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October 29, 2007


Meeting Notes

Everyone thoroughly enjoyed October’s offering: a presentation by Joan Grauman and Jim Vandelly on various types of diatonic instruments (including harmonicas played by Jim). We learned that on a diatonic accordion each row is a different key, so you have to have many instruments if you want to play in many different keys.

The cherry on the sundae was the unexpected appearance of newcomer Casey Sutcliffe, who played her beautiful, 2.5-row diatonic accordion for the group and shared her knowledge of the instrument. German accordions generally play C and F; French ones play G and C; and Irish diatonic accordions are completely different, she said.

Another newcomer said he didn’t know how to play his blue accordion, so he lent it to Jim, who picked out a tune.

Jim also brought some videos of Russian accordionists, but not everyone had a chance to see them, so we might ask him to bring them another time.

In the business portion of the October 21 meeting, President Karen Malan-Uribe reported that we are required to hold elections for officers in January. The current officers are willing to continue another year; however, anyone who would like to nominate him/herself or someone else for president, vice president, secretary or treasurer may do so at the November meeting.

The slate at this time is Karen Malan-Uribe for president; Joan Grauman for vice president; and Mara Cherkasky for secretary-treasurer. The president appoints committee chairpersons who also serve on the executive committee. Currently they are Lee Paulson, communications, and Peter DiGiovanni, membership.

Membership dues will go up as of January 1, 2008, to $20 for individuals for one year and $30 for families for one year. The advantage of a family membership is free or reduced-price entrance to our concerts for the whole (immediate) family.

More information on the fees and elections are at About Us.

Following the workshop, Joan distributed music for the WMAS orchestra to play at the holiday concert, and we ran through the music. It was a promising start! The next rehearsal will be Sunday, November 4, at 7 pm at Sleepy Hollow United Methodist Church, our normal meeting place. Please check the rehearsal schedule on the calendar. Joan has more folders of Christmas music for those who were not at the meeting and want to pick them up at the Nov. 4 rehearsal. She would like to remind people that, for the Christmas orchestra, EVERYONE is encouraged to participate, even those who have never played with a group before.

November Meeting and December Concert

At the November 18 meeting Joan Grauman will present a short program on how to follow a conductor and play in an ensemble. Afterwards we will rehearse for the December 16 holiday concert. It is time to begin thinking about solo or small ensemble pieces for the concert. Sign up soon for a five-minute slot – we need to restrict everyone’s time so we can keep the concert to a manageable length. As in previous years, we may ask some individuals to play during the dinner rather than during the concert itself. The advantage to playing during dinner is that you can play a bit longer.

Speaking of dinner, we will also be asking everyone to bring a dish for the potluck dinner following the concert, and we will be asking for volunteers to help set up starting at 2 pm on December 16, and clean up afterwards. Some of our most stalwart volunteers have moved to Florida in the past year or two, so we’re going to need others to step in and fill their shoes. Thanks!




We will be selling Lou Coppola’s new CD, "The USAF Strolling Strings, Through the Years," at upcoming meetings for $15. To hear sample cuts, please go to www.LouCoppola.com.

We also continue to sell WMAS shirts and The Legend of Merv Conn DVDs, for $15. The Merv Conn documentary was made by prominent DC filmmaker Jeff Krulik, www.PlanetKrulik.com.


Composer Peter DiGiovanni

The Washington Balalaika Society will play a composition by Peter DeGiovanni at its November 3 and 4 concerts.

Saturday, November 3 at 7:30 pm
Ernst Cultural Center Auditorium
Northern Virginia Community College
Ernst Cultural Center Auditorium
8333 Little River Turnpike (Route 236)
Annandale VA
http://www.balalaika.org/tixorder.htm: Adults $20; seniors and students $18; children 12 and under free


Sunday, November 4 at 4:00 pm
Greenberg Theatre
4200 Wisconsin Avenue
Washington DC
http://www.balalaika.org/tixorder.htm: $25

Also available at www.TIX.com


Music for Your Repertoire

In response to a query from Karen, Mary Tokarski offered this list of the best Palmer-Hughes pieces to work on:

BOOK 5: (not the best of the material offered)
Mexican Polka -- a good study in repeated RH notes, as well as the sixteenth passages on the 4th section . . . great for "over the thumb" exercise! But remember to relax.

