Everyone thoroughly enjoyed Octobers offering: a presentation by
Joan Grauman and Jim Vandelly on various types of diatonic instruments
(including harmonicas played by Jim). We learned that on a diatonic accordion
each row is a different key, so you have to have many instruments if you
want to play in many different keys.
The cherry on the sundae was the unexpected appearance of newcomer Casey
Sutcliffe, who played her beautiful, 2.5-row diatonic accordion for the
group and shared her knowledge of the instrument. German accordions generally
play C and F; French ones play G and C; and Irish diatonic accordions
are completely different, she said.
Another newcomer said he didnt know how to play his blue accordion,
so he lent it to Jim, who picked out a tune.
Jim also brought some videos of Russian accordionists, but not everyone
had a chance to see them, so we might ask him to bring them another time.
In the business portion of the October 21 meeting, President Karen Malan-Uribe
reported that we are required to hold elections for officers in January.
The current officers are willing to continue another year; however, anyone
who would like to nominate him/herself or someone else for president,
vice president, secretary or treasurer may do so at the November meeting.
The slate at this time is Karen Malan-Uribe for president; Joan Grauman
for vice president; and Mara Cherkasky for secretary-treasurer. The president
appoints committee chairpersons who also serve on the executive committee.
Currently they are Lee Paulson, communications, and Peter DiGiovanni,
Membership dues will go up as of January 1, 2008, to $20 for individuals
for one year and $30 for families for one year. The advantage of a family
membership is free or reduced-price entrance to our concerts for the whole
More information on the fees and elections are at About
Following the workshop, Joan distributed music for the WMAS orchestra
to play at the holiday concert, and we ran through the music. It was a
promising start! The next rehearsal will be Sunday, November 4, at 7 pm
at Sleepy Hollow United Methodist Church, our normal meeting place. Please
check the rehearsal schedule on the calendar.
Joan has more folders of Christmas music for those who were not at the
meeting and want to pick them up at the Nov. 4 rehearsal. She would like
to remind people that, for the Christmas orchestra, EVERYONE is encouraged
to participate, even those who have never played with a group before.
November Meeting and December Concert
At the November 18 meeting Joan Grauman will present a short program
on how to follow a conductor and play in an ensemble. Afterwards we will
rehearse for the December 16 holiday concert. It is time to begin thinking
about solo or small ensemble pieces for the concert. Sign up soon for
a five-minute slot we need to restrict everyones time so
we can keep the concert to a manageable length. As in previous years,
we may ask some individuals to play during the dinner rather than during
the concert itself. The advantage to playing during dinner is that you
can play a bit longer.
Speaking of dinner, we will also be asking everyone to bring a dish for
the potluck dinner following the concert, and we will be asking for volunteers
to help set up starting at 2 pm on December 16, and clean up afterwards.
Some of our most stalwart volunteers have moved to Florida in the past
year or two, so were going to need others to step in and fill their
We will be selling Lou Coppolas new CD, "The USAF Strolling
Strings, Through the Years," at upcoming meetings for $15. To hear
sample cuts, please go to www.LouCoppola.com.
We also continue to sell WMAS shirts and The Legend of Merv Conn DVDs,
for $15. The Merv Conn documentary was made by prominent DC filmmaker
Jeff Krulik, www.PlanetKrulik.com.
Composer Peter DiGiovanni
The Washington Balalaika Society will play a composition by Peter DeGiovanni
at its November 3 and 4 concerts.
Saturday, November 3 at 7:30 pm
Ernst Cultural Center Auditorium
Northern Virginia Community College
Ernst Cultural Center Auditorium
8333 Little River Turnpike (Route 236)
Adults $20; seniors and students $18; children 12 and under free
Sunday, November 4 at 4:00 pm
4200 Wisconsin Avenue
Also available at www.TIX.com
Music for Your Repertoire
In response to a query from Karen, Mary Tokarski offered this list of
the best Palmer-Hughes pieces to work on:
BOOK 5: (not the best of the material offered)
Mexican Polka -- a good study in repeated RH notes, as well as the sixteenth
passages on the 4th section . . . great for "over the thumb"
exercise! But remember to relax.
