,
Maria Merkelo has performed Argento's "Valentino Dances" twice
with the Champaign-Urbana Symphony in November, 2006, and the Jacksonville
(IL) Symphony Orchestra in November, 2007.
accordion was taught in huge schools devoted to it such as Chicago's Andy
Rizzo who produced Art Van Damme, Art Metzler, Enrico Mastro-Nardi and
many others. There were degree programs in accordion at universities (and
their founders), notably: University of Denver's Lamont School of Music
(the late Robert Davine); University of Missouri-Kansas City (Joan Cochran Sommers);
and the University of Houston (Bill Palmer). You could earn Bachelor's,
Master's and even a Doctorate - in accordion! Peter Soave has taught accordion
at Wayne State University in Detroit in recent years while Eric Bradler currently is the head of the accordion program at the Univeristy of Denver's Lamont School of Music).
Ettore was a composer for the accordion whose repertoire includes "Accordion
Miniatures", "Five O'Clock Rush" and many others, as well
as a series of accordion method books. Ettore arranged popular music for
accordion ensembles. He arranged a book of international light classics
that includes works by Beethoven, Strauss, Haydn, Mozart and many others.
He was an accordion duet partner with Carmen Carrozza. Robert Davine included
Ettore among his list of prominent accordion instructors.
Davidson is a protege' of Eugene Ettore, and accomplished accordionist
and music teacher in West Orange, NJ. She plays her accordion every day
in the classroom! Rita has been a featured artist in accordion conventions
and workshops throughout the USA. She wrote the "Accordionist's 2008
New Year Resolutions" earlier this year and emphasizes that we should
all promise to:
Play my accordion every day.
2. Play my accordion for friends and family at least once a month (if
3. Learn at least 1 new song every 2 months.
4. Attend at least 1 accordion event in 2008.
5. Purchase at least 1 accordion CD this year.
closes with: "Make 2008 the year of YOUR ACCORDION!!!"
the ones with the perspective on the accordion. We must be effective "agents
of change" in order for the accordion in America to earn a new perception
and to flourish.
Landers is an accordionist and freelance writer in Springfield, IL; e-mail
firstname.lastname@example.org. His sources included "The Golden Age of the
Accordion" by Flynn, Davison & Chavez, Third Edition, 1992; and