Nine Blind Mice is a great "variation" style piece -- hits lots of technical areas -- grace notes, trills, and more over the thumb exercise.

Roumanian Rhapsody #1 is just fun to do! Triplets, turns, trills and octaves!

Voices of Spring is a charming Strauss Waltz. Not difficult to learn, but difficult to play musically and elegantly!

Waltz Theme, is a Chopin Minute Waltz like piece that can also be done as a duet . . . good technical exercise.

El Relicario -- a 3/4 time piece, with the left hand playing a 2/4 kind of bass rhythm. It's rather tricky to accomplish and keep going on! It's got a bit of flair on the 16th not chromatic scale.

Semper Fidelis, is a great Sousa march . . . good 6/8 study, and fun drum solo imitation . . . as well as bass solo study.

Relative Samba includes reiterated RH notes in a cute samba style.

Charlie the Boxer is a fun Polish Polka . . . and is challenging to play at the correct speed with the 16th triplets (duet, too).

Turkish Rondo is a nice arrangement of Mozart's Turkish March . . . definitely worth the time!

Hungarian Dance #5 . . . same story.

Entry of the Gladiators is the typical "circus" entrance theme . . . chromatic scales, octaves, bass solo, RH chording, melody in chords.


Espana is a GREAT piece . . . I go around humming it all day after I hear it once!

Of course, the Toccata in D Minor!

The Strauss Medley is just a series of his pieces . .. if you like them, it's worth the time.

Saber Dance . . . a great arrangement . . . and technically difficult to accomplish!

I do think that should keep you out of trouble for a while!

Let me know how it goes. Hope to see you again soon,



Accordions Breathe Easier Since Smoking Ban
By Amanda Gardner
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, Sept. 27 (HealthDay News) -- Banning smoking in bars is not only salve for the lungs, it is music to the ears.
A smoking ban in Irish workplaces has improved air quality in Irish pubs as well as the health of musical instruments -- such as accordions -- and the people who play them, research suggests.

"Research to date looking at the health effects of the smoking ban on hospitality workers in Ireland has focused mainly on bar staff," said Dr. John Garvey, specialist registrar in respiratory medicine at St. Vincent's University Hospital in Dublin.
Garvey, who plays the accordion, is co-author of a letter to the editor detailing the accordion findings in the Sept. 29 issue of the British Medical Journal.
"It's a remarkable analogy in that you've got an instrument that's basically performing much the same way as the lung and responding much the same way as the lung," added Kirby Donnelly, head and associate professor of environmental and occupational health at Texas A&M Health Science Center School of Rural Public Health.
The Irish government banned smoking in all workplaces, including bars and restaurants, on March 29, 2004.
A study that appeared earlier this year in then American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine found a significant reduction in air pollution in pubs and an improvement in respiratory symptoms in Irish bar workers after the ban.
Musicians, including Garvey, frequently gather at pubs to play traditional music together. In addition to the accordion, these pub sessions feature concertina, melodeon and Uilleann (Irish) bagpipes, all of which are bellows-driven.
Anecdotal evidence had suggested that accordions subjected to heavy smoke collected particles inside, much like a person's lungs would.
Garvey and his colleagues conducted a telephone survey of all workers (a total of seven) involved in the cleaning, repair, maintenance and renovation of accordions in the Republic of Ireland. Six of the seven workers were interviewed.
Those interviewed noted that, when opened, accordions that had been played in smoke-filled rooms emitted a strong cigarette odor. Deposits of soot-like dirt were also found inside the instruments. One worker interviewed said that, in some cases, enough dirt could be deposited in the instrument to affect the pitch.
All interviewees said that both the cigarette smell from accordions and the dirt residue inside had improved since the smoking ban.
"There's no question that there's a lot of secondhand smoke in bars, and the Irish have gotten rid of it, and people are feeling better," said Dr. Norman Edelman, chief medical officer of the American Lung Association. "We know that banning smoking in bars improves health."
Of humans and, it seems, accordions.