Nine Blind Mice is a great "variation" style piece -- hits
lots of technical areas -- grace notes, trills, and more over the thumb
Roumanian Rhapsody #1 is just fun to do! Triplets, turns, trills and
Voices of Spring is a charming Strauss Waltz. Not difficult to learn,
but difficult to play musically and elegantly!
Waltz Theme, is a Chopin Minute Waltz like piece that can also be done
as a duet . . . good technical exercise.
El Relicario -- a 3/4 time piece, with the left hand playing a 2/4 kind
of bass rhythm. It's rather tricky to accomplish and keep going on! It's
got a bit of flair on the 16th not chromatic scale.
Semper Fidelis, is a great Sousa march . . . good 6/8 study, and fun drum
solo imitation . . . as well as bass solo study.
Relative Samba includes reiterated RH notes in a cute samba style.
Charlie the Boxer is a fun Polish Polka . . . and is challenging to play
at the correct speed with the 16th triplets (duet, too).
Turkish Rondo is a nice arrangement of Mozart's Turkish March . . . definitely
worth the time!
Hungarian Dance #5 . . . same story.
Entry of the Gladiators is the typical "circus" entrance theme
. . . chromatic scales, octaves, bass solo, RH chording, melody in chords.
Espana is a GREAT piece . . . I go around humming it all day after I hear
Of course, the Toccata in D Minor!
The Strauss Medley is just a series of his pieces . .. if you like them,
it's worth the time.
Saber Dance . . . a great arrangement . . . and technically difficult
I do think that should keep you out of trouble for a while!
Let me know how it goes. Hope to see you again soon,
Accordions Breathe Easier Since Smoking Ban
By Amanda Gardner
THURSDAY, Sept. 27 (HealthDay News) -- Banning smoking in bars is not
only salve for the lungs, it is music to the ears.
A smoking ban in Irish workplaces has improved air quality in Irish pubs
as well as the health of musical instruments -- such as accordions --
and the people who play them, research suggests.
"Research to date looking at the health effects of the smoking ban
on hospitality workers in Ireland has focused mainly on bar staff,"
said Dr. John Garvey, specialist registrar in respiratory medicine at
St. Vincent's University Hospital in Dublin.
Garvey, who plays the accordion, is co-author of a letter to the editor
detailing the accordion findings in the Sept. 29 issue of the British
"It's a remarkable analogy in that you've got an instrument that's
basically performing much the same way as the lung and responding much
the same way as the lung," added Kirby Donnelly, head and associate
professor of environmental and occupational health at Texas A&M Health
Science Center School of Rural Public Health.
The Irish government banned smoking in all workplaces, including bars
and restaurants, on March 29, 2004.
A study that appeared earlier this year in then American Journal of Respiratory
and Critical Care Medicine found a significant reduction in air pollution
in pubs and an improvement in respiratory symptoms in Irish bar workers
after the ban.
Musicians, including Garvey, frequently gather at pubs to play traditional
music together. In addition to the accordion, these pub sessions feature
concertina, melodeon and Uilleann (Irish) bagpipes, all of which are bellows-driven.
Anecdotal evidence had suggested that accordions subjected to heavy smoke
collected particles inside, much like a person's lungs would.
Garvey and his colleagues conducted a telephone survey of all workers
(a total of seven) involved in the cleaning, repair, maintenance and renovation
of accordions in the Republic of Ireland. Six of the seven workers were
Those interviewed noted that, when opened, accordions that had been played
in smoke-filled rooms emitted a strong cigarette odor. Deposits of soot-like
dirt were also found inside the instruments. One worker interviewed said
that, in some cases, enough dirt could be deposited in the instrument
to affect the pitch.
All interviewees said that both the cigarette smell from accordions and
the dirt residue inside had improved since the smoking ban.
"There's no question that there's a lot of secondhand smoke in bars,
and the Irish have gotten rid of it, and people are feeling better,"
said Dr. Norman Edelman, chief medical officer of the American Lung Association.
"We know that banning smoking in bars improves health."
Of humans and, it seems, accordions.
A Survey by Dale Wise
In Larry Hughes article, "The President's Squeeze," from the
July 2007 Newsletter of the Peoria Area Accordion Club, he alludes to
"FUN" as being the reason for his club's success. His point
was well taken, and as a result I was moved to raise the following questions
to our Maryland Accordion Club and
Washington Metropolitan Accordion Society members. Here are their responses
received to date.
