All posts in January 2013

From Russia, With Booze: Accordion Prop, Position, Proposition

Ivan Zamotaev accordion Russia's Got Talent

America, take notice. Russia’s got talent and Ivan Zamotaev lays claim to a generous portion of it. Uniting booze and accordion in a daring and playful way, Zamotaev shows us what’s possible with a little innovation on Russia’s version of the global Got Talent television show born in England.

It’s not uncommon for accordions to suffer punch line after punch line. It’s rarer when the accordion serves as a medium for the comedian (and playing chops). Zamotaev throws down Toccata and Fugue in D minor, the Nokia theme, the Star-Spangled Banner, among others. His fall at the end is impressive. It’s not easy being so graceful with a 23-pound button box strapped over your shoulders.

More than anything, it makes you wonder what other kinds of prop possibilities exist with an accordion. Its make-up is unlike any other instrument and provides two key elements — rhythmic movement and a secure foundation. You could probably set up a small waiter’s tray with a half-dozen shots and pour all of ‘em with a little directional bellow drawing.

I’d be interested in curating an art show that displays modified accordions that come alive through theatrical storytelling and song. It’s a good thing I’ve been stocking up on used accordions lately.


Accordion Artist: Dear Rabbit

Dear Rabbit from Colorado

Dear Rabbit is the kind of guy you hope finds an accordion and starts channeling his inner punk.

A multi-instrumentalist who uses accordion in deft ways, his rowdy toe-tappers inspire dreams of cafes, dark street corners and secret back rooms.

Also known as Rence Liam, the Colorado-based Dear Rabbit boasts massive pipes that shout over the accordion and into an audience’s bones.

Courtesy of Dear Rabbit’s Facebook page:

“The man behind the name is our good friend Rence Liam, who’s been tearing it up with his eccentric attention demanding one-man-band performances across the USA. Imagine attending a secret party thrown by Salvador Dali in an ornate smoke-filled drinking parlor in the dark belly of a creaky figate with Blackbeard, Captain Beefheart and a bunch of crazed, violent gypsies… Lots of old timey instruments (Accordion, Cornet, Trombone, Banjo etc.) played very energetically with a near-punk delivery with Rence’s belted lyrics over-the-top.. Quite a spectacle!”
- Wil-Ru Records (Portland, OR)

“Dear Rabbit killed it tonight. He live looped layers of acoustic guitar and mellow trumpet, a la Andrew Bird, and then sang into his guitar pickups for yet another layer. . . he unplugged and walked off stage-right into the intimate foyer where an old out-of-tune piano sat waiting. . .”
- Patti Schreiber

Dear Rabbit is currently touring. Check out his schedule, music and merch here.

Move Over Morse: From Telegram to Accordion-Gram


People who like accordions generally like old-fashioned things like telegrams. I’ve always been enamored with singing telegrams, and have given my share of them over the years.

Now, some 175 years since Morse sent the first telegram, the Accordion-Gram will be available to the general public in and around Ardmore and Greater Philadelphia.

Whether you want to say happy birthday, good luck, I love you or get well, our Accordion-Grams aim to please, with dynamic arrangements of popular songs and a professional and engaging presentation.

You can still send and receive a real old-timey telegram, but why would you want to when you can say something special with an Accordion-Gram?

Introducing Ardmore Accordion Academy: Promoting Accordion Artistry Through Learning, Performance and Community

Dziadzi's accordion

My grandfather’s accordion usually isn’t too far from my desk. I like to keep it at arm’s length for whenever I feel the need to squeeze on it throughout the day. In fact, the 1960s Gretsch has stayed by my side in recent years as I’ve transitioned from the newspaper world to freelance writing and editing, from Northeast Pennsylvania to Southeast Pennsylvania, and from bachelorhood to wifey and me and baby makes three. I’ve pretty much followed that accordion’s ever since my grandfather — “Dziadzi” — gave it to me when I needed a prop for a college improv class in 1999.

Accordion Johnny Brenda's

Performing at Johnny Brenda’s with The New Time in 2009.

I made only a modicum of progress trying to teach myself, but eventually learned more on the fly while in a band that took me to places I never thought I’d go. I wound up taking lessons, studying with an incredible teacher in Moorestown, N.J. for two years and providing invaluable tools that I’ve used in various musical collaborations ever since. But even as I began to give solo performances, my most memorable and meaningful moments came playing with my grandfather (and often times with my brother as well).

Bala Cynwyd 4th of July Parade

Riding along in the 2011 Bala Cynwyd 4th of July parade.

Our visits, which dwindled from weekly to quarterly over seven years, always involved Dziadzi playing harmonica. He played it with the same fervor he used on the accordion before putting it down due to an aging shoulder. He was still playing at age 96 when his health began to deteriorate. He passed away surrounded by his family in October, 2012. He would have turned 97 today.

kielbasa posse

The Kielbasa Posse , from left — Joe Petrucci, Anthony Petrucci and Edward Pilch — performing on Long Island in 2011.

That’s why it’s perfect timing to introduce the Ardmore Accordion Academy. It is not a place (although we are seeking physical space), but rather a movement focused on advancing accordion artistry through learning, performance and community. It is our belief that the best way for accordions to regain relevancy in the music world is to promote people from all backgrounds to use the accordion as a   means to navigate their lives. To explore, build, dream, revisit or connect. Nurturing accordion artistry will celebrate these journeys and promote the accordion in new and meaningful ways.

There are a few parts to the Ardmore Accordion Academy. First and foremost, we provide accordion lessons. Utilizing the Palmer-Hughes method along with a custom curriculum that includes digital instruction, we provide a customized and comprehensive accordion education experience. We offer accordion rental and we’ll come to your home.

First Friday Accordion

Playing for First Friday on Lancaster Ave. in West Philadelphia in August, 2012.

Then there’s our Accordion for Hire and Accordion-Gram services. I play cocktail parties, happy hours and other special events like wedding ceremonies or themed parties and offer affordable rates for a wide selection of styles. Or, if you’d like to make a personal statement to someone or a group of friends or family, you can send an Accordion-Gram. Choose from our available themes and selections or customize your Accordion-Gram.

Finally and most importantly there’s our Accordion Community. We’ll maintain a forum here in which we’ll have a progressive and respectful discussion about a variety of topics, including learning, buying and selling accordions and beginner questions.

Beyond our forum, we’ll look to make meaningful connections in and around Ardmore and throughout Greater Philadelphia to grow the accordion community and increase its impact.

I’ll also keep you posted here on a variety of accordion news, resources and events and will regularly post new videos and music tracks of accordion interest.

accordion academy of natural sciences

Performing with The Treats at the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia, 2009.

We already have our first student, and he just so happens to be one of the smartest guys in Philadelphia. Hopefully you’ll get a chance to know him over the next few months. I mentioned we’re looking for space and we’re wide open for collaborations, so spread the word and keep in touch.

In the meantime, I’m going to squeeze on Dziadzi’s accordion right here for his birthday. It won’t be the same, but I’m thankful to now have an outlet to share what he shared with me.

accordion birthday

About to play Happy Birthday on accordion for our son’s first birthday party in early 2012.