A Survey by Dale Wise

Fellow Accordionists:

In Larry Hughes article, "The President's Squeeze," from the July 2007 Newsletter of the Peoria Area Accordion Club, he alludes to "FUN" as being the reason for his club's success. His point was well taken, and as a result I was moved to raise the following questions to our Maryland Accordion Club and
Washington Metropolitan Accordion Society members. Here are their responses received to date.

-- Dale Wise 10/4/07

What's so special about the accordion? Why play the accordion?

It needs no accompaniment.

It was my first musical instrument. I spent some happy hours as a child discovering, albeit unknowingly, the mysteries of chords, harmony, scales, and the way music worked.

I could write a book. The simple fact is the accordion is the ultimate instrument of all time.

It is unique in that it can play rhythm, bass notes, chords and/or melody on either the right or left hand, separately or together. Like the piano, music for the accordion is written in both bass and treble clef; thus allowing the student to learn both as he/she progresses. Accordion music is written for and performed in every genre known; from classical to country, folk to French, jazz to zydeco, and everything in between. The accordion is expressive. It can set a mood from happy to sad. It can make you want to dance or become introspective. It can be played by itself and be complete, or it can be played in duets to orchestras, as a lead instrument, or as an accompaniment. Unlike the piano, it is portable. It can be your friend on a long journey; and it can make friends in a strange country; and like many I agree, it is FUN(!), and it has been for many a year....

Accordion is a versatile instrument. It can be a band in itself. It can be relatively easily transported.

It's a humble instrument: one can manipulate it as one wants to; rich in sounds, elegant; it's interior/exterior construction is marvelous; can be played at various levels of culture...

It's easy to take around, and draws crowds of people to watch and listen. People also love to sing along.

It's a "whole band in your arms."

It is fun to play, extremely versatile, portable, and most listeners love it despite the jokes. Very few people can play it at all (let alone well). It sounds good. It's a one-person band. You hug it when you play it, and it doesn't need a lot of maintenance if you take care of it. You hardly ever have to tune it. Many are attractive. Their sound is unique, and not easily confused with other instruments.

Accordion stimulates my mind in a way that my two main instruments do not. I like the idea that I can provide melody and accompaniment with one instrument.

I'm in LOVE with it.

For my own pleasure. My interest in the accordion goes back to my childhood.

I like the sound, and it feels like you're having a party, even if you're just practicing by yourself!

It's soooo fun!

When I was a very little boy I heard its sounds and felt transported to levels of harmony, joy. I am still mesmerized when I hear it. Its sounds cause deep-seated thrills that are never satisfied. The more it is experienced, the finer it becomes and begs for more...

Because it is the greatest instrument available. It has the melody, can harmonize, can be any instrument in the orchestra, and is just plain fun and excites people.

It must satisfy some part of my inner spirit. Much of the music that I like to listen to and love is well suited to the accordion. The accordion is configured the way I listen to and learned to play music by ear (piano keyboard, circle of fifths, etc.), so there is a synergy there which is very satisfying.

It is fun to play, and it is fun to be around happy accordion players. It is the perfect instrument for playing Western folk, popular and even classical music across a wide spectrum of ethnicities comprising with a wide variety of scales, rhythms, harmonic structures, and melodic treatments. Every time I play for someone, they think it's great, no matter what I play or how well I play it. Surely there's an appetite out there that is currently unsatisfied.

What makes our accordion clubs successful?

I hope that through the years our clubs can always say that having fun, learning lots of music from beginning to advanced, and having variety in our activities is why we have succeeded!

The club is successful because it has not become a JOB. Too many gigs, concerts, events outside our club activities at our meetings would make our club a JOB, not a hobby. Also, the club is FUN because we work hard at making every meeting a special event with presentations, interactive workshops, and jam sessions.

I suspect that the success of any club lies in the fact that members feel comfortable; that more experienced members make new members feel welcome; that everyone feels connected to some aspect of running the club; that admin jobs can be given to each member, etc.

The attitude of its members and organizational skills of its leaders.

People with a common interest can meet each other, and talk shop.

It's a good feeling when you're around others who play accordion.

Whoever is there must be experiencing a thrill; all those who wish need to play it; there is a sense of "one mind, one heart" about our meetings; there is respect, there is acknowledgement, encouragement; fun, "family" spirit; in the spirit of the construction of the accordion with buttons on one side and keys on the other and air-bellows in between we create harmony.