-- Dale Wise 10/4/07
What's so special about the accordion? Why play the accordion?
It needs no accompaniment.
It was my first musical instrument. I spent some happy hours as a child
discovering, albeit unknowingly, the mysteries of chords, harmony, scales,
and the way music worked.
I could write a book. The simple fact is the accordion is the ultimate
instrument of all time.
It is unique in that it can play rhythm, bass notes, chords and/or melody
on either the right or left hand, separately or together. Like the piano,
music for the accordion is written in both bass and treble clef; thus
allowing the student to learn both as he/she progresses. Accordion music
is written for and performed in every genre known; from classical to country,
folk to French, jazz to zydeco, and everything in between. The accordion
is expressive. It can set a mood from happy to sad. It can make you want
to dance or become introspective. It can be played by itself and be complete,
or it can be played in duets to orchestras, as a lead instrument, or as
an accompaniment. Unlike the piano, it is portable. It can be your friend
on a long journey; and it can make friends in a strange country; and like
many I agree, it is FUN(!), and it has been for many a year....
Accordion is a versatile instrument. It can be a band in itself. It can
be relatively easily transported.
It's a humble instrument: one can manipulate it as one wants to; rich
in sounds, elegant; it's interior/exterior construction is marvelous;
can be played at various levels of culture...
It's easy to take around, and draws crowds of people to watch and listen.
People also love to sing along.
It's a "whole band in your arms."
It is fun to play, extremely versatile, portable, and most listeners
love it despite the jokes. Very few people can play it at all (let alone
well). It sounds good. It's a one-person band. You hug it when you play
it, and it doesn't need a lot of maintenance if you take care of it. You
hardly ever have to tune it. Many are attractive. Their sound is unique,
and not easily confused with other instruments.
Accordion stimulates my mind in a way that my two main instruments do
not. I like the idea that I can provide melody and accompaniment with
I'm in LOVE with it.
For my own pleasure. My interest in the accordion goes back to my childhood.
I like the sound, and it feels like you're having a party, even if you're
just practicing by yourself!
It's soooo fun!
When I was a very little boy I heard its sounds and felt transported
to levels of harmony, joy. I am still mesmerized when I hear it. Its sounds
cause deep-seated thrills that are never satisfied. The more it is experienced,
the finer it becomes and begs for more...
Because it is the greatest instrument available. It has the melody, can
harmonize, can be any instrument in the orchestra, and is just plain fun
and excites people.
It must satisfy some part of my inner spirit. Much of the music that
I like to listen to and love is well suited to the accordion. The accordion
is configured the way I listen to and learned to play music by ear (piano
keyboard, circle of fifths, etc.), so there is a synergy there which is
It is fun to play, and it is fun to be around happy accordion players.
It is the perfect instrument for playing Western folk, popular and even
classical music across a wide spectrum of ethnicities comprising with
a wide variety of scales, rhythms, harmonic structures, and melodic treatments.
Every time I play for someone, they think it's great, no matter what I
play or how well I play it. Surely there's an appetite out there that
is currently unsatisfied.
What makes our accordion clubs successful?
I hope that through the years our clubs can always say that having fun,
learning lots of music from beginning to advanced, and having variety
in our activities is why we have succeeded!
The club is successful because it has not become a JOB. Too many gigs,
concerts, events outside our club activities at our meetings would make
our club a JOB, not a hobby. Also, the club is FUN because we work hard
at making every meeting a special event with presentations, interactive
workshops, and jam sessions.
I suspect that the success of any club lies in the fact that members
feel comfortable; that more experienced members make new members feel
welcome; that everyone feels connected to some aspect of running the club;
that admin jobs can be given to each member, etc.
The attitude of its members and organizational skills of its leaders.
People with a common interest can meet each other, and talk shop.
It's a good feeling when you're around others who play accordion.
Whoever is there must be experiencing a thrill; all those who wish need
to play it; there is a sense of "one mind, one heart" about
our meetings; there is respect, there is acknowledgement, encouragement;
fun, "family" spirit; in the spirit of the construction of the
accordion with buttons on one side and keys on the other and air-bellows
in between we create harmony.
