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November 7, 2013


Meeting Notes

Joe Natoli, WMAS’s guest artist at our October 20 meeting, demonstrated definitively that the Roland is an awesome instrument – and that he is an amazing musician and composer. The playlist included classical pieces, accordion standards, selections from the American songbook, and Joe’s beautiful Waltz for Ron plus his dramatic soundtrack for an imaginary film. The soundtrack is meant to show how far the instrument can go, he said, and the answer is “pretty far.” Joe also played tributes to World War II veterans and members of the armed forces, and to recently departed stars of the accordion world (see complete playlist below).

Joe and his wife JoAnn drove out from Ohio for our meeting. He grew up there and began studying the accordion at age seven with prominent teacher Mickey Bisilia. In 1972 Joe won the AAA US Virtuoso Accordion Championship under Mr. Bisilia’s tutelage, and a few months later represented the US at the Coupe Mondiale in Caracas, Venezuela, where he finished as first runner up. More recently (2008), Joe won the grand prize for the first Roland US V-Accordion competition, in Los Angeles.

With Bachelor and Master of Music degrees from the University of Toronto, Joe has composed in all musical styles and genres for standard and free-bass accordion. His most recent recordings include an all-acoustic accordion CD, Omaggio, dedicated to the many musical influences in his life, as well as an all- digital Roland V-Accordion CD, Waltz for Ron, which includes many original compositions and arrangements of classical, light classical, ethnic and jazz pieces, fully exploring the orchestral possibilities of the Roland Virtual accordion. Joe’s CDs, compositions, and arrangements are available through his music publishing company, JANPress Music.

If you would like a copy of the sheet music for Waltz for Ron, please reply to this email.

After Joe’s concert, Joan Grauman distributed sheet music for the Holiday Concert Orchestra. We’ve already rehearsed once, on November 3, and have three more rehearsals planned: November 17 during the meeting, December 8 at 4 pm, and December 15 at 2 pm, just before the concert. There’s still time to join up; please contact Joan at joangrauman@verizon.net.

Also, we will have room for a few soloists (or duos, etc.) in the Holiday Concert, as well as during dinner. Please reply to this email if you would like to perform. Nancy Leonard has already signed up to be the greeter.


Next Meeting

Our next meeting will take place Sunday, November 17, at 4 pm, at Sleepy Hollow United Methodist Church. As per tradition, Jim Vandelly will perform Russian music and more in the first half of the meeting, and then we will rehearse for the Holiday Concert. Our greeter will be Frank Vidergar, who played Slovenian tunes on his buttonbox at our Oktoberfest, so there’s a lot to look forward to. Please bring refreshments to share, and please invite your family and friends to hear Jim.


Other News

The WMAS Executive Committee will meet soon to plan next year’s programs. If you have ideas, please pass them along, by replying to this email or talking to Peter DeGiovanni, Joan Grauman, or Mara Cherkasky.


ISO Accordion Teacher in Glens Falls, NY Area

Lenore Clesceri is looking for an accordion teacher for her 12-year-old grandson Nick , in the Glens Falls NY area. Nick actually lives in Bolton Landing, NY, which is about 25 miles north of Glens Falls. If you have any ideas, please reply to this email, and they will be passed along to Lenore.


Joe Natoli’s Playlist

America the Beautiful
Fanfare for the Common Man (a tribute to WWII vets & all members of the armed services)
Die Spieluhr
Solfeggio in C Minor
Piece in the Ancient Style
Sonatina in C Major
Le Coucou
Elf Dance
Amazing Grace/Danny Boy (in memory of Frank Marocco, Ralph Stricker, Carmelo Pino, Carmen Carozza, Amy Hatfield, and Dr. Sal Febraio)
Movie Sequence
Waltz for Ron
Flight of the Angels
Once Upon a Time in America
Just One of Those Things
Someone to Watch Over Me
Dizzy Fingers
It Never Entered My Mind
Carnival of Venice
Donkey Serenade



From "jfrr@indiana.edu"

Squeeze This!: A Cultural History of the Accordion in America. By
Marion Jacobson. 2012. Champaign: University of Illinois Press. 288
pages. ISBN: 978-0-252-03675-0 (hard cover).

