Category: Accordion Learning

‘Squeeze This’ Author to Present ‘Living History of Accordion’ at Liberty Bellows on Oct. 26


In her book Squeeze This, A Cultural History of the Accordion in America, Marion Jacobson, an author, ethnomusicologist and musician from Northern New Jersey, traces the instrument’s development through six key moments of transition, from vaudeville to world music.

Jacobson will bring that history to life for the Philadelphia Accordion Club on Saturday, Oct. 26 at Liberty Bellows (216 S. 2nd St.), marking her first promotional appearance in Philadelphia. Her one-of-a-kind, interactive presentation, A Living History of the Accordion, will spotlight the instrument’s evolution through the last century. She’ll be showcasing some of the most valuable and interesting accordions in the vast collection at Liberty Bellows’ three-story facility just off South Street.

“I’m very excited,” said Jacobson, who has performed with klezmer bands and on New York City subway platforms. “This presentation is very unique.”

The Philadelphia Accordion Club’s monthly gathering will begin at 12:30 p.m. with a performance from Liberty Bellows’ house group, Philly Squeeze. Following club business at 1 p.m., Jacobson’s performance will begin, taking the audience on a whirlwind tour of the accordion that highlights the instrument’s many transformations and how they impacted its development.

Copies of Jacobson’s book will be available for purchase and she will also sign copies for attendees. The event is free and open to the public and refreshments will be made available.

The six moments of transition that Jacobson focuses her book on include:
- the Americanization of the piano accordion
- 1920s transformation from expensive, exotic vaudeville instrument to mass-marketed product
- accordion craze of the 1930s and 1940s, including development of “accordion industrial complex”
- peak popularity in the 1950s exemplified by Lawrence Welk and Dick Contino
- the instrument’s marginalization in the 1960s
- accordion revival in the 1980s

Oh and by the way, today is Jacobson’s birthday. So if you seek her out in social media land, be sure to wish her a “wunnerful, wunnerful” day.

Marion Jacobson on WNYC

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.




Necessary Cliche Alert: Slow Down to Make Fast Strides on Accordion


It’s not very often when slow is a desired state. Most people want to do things as quickly as possible and want things done for them as quickly as possible.

Even with recent developments in the slow food movement and those who advocate a slower pace of life or a less hectic work/life balance, the need for speed is indeed still in the lead.

But for all those lightning-quick processes and oft-overlooked steps in processes that happen too fast for us to notice when we’re getting our speedy meals, service or results, there are many links in the production chain that come about slowly and with great care. Humans discover, learn and master tasks and often make great gains in efficiency and speed. Even machines need to warm up.

So let’s apply this to learning the accordion. That’s right, we’re talkin’ about practice. It’s the most important thing newcomers to the instrument must understand and put into (slow) motion.

I’m often a speed-seeker. If there’s a shortcut I’ll try it. When it comes to music, I mostly like it to the quick beat, especially when I’m playing it. That’s just what happens naturally and I’m certain I inherited this trait from my grandfather, with whom it was almost impossible to keep up musically (even in his 90s). Turns out many of us share this quality.

Slow practice is cited by many musicians as one of the most important traits of successful players. And it’s not just the speed that counts, but a focus on precise movement from note to note through release and balance. With the accordion, it’s even more important because you’re doing three things at once (right hand, left hand, and drawing bellows).

It was the first thing I heard during my second session with my instructor six years ago as he listened to eight years of bad habits unfold during my first crack at a study piece. “SLOOOOOW DOOOOOWWWWN,” he said to me, calmly, for reinforcement.

And for me, merely SLOWING DOWN took a lot of practice. Like months.

But once you isolate each hand (especially important for beginners), practicing each measure super slowly, then put them together in super slow-mo, you ACCELERATE your learning of the piece and your ability to be precise and improvisational with it.

If you can play something PERFECT at a slow speed, I guarantee you will be able to play that same something PERFECT at a faster-than-normal speed with enough repetition. What’s more, your increased command of the number will enable you to improvise or embellish more easily.

Conversely you will make more mistakes when you play something you’re learning too fast. The WORST thing you can do when practicing is repeat mistakes. It’s not hard to see how a vicious cycle can develop, with correction nearly impossible.

When you reach a certain level, you’ll want to try and get the most out of your slow practice, and this general musician’s guide works well for more experienced players.

So don’t feed the speed beast. Make yourself this deal with your own dashing devil: Only play the song(s) you know BEST fast. We all need to indulge our inner speed freak, so go for it. Only do it with something you’ve already mastered, even if it’s just a scale (for newbies). Then you can improvise or embellish (remember, easier to do because you’ve mastered the piece) to spice up what otherwise might be a simple warmup song.

Before long, you’ll have more songs mastered that you can play at fast tempos than you know what to do with. Ardmore Accordion Academy’s first student is coming to grips with this as we speak, as he approaches his second lesson. We’ll see how slow Jeff can go, and how quickly he gets up to speed.