The enthusiasm of the core members and their willingness to work on behalf of all the members to assure pleasant venues for meeting and playing, opportunities for growth and performance, and creating a level playing field for all levels of ability.

What should our accordion clubs be doing?

Keep our focus in MEETINGS. If the meetings become uninteresting, our membership will dwindle. Trying to be all things about the accordion will surely wreck the club.

Invite accomplished accordionists to play and teach accordion tricks with handouts. Give workshops on accordion repair at meetings.

Encourage its members, and maintain a positive image in the community.

Teach more variety of styles-Klezmer, Cajun, Zydeco, Tango. Have guests who specialize in these.

Teaching fellow accordionists to be sensitive to "tension-release" in music without valuing intense rapid speed as an end in itself.

They should be networking, sharing ideas that are successful, bouncing ideas off each other for programs and workshops, and helping to get incorporated.

Guard against excluding, acting clicky, and giving of awards to themselves.

We must involve children in our club activities. They are the future, the life-blood of the accordion's existence.

"Leave our six-gun at the door." Every one must be treated and viewed equally. Too, there must be a willingness to help each other in every way possible for the betterment of the organization.

More growth and development opportunities for those who are trying to improve, encouraging younger participants (children and young adults).

Avoid competition among members.

Do we need more accordion clubs in our area?

Absolutely NOT (N. VA).

At this time, I don't think so (N. VA)

Yes. There should be one in the Bethesda-Rockville area.

I am not sure. Possibly depends on the area.

I would like to see more satellite clubs develop throughout our states, and have each of them draw members from a 50-mile radius. From these clubs delegates could be chosen to attend annual or semi-annual conventions to exchange ideas and information in an attempt to maintain a commonality throughout the state memberships.

Probably not. Despite tough transportation issues, another club would probably dilute the membership to the point where a critical mass cannot be sustained at both. May be better to have ensembles comprised of like-minded club members who want to do more together and where specific goals can be addressed.

THERE IS NO CLUB IN CENTRAL VA. What would it take to start one? How do you go about this? I KNOW there are a coupe of accordionists here. I can name 3 and I'm sure there are others.

How can we introduce and promote the accordion with our peers?

Illustrate the DIVERSITY of the instrument.

Have a party to share the accordion, making sure that everyone else is able to bring and talk about their instruments, too.

Talk about it. Show how it works. Play it. Let them try to play it. Play it with them. Play it with them while they play a different instrument. Tell about the club. Tell about the parade. Show them articles about the accordion. Tell them how much fun it is to play!

Play well; play a variety of compositions; explain the compositions; the accordion is not just to play popular songs......there is so much more.

Have workshops, play together, use a variety of music to include the various
levels, have a variety of styles of music to appeal to everyone, have
sing-a-longs, encourage small groups to play together, always be positive and
happy, don't critique and be negative.

1) play for them
2) accept invitations to play at parties, etc.
3) invite them to club meetings
4) invite them to accordion concerts
5) invite them to jam sessions
6) "advertise" via accordion-related clothing, bumper stickers, etc.
7) Always be happy when talking about the accordion
8) Offer to lend them an instrument to tinker with
9) Offer to give them a few free lessons to get them started
10) play for them some more

I am aware that many older persons play the accordion, and that the young are in a definite minority. However, many approaching middle age want to play the instrument, and in so doing, entrance the younger persons. We need to cater to those in mid years more.

How can we introduce and promote the accordion with children?

I do it by having presentations in elementary classes. I take a variety of little accordions into the schools, let the children see them, touch them, and even look INSIDE them to see how they work. I start by playing a song they know--"Twinkle Twinkle Little Star."

Play it for them, simply, so that they can see that "their" music can be played on it too.

Children have to fall in love with the accordion, and gradually stronger commitment will ensue. They need confidence building too. Parents need to be enlightened about the merit of playing the accordion, and encourage their children to study. My mother wanted me to learn Latin and not music...it was okay for three of my sisters to learn music, but not for me "for it would be a distraction." What could a little boy like me do? I had recourse to a little mouth organ!

Have sing-a-longs; look for children's music (I can't find) that has complete chords so it sounds better; play music that kids know and love; include the children in the playing through demonstrations and hands on events.

