Accordion striking a chord in Kitsap
By Eileen Morris, Guest Blogger, November 18, 2014
You won’t find your kids going to school these days bringing back home an accordion as the musical instrument they chose to play in music class. What is the accordion? The accordion, also referred to as the squeeze box, is a free reed instrument and is in the same family of other instruments like the Sheng which originated from China and the Khaen which originated from Thailand. Although one instrument has been found that appears to have been built earlier then 1822, the accordion is believed to have been invented in Berlin, Germany in 1822 by Christian Friedrich Lugwig Buschmann.
In the late 1950’s the South Kitsap area took its place in accordion history when musical history teacher Jack Cramer-and his wife Jean taught the class. Sidney Museum and Arts Association Director, Mary Peterson, says she still remembers in the mid to late 1950’s when a salesman came to Kitsap county selling accordions. "He must have been a good salesman since almost every kid had an accordion," Mary said. Mary’s brother took classes playing the accordion that were held in the upstairs room at the Port Orchard Sidney Art Gallery and Museum. Young Mary's memory of the accordion aren't the fondest as she recalls sitting in the living room practicing the piano while her brother practiced the accordion–known to be a loud instrument. Or sitting while her mother would be pulling her braids to the accompaniment of “one, two three, one, two, three.”
The accordion is now generally considered an exotic and old fashioned instrument. There are four different categories of accordions for different styles of playing. The piano accordion, chromatic accordion, concertinas accordion, and the diatonic accordion are the world wide types of accordion instruments. The piano accordion is the most popular type of accordion in the United States. The full size piano accordion consist of a piano like keyboard that has 41 treble keys, 120 buttons for the support of the bass, and some which have 140 buttons. The instrument is played by compressing or expanding the bellows while pressing the keys which cause the valves, called pallets, to open up allowing air to flow across the strips of brass or steel called reeds which vibrate and produce sound inside the body. An accordion performer would generally play the instrument with the keys on the right hand, and the accompaniment of the bass and pre-set chord buttons on the left land.
From musical artists like The Beatles, Arcade Fire, Flogging Molly, Counting Crows, Barenaked Ladies, and Styx are just a few recent popular bands that incorporated the accordion in their music. The three time Grammy award winning parodist “Weird Al” Yankovic" learned to play the accordion when he was six years old stating the accordion is his favorite musical instrument to play. You can hear Weird Al playing the accordion on many of his album tracks.
The last accordion manufacturing company in the United States is right here in Seattle. Petosa Accordions http://www.petosa.com/ , located on 45th street in Seattle, is a 4th generation family owned company. Carlo Petosa immigrated to America from Italy at the age of sixteen and has devoted himself to starting the highest quality accordion making manufacture in the United States. Starting the Petosa accordion in Seattle Washington in 1955, they are still family owned and very popular I must say. The Northwest Accordion Society is having it's Day of the Accoridion February 28, 2015 at the Crossroads Mall in Bellevue, Washington and is sponsoring the Leavenworth International Accordion Celebration June 18-21, 2015 in Leavenworth, Washington, where you can see the world's longest accordion.
Are accordions coming back as a popular instrument or not? We still don’t see them in school but if you were to go to Italy and eat some brunch or sit outside in a town in Florence you will most likely have an accordionist come up and play you a lovely song.