Five Questions: Skyler Fell

Skyler FellIt’s time for another installment of “Five Questions” — our occasional interview series with notable personalities in the accordion world.

Today, we’re talking to Skyler Fell, owner of the Accordion Apocalypse Repair Shop in San Francisco. A professionally trained accordion repairwoman, Skyler offers repairs, parts, lessons, and free advice out of her humble shop in Hunter’s Point. Accordion Apocalypse has become a Bay Area accordion hub, hosting bi-weekly jams and shows by touring bands and wild circuses. She also plays in a couple bands herself: the Hobo Gobbelins and the Accordion Apocalypse Circus Sideshow.

When and why did you start playing the accordion?

I started playing accordion when I was around 20 years old, after walking into Boaz Accordions in Berkeley. Feeling inspired by live circus bands featuring fierce and independent women with a hardcore edge in Europe and the Bay Area, I decided to have a go at the accordion. What has happened since has been a truly magical and eye-opening journey.

You’ve studied accordion repair with a couple of masters — Boaz Rubin of the former Boaz Accordions in Berkeley and Vince Cirelli of Cirelli Accordion Service in SF. What’s the most important thing you’ve learned in working with them?

Vince Cirelli and Boaz Rubin have both inspired me with an undying love for the accordion in all of its most complex beauty, as well as counseling me on the step-by-step procedures of well trusted traditional accordion repair techniques learned from past generations of great accordion masters. Now to be kept alive with the accordionistas of the future!

What’s the weirdest repair/modification someone has asked you to do?

Last week I modified a bass switch system on an Excelsior to have a switch setting that plays only low bass single notes. The accordion sounds great… it really growls!

What are your top tips for keeping an accordion in good shape?

Reduce damage and extend the life of your main squeeze with these simple tips!

  • HOT environments will melt the wax that holds your reeds in place. Be careful not to leave your accordion in a hot vehicle trunk for hours or in direct sunlight. COLD, and DAMP environments create condensation that rusts reeds, ruins tuning, and rots bellows. Some taxing places for accordions include attics, basements, storage lockers, garages, vehicles, sheds, and outside for long periods of time. Play your accordion!
  • TUNING and service cleaning is a good idea every 3 to 5 years for frequently played accordions in good condition.
  • OLD BROKEN STRAPS could be the downfall of your beloved accordion. Make sure your straps are in good condition — especially around the strap brackets — and always carry the accordion by the body or in a padded carrying case.
What advice do you have for someone just starting to play the accordion?

Get ready to have some fun! Check out some accordion bands, get yourself a student instrument, some lessons and go. And check out my website — — for accordion events, sales, and repairs in the Bay Area.

Thanks to Skyler for taking time to answer our questions. Stay tuned for more interviews with accordion aficionados from around the world!

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