The door to the accordion must be opened by children through their parents, supported by fellow accordionists.

1) play for them
2) AFK, of course
3) Home school expos
4) Give them CDs of children's songs played on the accordion
5) Find (or have someone write) a children’s story featuring the accordion
6) Invite them to concerts
7) Invite them to club meetings
8) Target the parents as above
9) Lobby popular retail outlets to sell accordions
10) Lobby schools to make accordion instruction available
11) Work the accordion into movie plots in a positive way which might elevate its

Here's a great idea. My sister is an M.M.E. from ______, and has taught private piano lessons for 30 years. Since she is also an organist, she regularly allows her pupils use the organ some -- to expose them to it, and to hunt up some new organists. She says they're a dying breed. And we think we have problems!

Well, I gave her the little accordion I rented for her 13 year old daughter to try, and sister promptly made all of he piano students try it. They all could play
Jesus, Joy of Mans Desiring in the first week-- of course because they already knew the right hand!! What genius!! I'm so grateful to her for thinking of it, and she is having fun playing the little accordion after all these years of watching me because she claimed my accordion was always too big.

So, the lesson is that piano teachers should be a great entre to possible accordion students !!!!!

Will there always be accordion players? Why?

Accordions are forever.........bringing joy and happiness to everyone!

No, there will not always be accordion players as long as the instrument in this country suffers from stereotypes.

I don't think there will always be accordion players in every city. Accordion culture is slowly being replaced by more electric, pop culture. Just look at the membership: They/we are mostly in retirement or close to it.

My feeling, since I came into contact with some 'North American Squeezers" is ... they are living in the past. It seems to me, from my limited knowledge of what's going on 'ova dey' - that you have ancients playing their polkas and Slovenian folk songs... and not much focus is being given to the accordion as a jazz instrument or to play popular ballads - Superstar, Morning of the Carnival, Feelings etc/....

So OBVIOUSLY the instrument is becoming dated.

I can only tell you what I did... I had a custom box made... over on the left hand I have only 12 buttons... which are single note bass notes. The stuff I play focuses on the right hand where I play melody and chords... and I use the left hand to emphasize. I'm playing all genres of popular music and people just love to hear the instrument... they are not hearing all this oom - pah, fuddy duddy sound you hear when someone who can play far better than I, is ripping up the left hand and the whole thing is muddy.... instead they are hearing the beauty of the melody, the beauty of the reeds. I don't know that I am explaining myself very well. I would just bring this to a close by saying... IN MY OPINION the instrument has to be presented in a modern light, in a way to deal with modern songs.... What I can tell you is, that in particular countries in Europe the box is very popular with peeps playing gypsy and flamenco style music, also in places like Dominican Republic where it's the front instrument in merengue, etc. So here we see the application. As long as in North America (USA and Canada) the box is being used to play grand dad's music... and not much else, - the answer is right before you.

It is hard to predict. It seems that the number of professional players and teachers is decreasing. It is very difficult to find dedicated and competent accordion teachers, especially at an affordable fee.

Yes, there will always be people who are fascinated by it and want to play it , and others who love to listen to it.

Of course. The accordion has been around forever (5,000 yrs.) because it is fun, portable, has a wonderful sound, and is fascinating to watch.

Of course. The music will always be there, and it needs to be played.

Is accordion popularity on the up-swing? How?

Yes. It has always been on the upswing in countries where the accordion is a respected instrument.

I don't think so, although there seemed to be a little surge about 10 or more years ago.

I do not think so. The price of the accordion can be prohibitive to many potential students. Our society got technology crazy. Humanistic values are not stressed.

This doesn't bother me at all; birds don't bother if anybody is hearing their song; I am like a bird. Playing/Loving the accordion does not require an audience; the stars in heaven produce their sounds, and only the silent listener will hear them; so freeing. I remember reading a quote by Andres Segovia that said something like this: "I enjoy playing the guitar for two or three visitors at my house who just delight in the music rather than playing for big audiences."

I hope so. I think young people are now finding out that it is a wonderful way to "Go Green," and not use electronics, to go back to the "Back Porch" music.
Let Them Be Giants is a good rock group that uses it. Also, Bruce Springfield put out a CD that was dedicated to Pete Seeger using only instruments that could be played on the porch. It is a great way to bring out the accordion.