The enthusiasm of the core members and their willingness to work on behalf
of all the members to assure pleasant venues for meeting and playing,
opportunities for growth and performance, and creating a level playing
field for all levels of ability.
What should our accordion clubs be doing?
Keep our focus in MEETINGS. If the meetings become uninteresting, our
membership will dwindle. Trying to be all things about the accordion will
surely wreck the club.
Invite accomplished accordionists to play and teach accordion tricks
with handouts. Give workshops on accordion repair at meetings.
Encourage its members, and maintain a positive image in the community.
Teach more variety of styles-Klezmer, Cajun, Zydeco, Tango. Have guests
who specialize in these.
Teaching fellow accordionists to be sensitive to "tension-release"
in music without valuing intense rapid speed as an end in itself.
They should be networking, sharing ideas that are successful, bouncing
ideas off each other for programs and workshops, and helping to get incorporated.
Guard against excluding, acting clicky, and giving of awards to themselves.
We must involve children in our club activities. They are the future,
the life-blood of the accordion's existence.
"Leave our six-gun at the door." Every one must be treated
and viewed equally. Too, there must be a willingness to help each other
in every way possible for the betterment of the organization.
More growth and development opportunities for those who are trying to
improve, encouraging younger participants (children and young adults).
Avoid competition among members.
Do we need more accordion clubs in our area?
Absolutely NOT (N. VA).
At this time, I don't think so (N. VA)
Yes. There should be one in the Bethesda-Rockville area.
I am not sure. Possibly depends on the area.
I would like to see more satellite clubs develop throughout our states,
and have each of them draw members from a 50-mile radius. From these clubs
delegates could be chosen to attend annual or semi-annual conventions
to exchange ideas and information in an attempt to maintain a commonality
throughout the state memberships.
Probably not. Despite tough transportation issues, another club would
probably dilute the membership to the point where a critical mass cannot
be sustained at both. May be better to have ensembles comprised of like-minded
club members who want to do more together and where specific goals can
THERE IS NO CLUB IN CENTRAL VA. What would it take to start one? How
do you go about this? I KNOW there are a coupe of accordionists here.
I can name 3 and I'm sure there are others.
How can we introduce and promote the accordion with our peers?
Illustrate the DIVERSITY of the instrument.
Have a party to share the accordion, making sure that everyone else is
able to bring and talk about their instruments, too.
Talk about it. Show how it works. Play it. Let them try to play it. Play
it with them. Play it with them while they play a different instrument.
Tell about the club. Tell about the parade. Show them articles about the
accordion. Tell them how much fun it is to play!
Play well; play a variety of compositions; explain the compositions;
the accordion is not just to play popular songs......there is so much
Have workshops, play together, use a variety of music to include the
levels, have a variety of styles of music to appeal to everyone, have
sing-a-longs, encourage small groups to play together, always be positive
happy, don't critique and be negative.
1) play for them
2) accept invitations to play at parties, etc.
3) invite them to club meetings
4) invite them to accordion concerts
5) invite them to jam sessions
6) "advertise" via accordion-related clothing, bumper stickers,
7) Always be happy when talking about the accordion
8) Offer to lend them an instrument to tinker with
9) Offer to give them a few free lessons to get them started
10) play for them some more
I am aware that many older persons play the accordion, and that the young
are in a definite minority. However, many approaching middle age want
to play the instrument, and in so doing, entrance the younger persons.
We need to cater to those in mid years more.
How can we introduce and promote the accordion with children?
I do it by having presentations in elementary classes. I take a variety
of little accordions into the schools, let the children see them, touch
them, and even look INSIDE them to see how they work. I start by playing
a song they know--"Twinkle Twinkle Little Star."
Play it for them, simply, so that they can see that "their"
music can be played on it too.
Children have to fall in love with the accordion, and gradually stronger
commitment will ensue. They need confidence building too. Parents need
to be enlightened about the merit of playing the accordion, and encourage
their children to study. My mother wanted me to learn Latin and not music...it
was okay for three of my sisters to learn music, but not for me "for
it would be a distraction." What could a little boy like me do? I
had recourse to a little mouth organ!
Have sing-a-longs; look for children's music (I can't find) that has
complete chords so it sounds better; play music that kids know and love;
include the children in the playing through demonstrations and hands on
The door to the accordion must be opened by children through their parents,
supported by fellow accordionists.
