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June 28, 2009


Meeting Notes

This week’s Smithsonian Folklife Festival features accordionists from Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, and Texas, and some of them described growing up in a household where their first toy was an accordion. (More on the festival below.) That’s not quite U.S. Air Force Strolling Strings accordionist Frank Busso, Jr.’s story, but there are certain parallels.

At age four Frank was asked whether he wanted to start accordion lessons, as his older sister Christina had. He answered, no, he’d like to wait until he was five. So that’s what he did. His first and only teacher was his father, Frank Busso, Sr., who still teaches music in Catholic schools and has run his Staten Island Music School for 32 years.

Frank, Jr., a WMAS member who has served his country as an accordionist for four years now, talked about his life in music at our June 14 meeting. We were happy also to have Mary Tokarski at the meeting, and Frank’s USAF predecessor, Lou Coppola. As an extra treat Frank brought along his father. The two Bussos performed a number of duets for us, starting with the very first one they ever played together: “Batter Up” and “Kick Off” from Palmer-Hughes Book 1. From there they jumped to several pieces from the Busso Trio repertoire, including “Dance Bohème” from Carmen, “Masquerade Waltz,” and Tony Dannon’s arrangement of “Maria Rosa.”

Competitions and festivals organized by American Accordionists’ Association and other groups were a big part of his childhood, Frank said. He set out to win and often succeeded. In fourth grade he learned the trumpet, and later the piano and electric bass, playing the various instruments in a high school jazz band and Staten Island community theater. At age 16 he began teaching accordion at his father’s school, and he also joined the Staten Island Accordion Club, whose members were mostly former students of the school.

Frank studied business at Boston University and played with various BU bands, mostly trumpet. After graduation he taught music at BU and played with several non-college bands.

The Busso Trio, whose third member is Christina Busso, made its debut at the 2001 AAA festival in Cleveland. (You may remember that WMAS celebrated its fourth birthday and switch to Sunday afternoons with a March 2007 concert by the Bussos.)

In 2004 the Air Force Strolling Strings decided to refill their accordionist position, which had been vacant for some time (they had been using a keyboard instead). Frank auditioned and got the job. Big things continued to happen. AAA asked him to join its board of directors, and Faithe Deffner asked him to distribute Deffner products. About two years ago Frank opened the Busso Music School in Alexandria (www.bussomusic.com), which now teaches 10 instruments, sells accordions, and offers repair services.

The 22-member Strolling Strings have hundreds of songs in their repertoire, all memorized, and a full-time arranger. Members’ tenures range from two and a half years to 27 years.

In his four years with the USAF Frank has never performed at the White House but last Christmas played six parties at the vice president’s house and has played solo as a strolling accordionist at the Pentagon. His favorite Strolling Strings gig -- besides the public concerts – was an early December concert one year at Blair House. Guests included Henry Kissinger, Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell and members of the National Security Council.

For a concert schedule, see www.USAFBand.af.mil.

Next Meeting

Ken Kunec will entertain (and you know he knows how to entertain!) at our July 12 meeting. He plans to perforom a concert of contemporary music, old time songs, international numbers, some audience participation, and one or two numbers being premiered for the first time. There MAY be SOME vocals! There will be a few songs you may never have heard done on the accordion.Ken says: Given an hour or two of spare time the night before the concert, I will include the some of the lousiest jokes I can find on Internet.

Don’t miss it. The usual: 4 pm at Sleepy Hollow United Methodist Church, 3435 Sleepy Hollow Road, Falls Church, Va.

Accordion Events

Smithsonian Folklife Festival

There’s still time to catch some of the great accordionists from Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, and Texas who are part of this year’s Folklife Festival. They will participate in an accordion workshop at 4 pm today (Sunday, June 28) and another July 4 at about 12:30 pm. In addition, most play several times each day with their bands. Not all will stay for the second week of the festival, though. Check online at http://www.festival.si.edu/, or check the Washington Post each day for that day’s schedule.


Sunday, June 28, at Blob’s Park with Mike Surratt and the Continentals

Summer is finally here !! We had a blast performing at Blob’s Park in May -- so -- come out and enjoy the new Blob's! Still the best "Polka Dance" location of all time !!

Today -- Sunday 6/28 – BLOB’S PARK * Jessup, MD (4:00-8:00pm) – Call Blob’s Park Office (410) 799-7130 For reservations NOW !!


Klezmer Web Site

Joan Grauman found a useful article on producing chords on an accordion plus some other, well-written tips at www.klezbros.com. Here’s how to find the article: Under “The Music” on the left side of the home page, click on “accordion.”