Based on sales, teaching rosters, club activities, new recording artists, T.V. and radio shows, and commercials, YES, accordion is on the move.......forward!

I think so. The current fads in music are not particularly musical and are not sustainable over the long term. This primal-sounding music is a generational thing, and should blow by. For most people the accordion can be a part of any popular music that has a melody and harmony, and lots more of course if you extend to the concert venues for classical and contemporary music. The MIDI accordion could be a big part of the next upswing.

Other thoughts:

Accordionists in the United States are extremely ethnocentric. They seem to be stuck in the mind-set that American accordionists are the only ones that exist. I notice this, especially on a regional basis. In Michigan, the polka accordionists are the only ones that people seem to know about. In the New Jersey/New York/ Philadelphia area, it seems to be the Italian-American accordionists that are the knowledge base. In Missouri, it is polkas, polkas, polkas. I play the Russian bayan for two reasons: First, to be more authentic in playing Russian folk Music, and Second, because the bayan seems to break down the normal stereotypes that people hold about ALL accordions. If the bayan changes minds, maybe it will spill over to the piano accordion (my first love!) and other types of accordions.

I like it very much, and will always play it as a remembrance of times past.

In the 1960s and 1970s steel guitar was the big attraction. Many kids were crazy about it. Nowadays, the computer has made the young generation crazy. Thus, the
accordion has suffered. Studying and learning music requires more thinking, patience, and perseverance than playing with the computer.

Where did they get the idea for this contraption?!

I'm glad there are accordion repair workshops along with children's
programs. It is the way to promote the instrument for the future.

A nice lady in Boise gladly loaned her wonderful piano accordion to me for a wedding engagement so that I did not have to risk taking my accordion on the plane. We accordionists trust one another enough to risk our precious instruments.

Although the accordion is a keyboard instrument, it is also a reed instrument and therefore, "breathes."

Interesting! A friend was telling me recently that she was interviewing a kid for some sort of scholarship. She sits on a panel. She told me, of course, they are all brilliant, and have excellent academic histories. But she said she likes to ask them "What do you do for fun?" And the kid says "I play the accordion."

After writing this note, I realized there might be others who could benefit from its message.

Dear ______,

Perhaps at this point you've had a chance to look over and play the various materials. I'm hoping they will help to "unlock" the life-long barrier to improvisation and "professional Cocktail Lounge" musical styles that you mentioned.

There is a possibility that your perception of these items is less than significant as to what you want to attain, but, trust me, they are a reflection of how I think, view, and perform music as a creative jazz musician, and ............................they work! So, stick with _____________ Bass Patterns, Passing Tones, Anticipations, Accompaniments, etc., and "plug" them into the simplest tunes you know. Notice how the sound of your music becomes unique, fresh, and exactly what you want.

Keep in mind our differences in how we approach music. I "feed" on spontaneity and improvisation, and my ears guide my fingers to "sing" whatever's in my head. You are gifted to sightread the most difficult music, and your eyes convey exactly what the fingers must do.

To me there are no mistakes in music, simply a re-configuring of what is written, i.e., as long as meter is maintained.

If I had to read some of the things I play, I'm quite certain I'd have a problem.

My musical performance is exactly as I want it. If some parts are too difficult for me to play professionally, I insert something easier. If they're too easy, I enhance them.

How you play the left hand on accordion will either "make or break" you.

Review __________ from _______________________________, and experiment implementing the various concepts.

Stay in touch! I think you've got real possibilities.

As dreams arise.

Thank you for your interest and contributions to this survey. Please email additional comments if you like.

Best regards,

Dale E. Wise, M.M.E.
Accordion Plus
P.O. Box 53
Burr Hill, VA 22433
(540) 854-5209
Email: Accordionplus@aol.com
Website: Accordionplus.com


The accordion, I believe, is a three-handed instrument. Unfortunately, it seems too many players have difficulty understanding how to play the bellows, or "the third hand." While it may not be too evident when one changes bellows direction in the middle of a legato phrase, some so called professional players I've heard change direction of the bellows in the middle of a whole or extended note. I think one of the reasons accordion players get such a bad rap is that too many play their instruments too sloppily of which one example is poor bellows control.