1) play for them
2) AFK, of course
3) Home school expos
4) Give them CDs of children's songs played on the accordion
5) Find (or have someone write) a childrens story featuring the
6) Invite them to concerts
7) Invite them to club meetings
8) Target the parents as above
9) Lobby popular retail outlets to sell accordions
10) Lobby schools to make accordion instruction available
11) Work the accordion into movie plots in a positive way which might
Here's a great idea. My sister is an M.M.E. from ______, and has taught
private piano lessons for 30 years. Since she is also an organist, she
regularly allows her pupils use the organ some -- to expose them to it,
and to hunt up some new organists. She says they're a dying breed. And
we think we have problems!
Well, I gave her the little accordion I rented for her 13 year old daughter
to try, and sister promptly made all of he piano students try it. They
all could play
Jesus, Joy of Mans Desiring in the first week-- of course because they
already knew the right hand!! What genius!! I'm so grateful to her for
thinking of it, and she is having fun playing the little accordion after
all these years of watching me because she claimed my accordion was always
So, the lesson is that piano teachers should be a great entre to possible
accordion students !!!!!
Will there always be accordion players? Why?
Accordions are forever.........bringing joy and happiness to everyone!
No, there will not always be accordion players as long as the instrument
in this country suffers from stereotypes.
I don't think there will always be accordion players in every city. Accordion
culture is slowly being replaced by more electric, pop culture. Just look
at the membership: They/we are mostly in retirement or close to it.
My feeling, since I came into contact with some 'North American Squeezers"
is ... they are living in the past. It seems to me, from my limited knowledge
of what's going on 'ova dey' - that you have ancients playing their polkas
and Slovenian folk songs... and not much focus is being given to the accordion
as a jazz instrument or to play popular ballads - Superstar, Morning of
the Carnival, Feelings etc/....
So OBVIOUSLY the instrument is becoming dated.
I can only tell you what I did... I had a custom box made... over on the
left hand I have only 12 buttons... which are single note bass notes.
The stuff I play focuses on the right hand where I play melody and chords...
and I use the left hand to emphasize. I'm playing all genres of popular
music and people just love to hear the instrument... they are not hearing
all this oom - pah, fuddy duddy sound you hear when someone who can play
far better than I, is ripping up the left hand and the whole thing is
muddy.... instead they are hearing the beauty of the melody, the beauty
of the reeds. I don't know that I am explaining myself very well. I would
just bring this to a close by saying... IN MY OPINION the instrument has
to be presented in a modern light, in a way to deal with modern songs....
What I can tell you is, that in particular countries in Europe the box
is very popular with peeps playing gypsy and flamenco style music, also
in places like Dominican Republic where it's the front instrument in merengue,
etc. So here we see the application. As long as in North America (USA
and Canada) the box is being used to play grand dad's music... and not
much else, - the answer is right before you.
It is hard to predict. It seems that the number of professional players
and teachers is decreasing. It is very difficult to find dedicated and
competent accordion teachers, especially at an affordable fee.
Yes, there will always be people who are fascinated by it and want to
play it , and others who love to listen to it.
Of course. The accordion has been around forever (5,000 yrs.) because
it is fun, portable, has a wonderful sound, and is fascinating to watch.
Of course. The music will always be there, and it needs to be played.
Is accordion popularity on the up-swing? How?
Yes. It has always been on the upswing in countries where the accordion
is a respected instrument.
I don't think so, although there seemed to be a little surge about 10
or more years ago.
I do not think so. The price of the accordion can be prohibitive to many
potential students. Our society got technology crazy. Humanistic values
are not stressed.
This doesn't bother me at all; birds don't bother if anybody is hearing
their song; I am like a bird. Playing/Loving the accordion does not require
an audience; the stars in heaven produce their sounds, and only the silent
listener will hear them; so freeing. I remember reading a quote by Andres
Segovia that said something like this: "I enjoy playing the guitar
for two or three visitors at my house who just delight in the music rather
than playing for big audiences."
I hope so. I think young people are now finding out that it is a wonderful
way to "Go Green," and not use electronics, to go back to the
"Back Porch" music.
