Category: Accordion Artists

Babies, Bellows and Bach: Philadelphia Accordion Club’s June Gathering

Liberty Bellows owner Michael Bulboff and his young son greet members of the Philadelphia Accordion Club.

National leaders, education pioneers and young prodigies were among the 25 people who packed Liberty Bellows near South St. in Philadelphia for the inaugural gathering of the Philadelphia Accordion Club in late June.

Linda Reed, president of the American Accordionists Association, welcomed an enthusiastic group for a workshop on ethnic music by Washington D.C.-based accordionist Joan Grauman and a performance by two members of the Brooklyn Accordion Club, itself a new group that formed in January.

Reed also talked about the AAA’s 75th anniversary festival, set for Aug. 14-18 in New York. She was impressed with the local organization’s turnout, which included Stanley and Joanna Darrow, the couple behind the enduring Acme Accordion School in Haddonfield that has nurtured accordionists for more than 50 years.

Many different musical styles were represented among the local attendees, including Lithuanian, French musette, folk/pop and classical, to name a few.

Mayumi Miyaoka and Robert Duncan, who have only been playing together for months, made the trip from Brooklyn to entertain and did not disappoint. Their nearly hour-long set included classical standards and accordion rarities, including:

Generation Relation by Stas Venglevski

Preludes & Fugues, BWV 553 by Johann Sebastian Bach

Here’s Philadelphia Accordion Club co-founder Dallas Vietty, a French musette expert who teaches on Saturdays at Liberty Bellows and gigs regularly between Philly and Brooklyn, performing with Lancaster 10 year-old Cody McSherry, an award-winning prodigy who was attending the summer accordion camp at Liberty Bellows.

Arabic music is on the menu when the Philadelphia Accordion Club reconvenes on Saturday, July 27 at 1:30 p.m. at Liberty Bellows (second floor at 614 S. 2nd St., Philadelphia). All accordionists and the accordion-curious are invited, so please feel free to share with others and bring a friend.

Here’s what’s on tap:
1:30 p.m. — performance by Philly Squeeze
2 p.m. — Philadelphia Accordion Club meeting and open mic
2:45 p.m. — performance by Melody Ben Flah, a multiple award-winning accordion competition champion currently performing with Al-Bustan Seeds of Culture, a Philadelphia Arab music ensemble. She will perform with a percussionist.
3:15 p.m. — workshop, The Accordion in Arabic Music, by Melody Ben Flah (a hands-on session)

Here’s Melody performing with others for a traditional belly dance.

American Accordion Association President to Welcome Re-Born Philadelphia Accordion Club on 6/29

American Accordion Association

We thought it was pretty cool that we recently announced the formation of the Philadelphia Accordion Club.

Things just got even better. Turns out Linda Reed, the president of the American Accordion Association (AAA), thinks it’s pretty cool, too. She’ll be on hand for the Philadelphia Accordion Club’s first gathering on Saturday, June 29 at Liberty Bellows to welcome local accordionists and check out the scene in Philly.

Reed will be spending time with Joan Grauman, the renowned Washington, D.C.-based accordion teacher and performer who will be conducting her acclaimed workshop “Playing Ethnic Music More Authentically” at Liberty Bellows. The workshop starts at 1 p.m. Grauman is on the governing board of AAA and along with her husband operates SqueezinArt, which specializes in gifts for accordionists.

Joan Grauman plays “Our Washington Senators”, composed by accordionist, Merv Conn, during the podcast “Hang Up and Listen” presented by Slate.

Following Grauman’s workshop, Philly accordionists will be treated to a performance by two members of the Brooklyn Accordion Club, which just formed earlier this year. Mayumi Miyaoka and Robert Duncan will perform a Classical Accordion Duo starting around 2 p.m.

Mayumi Mayoka performs at the first gathering of the Brooklyn Accordion Club.

Mayumi Mayoka performs at the first gathering of the Brooklyn Accordion Club.

Mayumi Miyaoka performs Bach Invention No. 8

Robert Duncan performs at the first gathering of the Brooklyn Accordion Club.

Robert Duncan performs at the first gathering of the Brooklyn Accordion Club.


Pushing Buttons: Philadelphia Accordion Club is Born


When we launched the Ardmore Accordion Academy in January, our primary goals were to promote accordion artistry and generally elevate the accordion’s presence throughout Greater Philadelphia.

A little more than four months later, we’re proud to have taken some major baby steps toward achieving those goals. We’re absolutely thrilled to announce the Ardmore Accordion Academy is a founding member of the Philadelphia Accordion Club, which was formed last week along with the pros at one-stop accordion shop Liberty Bellows in Philadelphia and one of the East Coast’s brightest accordionists, Dallas Vietty.

The club’s mission is to increase the visibility, artistic relevance and appreciation of accordionists throughout Philadelphia. We’re holding our first monthly gathering on June 29 at Liberty Bellows’ new space on South St. to collaborate, perform and drill down on how we’ll execute on that mission with other members. We anticipate a healthy turnout for the event, which will give local accordionists the rare opportunity to pick other accordionists brains, share techniques and lessons, and enjoy some top-notch accordion performances. The club’s gatherings are suitable for beginners as well as gigging musicians.

Untitled-4The only mentions of a previous incarnation of the Philadelphia Accordion Club is in reference to its one-time president, famed Philly-based accordionist Andy Arcari, a vocal advocate for the accordion who wrote this piece in 1941 for Accordion World magazine.

In the piece, Arcari argues for more transcription of well-known “numbers” written by famous composers. Indeed, this was a significant obstacle for the development of future accordionists and in many ways remains some 70 years later. We believe the kind of sharing, learning and playing stoked by the Philadelphia Accordion Club can help accordionists of all abilities make their own mark.

We’d love to hear your ideas at our monthly gathering, so if you are an accordion player or if you know one, please spread the word and join us.




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.

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.