Register for Lark Camp

Registration for Lark Camp has begun! This is the 28th year of the world music and dance camp that takes place in the Mendocino Woodlands in Northern California, August 1-9 2008. You can register for full camp (all 8 days) or half camp (4 days) either online or by mail.

Along with an extensive list of dance and vocal instructors, there is an instructor in practically every acoustic instrument and world music style that you can imagine. Accordion instructors include Javier Blanco (Galician Accordion), Claudette Boudreaux (Cajun & Creole Button Accordion, Cajun French Songs), Alan Keith (Button Accordion), Louis Leger (French Canadian Songs, Quebecois Button Accordion), Keith Livingstone (Piano Accordion), and Vickie Yancy (French Music & Button Accordion). There are also a variety of jam circles (Cajun/Zydeco, English country dance music, Old time music) to join in!

Check their website for more information about prices, registration and to hear some great sound bytes of the instructors’ music.

How It’s Made: Diatonic Accordions

If you’ve ever wondered how a diatonic accordion is built, this five-minute video from the Science Channel show “How It’s Made” is the perfect introduction. It follows Raynald Ouellet as he builds a one-row diatonic accordion at his workshop, Accordéon Mélodie in Quebec. (In addition to making beautiful accordions, Ouellet is a fantastic player and founder of the annual festival Carrefour mondial de l’accordéon.) From sealing reeds to fashioning bellows, it’s an excellent overview of building a diatonic accordion.

Camp AccordionLand 2007 Announced

Bay Area accordionists, mark your calendars: Camp AccordionLand 2007 is set for August 10-12, 2007. Organized by East Bay accordion teacher Henri Ducharme, Camp AccordionLand is a weekend full of workshops, ensemble playing, and jam sessions at beautiful Tilden Park in Berkeley, California.

The camp welcomes accordionists of all skill levels and the workshops cover both technique and repertoire. Some of the workshops tentatively scheduled for 2007 include Cumbias, Tex-Mex, Greek Music, French Musette, Gypsy Music, Intermediate Bellows and Phrasing, Advanced Bass Technique, and much more. Next year’s camp will also include a number of activities geared towards kids; we gotta start ’em young!

Keep an eye on Henri’s site over the coming months as more details (including pricing) are finalized. Anna and I attended Camp AccordionLand this past August and had a fantastic time. We’ll definitely be back next year and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in a fun-filled weekend with fellow accordion enthusiasts.

Viva Seguin Conjunto Festival

Listen and learn from the conjunto masters this Saturday (October 7th) at the 3rd annual Viva Seguin Conjunto Festival in Seguin, TX. The day begins with a workshop led by two-time Grammy winner Joel Guzman, followed by a conjunto jam session (a chance to show off what you’ve learned!). Then you can dance the night away to a lineup that includes Los Hermanos De Leon, Los Enmascarados, Callejon Oscuro, 4×4, Los Padrinos and “El Chief” Santiago Jimenez Jr. Of course, it was Santiago’s father, Don Santiago Jimenez Sr., who wrote the classic polka “Viva Seguin”:

My Day at Camp AccordionLand

Remember the good old days when mom and dad would pack you up and send you off to accordion camp? The friendships… the polkas… the poison ivy… ah, the memories!

Well, accordion camp wasn’t part of my childhood, but fortunately, I got a second chance this past Sunday when Anna and I grabbed our accordions and headed across the bay to Crown Beach Park in Alameda for the 2nd annual Camp AccordionLand (see photos). Organized by local accordion teacher Henri Ducharme, the camp promised workshops, jam sessions, and plenty of opportunities for hobnobbing with fellow squeezebox enthusiasts. There were about 30 accordionists there on Sunday, many of whom attended both days.

The day started with campers sharing highlights from Saturday’s festivities (which included an accordion sand sculpture contest) and then we broke up and headed to the first set of workshops: klezmer, jazz, and transcribing tunes. I went to Rob Reich’s klezmer workshop where about 15 of us learned two songs: Ch’sidishe Nigunim and Broyges Tantz. Rob did a great job making sure beginners could keep up, while still giving the advanced players tips for further exploration (harmony lines, etc.). By the end, we had a rockin’ little klezmer orchestra!

After a tasty lunch, we had a special treat — legendary Bay Area accordionist Lou Jacklich sat down and talked about his career and played a few songs for us (see video). Then it was off to the next round of workshops: accordion dissection (led by Lou), Tom Waits ensemble, and polka jam. Anna and I joined the polka jam where Henri led five of us through an arrangement of Tinker’s Polka. Dan and Charlotte played melody and harmony, I played rhythm, and Anna and Julia (who had a bass accordion) played bass. I enjoyed getting a taste of ensemble accordion playing — with a little more practice, we might even be ready for Oktoberfest.