Let Them Be Giants is a good rock group that uses it. Also, Bruce Springfield
put out a CD that was dedicated to Pete Seeger using only instruments
that could be played on the porch. It is a great way to bring out the
Based on sales, teaching rosters, club activities, new recording artists,
T.V. and radio shows, and commercials, YES, accordion is on the move.......forward!
I think so. The current fads in music are not particularly musical and
are not sustainable over the long term. This primal-sounding music is
a generational thing, and should blow by. For most people the accordion
can be a part of any popular music that has a melody and harmony, and
lots more of course if you extend to the concert venues for classical
and contemporary music. The MIDI accordion could be a big part of the
Accordionists in the United States are extremely ethnocentric. They seem
to be stuck in the mind-set that American accordionists are the only ones
that exist. I notice this, especially on a regional basis. In Michigan,
the polka accordionists are the only ones that people seem to know about.
In the New Jersey/New York/ Philadelphia area, it seems to be the Italian-American
accordionists that are the knowledge base. In Missouri, it is polkas,
polkas, polkas. I play the Russian bayan for two reasons: First, to be
more authentic in playing Russian folk Music, and Second, because the
bayan seems to break down the normal stereotypes that people hold about
ALL accordions. If the bayan changes minds, maybe it will spill over to
the piano accordion (my first love!) and other types of accordions.
I like it very much, and will always play it as a remembrance of times
In the 1960s and 1970s steel guitar was the big attraction. Many kids
were crazy about it. Nowadays, the computer has made the young generation
crazy. Thus, the
accordion has suffered. Studying and learning music requires more thinking,
patience, and perseverance than playing with the computer.
Where did they get the idea for this contraption?!
I'm glad there are accordion repair workshops along with children's
programs. It is the way to promote the instrument for the future.
A nice lady in Boise gladly loaned her wonderful piano accordion to me
for a wedding engagement so that I did not have to risk taking my accordion
on the plane. We accordionists trust one another enough to risk our precious
Although the accordion is a keyboard instrument, it is also a reed instrument
and therefore, "breathes."
Interesting! A friend was telling me recently that she was interviewing
a kid for some sort of scholarship. She sits on a panel. She told me,
of course, they are all brilliant, and have excellent academic histories.
But she said she likes to ask them "What do you do for fun?"
And the kid says "I play the accordion."
After writing this note, I realized there might be others who could benefit
from its message.
Perhaps at this point you've had a chance to look over and play the various
materials. I'm hoping they will help to "unlock" the life-long
barrier to improvisation and "professional Cocktail Lounge"
musical styles that you mentioned.
There is a possibility that your perception of these items is less than
significant as to what you want to attain, but, trust me, they are a reflection
of how I think, view, and perform music as a creative jazz musician, and
............................they work! So, stick with _____________ Bass
Patterns, Passing Tones, Anticipations, Accompaniments, etc., and "plug"
them into the simplest tunes you know. Notice how the sound of your music
becomes unique, fresh, and exactly what you want.
Keep in mind our differences in how we approach music. I "feed"
on spontaneity and improvisation, and my ears guide my fingers to "sing"
whatever's in my head. You are gifted to sightread the most difficult
music, and your eyes convey exactly what the fingers must do.
To me there are no mistakes in music, simply a re-configuring of what
is written, i.e., as long as meter is maintained.
If I had to read some of the things I play, I'm quite certain I'd have
My musical performance is exactly as I want it. If some parts are too
difficult for me to play professionally, I insert something easier. If
they're too easy, I enhance them.
How you play the left hand on accordion will either "make or break"
Review __________ from _______________________________, and experiment
implementing the various concepts.
Stay in touch! I think you've got real possibilities.
As dreams arise.
Thank you for your interest and contributions to this survey. Please
email additional comments if you like.
Dale E. Wise, M.M.E.
P.O. Box 53
Burr Hill, VA 22433
The accordion, I believe, is a three-handed instrument. Unfortunately,
it seems too many players have difficulty understanding how to play the
bellows, or "the third hand." While it may not be too evident
when one changes bellows direction in the middle of a legato phrase, some
so called professional players I've heard change direction of the bellows
in the middle of a whole or extended note. I think one of the reasons
accordion players get such a bad rap is that too many play their instruments
too sloppily of which one example is poor bellows control.