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January 24, 2013


Meeting Notes

WMAS started the year with a meeting on January 13 featuring a jam session, this time led by Jim Vandelly and Peter DiGiovanni. After a previous jam session, several months back, the general consensus was that we should do this regularly, and so we are. But we’re looking for feedback on how to make each one better.

First, let’s define what we mean by “jam session” and what we would like to accomplish in our jam sessions. They are not sight-reading exercises, which we occasionally do together for fun or when we run through the holiday concert music. They are also not lessons or performances or competitions. Rather, they are informal gatherings where we can play unrehearsed and by ear. Preparing for a jam session should involve only choosing an easy song or several that you can play for the group without sheet music. The object is for everyone to join in as they are able.

What we would like to accomplish is to have fun and give participants a chance to practice playing by ear, even songs they don’t know. To make this easier, it is best if we choose songs in easy keys with few chord changes. We can call out the chords, but there’s no need for everyone to play the chords. Each participant can choose what he/she wants to concentrate on, for example just the melody, just the left-hand chords, just the chords on the right hand, or maybe embellishments on either hand. There are no “mistakes” in a jam session; it’s an opportunity to listen and experiment. As always, the more we do this, the better we will become at it.

Mara says: The best jam session I ever participated in involved many types of instruments (mostly guitars, though, and I was the only accordion). One person would play through a song, and then keep repeating it. Little by little, other people would join in as they caught on to the melody, and we kept playing for as long as 20 minutes, maybe even longer. People called out if they wanted to take a solo, and then the others would play more quietly, switch to chords, or temporarily stop playing. The repetition may not have been enjoyable for the audience (there wasn’t one in this case), but jam sessions do not have to be for the benefit of the audience.

The high point of our January 13 session was the Polish song suggested by the Juszczyks and sung by Joan Habarek. Most people had never heard the song before, but many picked it up and played along as Joan sang the several verses. The result was exhilarating.

If you would like to be reminded of what the song (“Gweboka Studzienka”) sounded like, please check out these YouTube videos:



The song Mara played, “Swiss Boy Waltz,” can be heard at:




Upcoming Meetings

At next month’s meeting, at 4 pm on February 10, we will mark our 10th birthday with a dance party and cake. Please sign up to play a dance number (one that people can actually dance to), and please plan to bring your family and friends, along with snacks to share. A decade is a big milestone, so let’s celebrate! More details to come.

On March 10 we will welcome guest artist Dallas Vietty performing gypsy jazz on the accordion. Some of us were lucky enough to hear Dallas at last summer’s AAA festival in Baltimore, and we’re thrilled that he’s agreed to come and play for our club. Please mark your calendars now, and spread the word.

Please note that both the February and March meetings are on the SECOND Sunday of the month.


Accordionist Needed for Bastille Day Party

Looking for someone to play French accordion songs at a Bastille Day party at my home in Washington, DC on July 14. Please respond to jcapazo8@comcast.net.


Upcoming Events

Greta Sundström and Rasmus Lyberth at Millennium Stage
Monday, March 4, 2013, 6 pm
Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage

Accordion virtuoso Greta Sundström, from Finland’s Åland Islands, is master of a vast repertoire ranging from classical pieces to folk music and dance-friendly pop tunes. Singer/songwriter Rasmus Lyberth, from Greenland, has captivated Danish and Greenlandic audiences since the 1970s and is increasingly popular with international audiences. Part of Nordic Cool 2013 Festival.


AAMS Festival

The annual American Accordion Musicological Society festival is March 15-17 in Whippany, New Jersey, and the Potomac Accordion Ensemble will be performing at the Saturday night banquet.

For more information, see http://www.aamsaccordionfestival.com/