At that point, we had to head home, but we did sit in on the discussion of suggestions for next year’s Camp AccordionLand. I think Henri’s done an excellent job putting together a camp that appeals to accordionists of all levels — there’s a good mix of activities for both beginner and advanced players, balanced between genre-specific and technique-focused workshops. (And where else will you find an accordion workshop built around the music of Tom Waits?) I think there’s a lot of potential for growing this into an even-more-incredible annual accordion event. I’m already picturing Camp AccordionLand 2010: a week-long event drawing a thousand accordionists from all over the world, playing in harmony around a forty-foot-high effigy of Dick Contino… It could happen.

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Lou Jacklich at Camp AccordionLand

Anna and I just got back from a fun-filled day at Camp AccordionLand. (Thanks again to Henri Ducharme for organizing it!) I’ll post a full report and photos soon but, in the meantime, I want to share this video of Lou Jacklich playing “Granada” at the camp. Listening to Lou play and talk about his lengthy show business career was one of the day’s highlights; he also led an “accordion dissection” workshop that drew a crowd.

Rocky Mountain Accordion Celebration

How often do you get to see bands with names like the Smilin’ Scandinavians and the Awesome Polka Babes? Not often enough, if you ask me. Luckily, you’ll be able to catch both at the 10th annual Rocky Mountain Accordion Celebration next weekend, August 4th-6th, in Philipsburg, Montana. And if those bands aren’t enough to excite you, the website bills the event as “a rousing weekend of dancing and listening to music, steak barbeques and outdoor pancake breakfasts, concerts in the 1892 Opera House and a parade of homemade pies.” Accordions, pancake breakfasts, AND a pie parade? I don’t know about you, but that pretty much sounds like heaven to me.

Seriously, though, if you’re in the area, it sounds like a fun weekend of accordion revelry. In addition to the aforementioned colorfully-named performers, you can also hear Lidia Kaminska and The King Bees of The Bayou, or take part in accordion technique workshops led by Mike and Margie Aman. Just remember to make time for pie.

This One Time… At Camp AccordionLand…

Remember going to summer camp and coming back with nothing but a sunburn, mosquito bites, and a birdcage made out of popsicle sticks? This year, go to a camp where you’ll actually learn something useful — accordion camp! Camp AccordionLand 2006 takes place at Crown Point State Park in Alameda on August 12th and 13th. The camp features workshops led by local accordion teachers (including tango, jazz, and klezmer workshops), two accordion orchestra performances, and even an accordion sand sculpture contest. Depending on your schedule, you can choose to attend both days, just one day, or even for just one workshop. Anna and I are planning to be there on Sunday (the 13th), so come up and say ‘hi’ if you’re there!

Galla-Rini Accordion Camp

Few people have done more to promote the accordion than Anthony Galla-Rini. Born into a musical family, Galla-Rini started playing accordion when he was seven and, after years on the vaudeville circuit, opened his own accordion studio in San Francisco. Devoted to the serious and classical study of the accordion, he wrote hundreds of arrangements, published his own method books, and in 1941, composed his first accordion concerto which he performed with the Oklahoma Symphony Orchestra. A recognized virtuoso, Galla-Rini toured the world, giving concerts and solo recitals, and played on numerous movie soundtracks (High Noon, Laura).

Since 1990, Galla-Rini has held an annual summer accordion camp where he leads workshops and conducts ensemble pieces. Nearly fifty musicians from around the world have registered for this year’s camp, which will be held at the Dominican University in San Rafael starting on Sunday, July 23rd. The maestro is still going strong at 102 (!!!), but won’t be attending this year; instead, Bay Area teacher/accordionist Joe Smiell will direct the camp.

Galla-Rini’s solo recordings are hard to find, but here’s a track that was included on the 1995 compilation, Legends of the Accordion:

(Viva) Las Vegas International Accordion Convention

It seems like every profession or industry these days has an annual convention in Vegas, and accordionists are no different. The Las Vegas International Accordion Convention runs from June 26 to June 29 at the Gold Coast Casino & Hotel. If you can manage to pull yourself away from the craps table, you’ll enjoy three full days of entertainment, special events, and workshops on topics as wide-ranging as “Bellows Shakes,” “Digital Accordion Voicing,” and “Slovenian Polka Styles.” There’s also a dinner/concert each evening during the convention — headliners include Art Van Damme and Dick Contino. And don’t forget all the opportunities to network with fellow accordion players from around the world. That’s priceless!

Well, actually, there is a price: $435 for individuals, $765 for couples, which includes all daily events, meals, and evening concerts (not including hotel). If you still need some convincing, check out some photos from last year and previous years.

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