Quick Links: June 14, 2007

Mumlers Accordion Dog T-Shirt

Mumlers T-Shirt Accordions are clearly on the minds of hip t-shirt designers these days. One of my coworkers pointed me towards this unique accordion dog shirt ($16) for San Jose indie band, The Mumlers. In addition to peddling cute shirts, they play catchy, folky tunes on unlikely instruments such as the toy piano, stand-up bass, french horn and, of course, accordion.

My Big Fat Accordion Wedding

Here’s the feel-good accordion story of the year: Toronto’s own “Accordion Guy”, Joey deVilla, answered a Craigslist ad from a couple who needed witnesses at their Toronto City Hall wedding ceremony. The result is a heartwarming tale of love, accordions, and the kindness of strangers — with a sweet solo accordion rendition of Fatboy Slim’s “Praise You” (see video) as the soundtrack.

Amidst all the coverage this story has gotten in blogs over the past couple days, I really like this inspirational quote that Joey posted on Metafilter:

“I would suggest that all of you find your ‘accordion’ — that thing that makes you try out life’s little detours — and use it to practice your own random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty. The rewards are astonishing.”

Great advice — even for those of us whose ‘accordion’ is, well, an accordion.

Guy Klucevsek Ekes Out a Living

Guy KlucevsekThere’s an interesting Wall Street Journal piece today on one of our favorite artists: composer/accordionist Guy Klucevsek. The profile covers his diverse career, including his compositions, soundtrack work, and involvement in Accordion Tribe. But it focuses on how difficult it is for even an accomplished player like Klucevsek to find steady, rewarding work, particularly in the United States:

“During my 40s, I was starting to make a living… During my 50s, I was able to make one. Now I’m 60, and it’s borderline… I’m loath to complain… because I chose the path myself, and I knew what it was like when I chose it. I’m lucky I’ve been able to do it for this long.”

Klucevsek, for instance, played in the orchestra pit for six performances of Kurt Weill’s “Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny” at last month’s Spoleto Festival in order to book a solo recital at the festival. (The Journal likened it to “paying Tiger Woods to compete in a miniature golf tournament.”) His American concert schedule is very light this year, but he will be performing this Sunday during the Accordionology festival at Barbes in Brooklyn, New York.

Quick Links: June 11, 2007

  • My Punk Heart: Polkaphobia | lawrence.com
    An inspiring story of overcoming polkaphobia in America’s heartland at the Sugar Creek Slavic Festival. “Despite our ignorance we had caught onto the key essence of polka: ridiculous, wreck-loose, unabashed fun.”
  • Brownsville accordionist brings home state title
    Juan Longoria Jr. won the Big Squeeze contest at the Accordion Kings and Queens Concert earlier this month. “I want the younger generation like myself to not forget their roots… we need to remember where this music comes from and keep it alive.”
  • Weird Monkey « Crazy Can be a Good Thing
    Cute story about a boy who won a radio station contest to meet Weird Al. He got front row seats, backstage passes, AND Al even signed his accordion. (Be sure to watch the video where Al tries to figure out the boy’s button accordion.)
  • Northern California Pirate Festival
    Arr! There’s a pirate festival in Vallejo this weekend, complete with maritime musicians & magicians, seafaring singers, pirate re-enactors, cannon battles, swordfighters, and crews of miscreants. Expect accordions and sea shanties. Much better than Pirate Master!

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This Week in Accordion: Accordionology

Highlights from this week’s accordion calendar:

  • Accordionology (Fri-Sun in Brooklyn, NY)
    Barbès hosts a three-day festival for our “much maligned instrument” with an eclectic lineup that includes Guy Klucevsek, One Ring Zero, the Will Holshouser Trio, Alec Redfearn and the Eyesores, and many more.
  • Zydeco/Cajun Grammy Celebration (Wed in Lafayette, LA)
    Celebrate the creation of the newest Grammy category with a party at the Grant Street Dance Hall.
  • Shuswap Lake Accordion Festival (Fri-Sun in Sorrento, BC, Canada)
    Three days of jam sessions, solos and duets, bands and dancing on the banks of Shuswap Lake in British Columbia. Beautiful music, beautiful surroundings… what more could you ask for?

On a technical note, I’ve fixed the calendar to better handle multi-day events (like festivals). If you have an accordion-related concert, festival, or meeting to share, tell us about it!

Dale Wise’s Accordions for Kids

Dale Wise with a studentLast month, the Washington Post Magazine had a glowing feature on Virginia accordion teacher Dale Wise. Three years ago, Wise started Accordions for Kids, a program designed to introduce a younger generation to the accordion.

Accordions for Kids is essentially a no-risk trial program for eight to twelve-year-old accordion students. Each student is loaned a 12-bass accordion and study materials (music stand, sheet music, etc.) and receives 10 weeks of lessons with a teacher free of charge. At the end of the program, the student performs in a recital and then decides (along with with his/her parents, of course) whether to continue. Children usually love it — and are oblivious to any stigma associated with accordion playing — but parents often need convincing:

“There’s some selling that has to be done… But this accordion thing is going to happen, one way or the other. How big it becomes is just a matter of how much energy we got.”

Accordions for Kids has been so successful that Wise has recruited teachers nationwide to participate. I absolutely love the idea and hope it continues to spread. Maybe one day we’ll have a nation of “accordion moms,” loading minivans full of accordions and shuttling them to lessons and recitals…

Cajun/Zydeco Grammy Becomes Reality!

After a six-year campaign by Cajun/Zydeco musicians and fans — spearheaded by Terrance and Cynthia Simien — the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences has announced that next year’s Grammy Awards will (finally!) include a separate category for Cajun/Zydeco music.

This is huge news; until now, Cajun/Zydeco artists have been lumped into the folk category, competing with Dylan and Springsteen. Even then, four Cajun/Zydeco musicians have won Grammys: Queen Ida in 1982, Clifton Chenier in 1983, Rockin’ Sidney in 1985 and BeauSoleil in 1997. With the recent influx of young, talented Cajun musicians, this should be a great showcase for Cajun/Zydeco music (and a competitive category) for years to come.

iTunes for Accordion?

iTunesThe beauty of online music services like iTunes is that they offer instant access to hard-to-find music. No waiting, no standing in line, no condescending looks from record store clerks when you’re picking up the latest polka CD (ahem)… just instant gratification for music lovers. But even iTunes’ vast catalog has some holes — particularly when it comes to solo and ensemble accordion music.

Accordionist Lenny Feldmann (the “Cordeen Man”) is trying to fill those holes, though, with his own all-accordion online music service. Just like iTunes, you can listen to samples, buy entire albums or mix and match tracks at 99 cents a pop. There are currently over 200 tracks available, including selections by Frank Marocco, Zevy Zions, and the Accordion Pops Orchestra. It’s definitely worth checking out and, hopefully, the selection will continue to grow over time.

Flight of the (Accordion) Bumblebee

Remember Liam O’Connor, the Irish button accordionist who set the Guinness record for “Fastest Fingers in the World” last year? I’d like to see him go up against Alexander Dmitriev, shown here performing Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Flight of the Bumblebee” on the bayan (a Russian chromatic accordion). My fingers got tangled up just watching it.

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