The Accordion in the Americas: Klezmer, Polka, Tango, Zydeco, and
Edited by Helena Simonett. 2012. Champaign: University of
Illinois Press. 344 pages. ISBN: 9780252037207 (hard cover),
9780252078712 (soft cover).

Reviewed by Phil Nusbaum

In its nearly 200 year history, the accordion has undergone constant
technical refinement, and there have been virtuosic performers in
every era and seemingly wherever you go. In Squeeze This, author
Marion Jacobson ably tracks the changes affecting the piano accordion
and accordion players, including the varieties of accordion
technology and decoration, the dress of accordion entertainers, the
kinds of places featuring accordion music, improvements to
accordions, and the accordion repertoire.

The first chapter deals with the rise of the piano accordion. This is
followed by chapters that follow the accordion over time, from the
early focus on classical music, through the accordion's assault on
pop, and the twenty-first century reimagining of the accordion.
Folklorists may be especially interested in chapter 4, “Crossover
Accordionists: Viola Turpeinen, John Brugnoli and Frankie Yankovic.”
Jacobson's portrayal of each of these artists fits the current
interest in folk musicians that position their work to serve a
variety of publics. Turpeinen, Brugnoli, and Yankovic were each
attempting to be more than Finnish, Italian, or Slovenian. Their
quests were to create music that would appeal to a wide swath of
Americans, particularly working class Americans.

In each accordion era, Jacobson references the most important movers
and shakers in the accordion world. To her credit, the analysis
considers much more than music sound. For example, the 1930s were an
era of accordion studios. Accordionists would set up businesses in
major cities. They and the fellow accordionists they hired taught the
accordion to mostly young students. They would also sell accordions
to the students and create performance opportunities for them.
However, the sun was setting on this system by the end of World War
II. By this time, electronic media were playing greater roles in
creating musical tastes and supplying music to members of the public.
Through a study of accordionist Dick Contino, Jacobson shows how, in
the more media-influenced post-WW II era, the interest in the
accordion shifted from the participatory impulse of the studio era to
the accordionist as entertainer. Through live and radio performances,
Dick Contino was becoming something of an idol for teenaged people.
He played a flashy repertoire to appeal to them, but also included
standards in his shows to appeal to older people. Jacobson reports
that the 1950s were the era of conformist, consumer culture, when
artists such as Lawrence Welk and Lawrence Welk Show accordionist
Myron Floren created a sound that was professional and stressed songs
and styles within the listening experiences of most listeners. Welk's
TV audience consisted of millions of unconnected people with varying
tastes and varying levels of sophistication. With that kind of an
audience, validating, and not challenging, the tastes of listeners
became the overarching need.

The history of the accordion consists of periods of popularity mixed
with periods of unpopularity. After the accordion's biggest sales
year, 1955, the instrument entered into a decline. Jacobson writes of
the 1990s as a sort of rebirth. A chart labeled “Accordion Articles”
lists a total of fifteen print and broadcast pieces in national media
for the twenty-six-year period, 1980-2006. Another chart lists a
total of eleven national television commercials that used the
accordion in the 1990s. However, these figures do not seem to
indicate a rebirth, but something resembling a bit of quirky interest

While ours may not represent a new era of accordion popularity, it is
hard to argue against a new cutting-edge “cool” for the accordion
emerging in recent times. It seems like an underground and represents
premises that differ from those of past decades. Jacobson ably
describes the combination of festivals, fans, recordings, and artists
that is home to the new accordion cool. To these accordion people,
including Jacobson, the accordion represents indie and not the
standard music business as usual. Despite that the accordion is
sometimes wed to electronic gadgetry, to current accordion people the
accordion represents something "real," an antidote to the phoniness
of pop.

