Russia’s Got Talent: Maksim Tokaev

Russia Today has an inspiring piece on 14-year-old accordion player Maksim Tokaev, who won 1st prize on the Russian TV talent show “Minute of Glory” earlier this year. Since winning the million ruble prize (about $39,000 US), Maksim now has his own fan club, has enrolled in a local music college, and has used his prize money to help repair his family’s home. Maksim has been playing since he was five and, as this video shows, already knows how to work a crowd.

Polka Pack Giveaway Winner

Congratulations to S.A. Heistand, the winner of the random drawing in our “Polka Pack Giveaway”! She wins copies of Bob Dolgan’s book, America’s Polka King: The Real Story of Frankie Yankovic, and Eddie Blazonczyk’s Versatones’ Grammy-nominated CD, Batteries Not Included.

Thanks to everyone who entered and recommended an artist/album (either here or on our MySpace); we got some great suggestions. If you entered, but didn’t win, drop us a line with your mailing address and we’ll send you some Let’s Polka stickers. Everyone’s a winner!

Quick Links: September 15, 2007

Accordion How-To Videos

Expert Village bills itself as the “world’s largest how-to video site,” but even I was surprised to find their series on learning to play the accordion. The 15-part series (each part is about 3 minutes) is led by Brett Larsen, a middle-school teacher who plays in the Santa Barbara band, Spencer the Gardener. The series is very basic — “Mary Had a Little Lamb” is one of the tunes taught — but you can’t beat the price (free). Here’s a clip:

If you’re interested in more advanced video lessons for the diatonic accordion, check out our previous post on the Italian Accordion Academy online.

Wanted: Accordionist in New Orleans

Always wanted to live in New Orleans? Looking for a band? Ben Schenck of the Panorama Jazz Band is looking for an accordion player:

“I’m hunting for an accordionist, someone who’d like to consider relocating to New Orleans. I need someone with hot-shot chops, who can read charts and knows klezmer and jazz. Balkan and Caribbean would be nice, too.

We stay pretty busy. Work mostly in and around New Orleans with occasional trips. We do one weekly set in a downtown bar room plus weddings, bar mitzvahs, private parties, music festivals, etc.”

If you’re interested (or know someone who might be), you can contact Ben through the Panorama Jazz Band’s website.

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Polka Pack Giveaway!

America’s Polka King and Batteries Not IncludedFall is here and it’s high time for another Let’s Polka giveaway! This time, it’s a two-fer: the winner will receive Bob Dolgan’s excellent biography, America’s Polka King: The Real Story of Frankie Yankovic, as well as Eddie Blazonczyk’s Versatones’ Grammy-nominated CD, Batteries Not Included. We’ll even throw in a handful of Let’s Polka stickers to boot.

How to enter: post a comment on this entry and recommend an accordion album you’ve been listening to lately. That’s it! It can be something old, something new, something borrowed… you get the picture. You’ll have until Friday at midnight to post your entry; then we’ll pick a random winner and send out the prize next week.

Good luck! We’re looking forward to your recommendations!

Update: We have a winner! Thanks to everyone who entered!

This Week in Accordion: Northeast Squeeze-In

Highlights from this week’s accordion calendar:

  • Northeast Squeeze-In (Fri-Sun in Washington, MA)
    A free-reed getaway in the heart of the Berkshires, sponsored by the good folks at The Button Box in Sunderland, MA. There’ll be workshops, “spontaneous squeezings,” and plenty of opportunities for hobnobbing with fellow squeezebox enthusiasts.
  • Accordion Cocktail Concert (Sun in Miami, FL)
    Cuban-American accordionist Maricarmen Vazquez has organized this afternoon of accordion music from around the world. Performers include Antonio Barberena, Tony Lovello, Mario Pedone, and more.
  • Polkamotion Polka Festival (Thu-Sun in Rehoboth Beach, DE)
    Formerly known as Polkamotion By The Ocean, the Rehoboth Beach Polkamotion Polka Festival features four days of nonstop polka music and dancing. Bands include Polka Family, Charm City Sound, Polka Country Musicians, and more.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. There’s the Corn Palace Polka Festival in South Dakota, Brendan Begley at NYU, Walter Ostanek and Fritz’s Polka Band together in upstate New York, and a whole lot more.

If you have an accordion event to add to our calendar, just let us know!

Coming Soon: ‘The Accordion’ Movie?

Licia Maglietta in Pane e TulipaniI saw a news item (via the TDA blog) that there will soon be a remake of the Italian film, Pane e tulipani (“Bread and Tulips”). Anna and I picked up the original film at our local library a few months ago and it’s a sweet, quirky comedy. It centers on an underappreciated mother who’s stranded by her family while on vacation, so she goes to Venice. There, she finds a job with a florist, cultivates a friendship with a depressed waiter, and takes up the accordion.

The upcoming American version — titled The Accordion — switches the setting from Venice to post-Katrina New Orleans. (Maybe the accordion will be a Cajun-style button box?) The director is Norman Jewison (Moonstruck and Agnes of God) and Felicity Huffman (Desperate Housewives) will star.

Knowing Hollywood, though, they’ll probably ruin everything I enjoyed about the original film. On the bright side, the advertising campaign should at least help teach people the proper spelling of “accordion.” (“Accordian,” be gone!)

Quick Links: September 6, 2007

Son of a Contino: Pete Contino

The apple never falls far from the tree… or accordion, I guess. While poking around YouTube the other day, I stumbled across a video of the Pete Contino Band. That’s right: Pete is the son of Mr. “Lady of Spain” himself, Dick Contino. Pete toured as a drummer with his father for nearly fifteen years, but now plays accordion with his own band in a style he describes as “acoustic blues with a touch of zydeco.” After putting out his first solo album (Push It) in 2005, Pete has a collaboration with his father coming out later this year. Simply called Contino, the new album features a mix of jazz, blues, rock, latin and more.

Based in Las Vegas, Pete and his band often play at Brendan’s Irish Pub, located at the Orleans Hotel and Casino. Here’s a live clip of the Pete Contino Band doing “Hot Tamale Baby”:

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