The Octonauts

Captain Barnacles Bear playing accordionI recently came across a children’s book called The Octonauts and the Sea of Shade, by Meomi. I was delighted to find out that the main character, Captain Barnacles Bear, plays the accordion!

Check it out to see how the Captain and the Octonauts save the Sea of Shade. (I’ll give you a hint: the Captain’s accordion is involved!) This is a great book for kids. And definitely a great last-minute holiday gift for your favorite accordion-loving kid-at-heart, too!

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.

What You Missed In Vegas

What happens in Vegas doesn’t always stay in Vegas. I found this video of 15-year-old Gary Blair Jr. performing Monti’s Czardas at the Las Vegas International Accordion Convention last week. The accordion is in Gary’s blood — his father is a former UK accordion champion and his grandfather ran the Jimmy Blair Accordion School in Glasgow, Scotland. As you can see from the video, Gary Jr. isn’t half bad himself…

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…

Something Special for Me

Something Special for Me (book cover)One of my favorite accordion-related books is the children’s book, Something Special for Me by Vera B. Williams. It’s about a girl named Rosa who has to make a very important decision: what special thing will she buy with the money her family gave her?

She goes shopping with her mother and finds many things she likes, but nothing is exactly perfect. Crestfallen after many attempts to find the perfect item, her spirits are lifted by the sound of accordion music. A man playing accordion inspires her and she realizes what she special thing she wants! (Can you guess?)

This is a great book for kids, and should be required reading for aspiring accordionists of all ages.

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Baby Danced the Polka

Baby Danced the PolkaYesterday at the library and I came across this children’s book, Baby Danced the Polka by Karen Beaumont (illustrated by Jennifer Plecas). It is a very cute book about a baby who doesn’t want to take a nap, but instead wants to dance… the polka! After searching Amazon, I found that the book is highly rated — 5 stars! I’m glad to see a popular children’s book about polka. Hopefully this is just the start of a huge resurgence!

Guyland’s a Weiner… er, Winner

The ad wizards at Oscar Meyer recently held a nationwide contest to find a new voice for their “I wish I was an Oscar Mayer wiener…” jingle. After sifting through thousands of entries and public voting on twenty finalists, they finally have five winners — one of whom is eight-year-old zydeco accordion prodigy, Guyland Leday. We should see a TV commercial with Guyland and his accordion sometime later this year. In the meantime, you can watch Guyland’s winning performance on the Oscar Meyer website.

Accordion-Shaped Kids Furniture

Posh Tots Accordion Dresser

Forget race-car shaped beds; your kids need this one-of-a-kind accordion-shaped dresser. Designed by Judson Beaumont, each dresser is custom-made and available at PoshTots for a mere $5,600. (There’s a reason it’s called PoshTots!) There’s also a vertical version available for just $5,000. A small price to pay for living in Wonderland…

[Found via Rare Bird Finds]

The Gift: A Hanukkah Story

Hanukkah money burning a hole in your pocket? Aliana Brodmann’s The Gift: A Hanukkah Story is a children’s picture book about a young girl who receives her Hanukkah gelt (money) from her father, but can’t decide how to spend it. After going from store to store looking at hats, dolls, and even kittens, she hears beautiful music played by an accordion player on the street. She decides to give the money to him and, in return, he teaches her to play the accordion.

It’s a sweet story, set in post-war Germany and based on the author’s memories of her childhood there. The book was originally published in 1993 and may be hard to find, so check your local library first.

Guyland Leday Video Clips

I finally tracked down some clips of eight-year-old zydeco accordion prodigy Guyland Leday on the recent HBO special, The Music in Me: Children’s Recitals from Classical to Latin, Jazz to Zydeco. In addition to showing Guyland’s incredible talent, there are brief interviews with family members, zydeco star and friend Terrance Simien, and, best of all, some of Guyland’s young friends.

Part one:

Part two:

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