In her introduction, Jacobson writes about her discovery of an
emerging instrument-centered culture of the accordion. Throughout the
book, and especially in the final chapter, she references many things
that accordion players have in common: interest in all accordions,
idealization of the past, and collecting accordion memorabilia, for
example. It would have brought the idea of an instrument-based
accordion culture to life, had Jacobson included a transcription of
members of the culture in conversation with Jacobson commenting on
the conversational themes shared that validated the speakers'
cultural membership. As it stands, the book documents the
multiplicity of accordion cultures; but as far as a widely shared
culture of the accordion, the book asserts that it exists but does
not offer detailed analysis of it.

Squeeze This is centered on the accordion in the United States, while
The Accordion in the Americas considers both North and South America.
But the differences between the two books are more than their scopes.
Where Squeeze This treats the development and changes of the
accordion in the United States in general, The Accordion in the
Americas is a book of readings that after the introduction and the
first chapter treats individual accordion traditions separately.

Reading the bulk of the individual chapters of The Accordion in the
Americas puts meat on the bones of the contention that the accordion
is usually involved with genres that are under duress or at least not
mainstream. For example, the chapter about Cajun accordion tells how
the popularity of Cajun tradition in Cajun country and elsewhere has
much to do with self-conscious cultural revival against the onrush of
mainstream American culture. Cathy Ragland’s chapter, “Regional
Accordion Traditions of South Texas and the Border Region,” shows
how, to people of the region, the accordion represents the
combination of Spanish and Anglo elements that reflects the area's
self-image. To supporters of this music, the button box represents
the music and the working class experience. Most players play it
rather than switching to the piano accordion because they hold that
the button accordion has the real Tejano sound. In the Dominican
Republic, merengue is the music. However, there are two types of
merengue. The orchestra-based type was brought in by former dictator
Trujillo and appeals to middle and upper class people. However, the
merengue típico is accordion-based and is the type favored by
migrants returning to the Dominican Republic.

The chapters in The Accordion in the Americas relate to individual
traditions, though in many cases, the individual traditions are known
to be combinations of two or more traditions. Jim Leary’s article,
“Accordions and Working-Class Culture along Lake Superior's South
Shore,” shows how in social occasions, accordion styles representing
a variety of nationalities were welcome. Leary documents many players
who formed a multi-ethnic musical community in the period 1880-1930.
Young people representing many cultural backgrounds sought out the
music and musical settings for partying.

Participants in each of the folkloric accordion traditions testify to
the existence of a shared past for those in a particular tradition.
Even in formal composition, it seems that the accordion is involved
in works that refer to a shared past. Squeeze This author Marion S.
Jacobson contributes “The Accordion in New Scores: Paradigms of
Authorship and Identity in William Schimmel’s Musical ‘Realities’” to
the Accordion in America book. Schimmel is an American composer who
has written over 4,000 works based thematically and structurally on
the works of others. The message one gets from this is that there is
something about the accordion that causes composers, players, and
audience members to enter into worlds of memory, tradition, and

From the perspective of this North American reader, The Accordion in
the Americas serves as an introduction to a number of genres uncommon
in North America. The accordion world has its set of colorful
characters, including Luiz Gonzaga. His career in his native Brazil
seemed destined not to take off. Sambas were popular, and he could
not play them well. But the day he was asked to play something from
his home region, Pernambuco, Gonzaga’s luck changed. The piece he
played made a hit with the audience, so he continued to emphasize his
background. Eventually, by his talking about northeast Brazil as a
region, it entered the minds of audiences and his music was
positioned as the style representing the region.

The differing scopes of the two books work well together. Squeeze
This tells readers about the changes in the accordion's history in
North America, from the perspective of the accordion. The Accordion
in the Americas tells of the symbolism of the accordion and the role
the instrument and its genres play in a variety of cultures. Few
world instruments are as pervasive as the accordion and few are as
under-represented in scholarly literature. The two books discussed
here represent welcome additions to the study of the accordion and
its cultures.


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