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History
1993 to 1999
by Zoja Cleary

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The author, Zoja Cleary was involved at the beginning of the AATA and has served on the AATA Committee for a number of years.

First Meeting

At the initiation of Tania Lukic the Inaugural Meeting of the Australian Accordion Teachers Association Inc. (AATA) was held at her home, 6 Wrentmore Street, Fairfield, Sydney on 11 November 1993.

From that meeting an executive was elected being: President: Tania Lukic, Vice-President: Dragoljub Boric and Secretary/Treasurer: Carolyn Simmonds. Additionally the meeting passed a Constitution after which the association was duly registered later in 1993.
 
Aims of the Association
The primary aim of the AATA is to promote and encourage the playing and enjoyment of the accordion and to improve the standards of accordion playing in Australia. The association wishes to encourage music festivals, competitions, music examinations, master classes, to present international level concert artists and competitors, so Australian accordion enthusiasts can see and hear the best players in the world. With such activities, we hope to help raise the standards of accordion teaching and playing in Australia.

It is our hope, that all these activities will foster the popularity of the accordion in our country and raise its image to equal other musical instruments.
 
The First Australian International Accordion Championships and Festival
27 to 29 May 1994


In early January 1994 the AATA had already published a 16 page Prospectus of competition rules and classes plus an 8 page brochure encouraging entrants to participate in the 1994 Australian International Accordion Championships.

Right from the beginning, Tania had decided to have a very close relationship with the New Zealand Accordion Association Inc., the organisers of the South Pacific Accordion Championships. The AATA and NZAA aligned all their competition rules and music requirements and also aligned the dates to be only one week apart. That made it is easy for contestants to attend both events and enjoy twice the chance of success for the same amount of work. Additionally, travellers from distant countries such as China could attend both events for very little extra travel cost.

A hall had been booked, the Ermyn Krippner Hall, Burwood Girls High School, Croydon, Sydney and this hall, not far from the centre of Sydney was used until 1998.

Another plus for the new association was the $1,000 sponsorship of 1st prize for the winner of the top solo class by Leisure Coast Confectionary and Avair Refrigeration and Air Conditioning. This was the largest cash prize ever for an accordion competition in Australia.

Invitations were sent to countries all around the Pacific Ocean and the response was very encouraging.

From the USA came the highly acclaimed UMKC (University of Missouri, Kansas City) Accordion Orchestra who have toured to many parts of the world directed by famous teacher Prof. Joan Sommers. Members of the ensemble include a number of well known USA accordionists including superb professional accordion entertainers Betty Joe-Simon and Jane Christison (also a vocalist) and concert accordionist Kevin Friedrich. Their performance received a standing ovation on the Saturday evening from an excited crowd. The first event also featured President Tania Lukic in concert.

Competition entrants in 1994 included the then current Chinese Champion Zhou Jing and South Pacific Solo Champion Campbell Bettridge of New Zealand. Zhou Jing remains one of the leading accordionists in China making frequent concerts and occasional tours outside China. Campbell Bettridge later achieved 3rd place at the Coupe Mondiale International Piano Accordion Competition.

Notably, the AATA was able to attract enough entrants to be the largest accordion competition in Australia in its first year. A very happy result.
 
Australian International Accordion Championships and Festival
24 to 26 May, 1995


The second competition did not have any Chinese entries and a smaller number of entries than the previous year. However, there were still 3 contestants in the top class and the event also featured Lionel Reekie and Maurice Jones from New Zealand performing.

October 1995 saw the happy event of the AATA President Tania Lukic marrying Steve Marx, a Sydney piano technician and accordion enthusiast who since this time has been an active helper at AATA events.
 
Australian International Accordion Championships and Festival
24 to 26 May, 1996


The event featured guest artists Eduardas Gabnys and Gennady Savkov from Lithuania, both accordion teachers at the Lithuanian Academy of Music. The winners of many awards throughout Europe, they have performed together over 500 times around the world. Together they are also active organisers of the Accordion Festival in their home town Vilmius, Lithuania.

For 1996, the $1,000 first prize sponsorship was no longer available. Fortunately, this did not effect entries with a large number of Chinese entries coming for the first time to take part in an Australian event. In the top class, there were 5 entrants from China and one Australian (Bernadette Conlon). There were also 2 Chinese entrants in the 12 years and under international class, 5 Chinese entrants in the 15 years and under international class plus Australians and New Zealanders, making these classes very closely fought and great listening for the audience.
 
Australian International Accordion Championships and Festival
23 to 25 May 1997


This was a notable event for several reasons. This was the first year that Accordions Worldwide Internet site was a sponsor. There was an amazing 10 entrants in the top international class, 1 from Australia, 1 from New Zealand and 8 from China! Additionally, there were strong Chinese entries in the 12 years and under and 15 years and under international classes. This all made for a very exciting competition.

This was also the first year of closer co-operation with the ASA, when the then ASA President Cathy Day and her Australian Concert Ensemble performed and some ASA teachers also entered pupils. Other festival items included Barry Cooper and Maurice Jones.

Unfortunately, the event had venue problems, in that the main hall was not available at short notice on Sunday due to local elections. The alternative room was not very suitable and because of this, it was decided to change the venue for the following year.
 
Australian International Accordion Championships and Festival
22 to 24 May, 1998


The new venue for 1998 was the Strathfield South Public School Hall. For 1998, a concerted effort made to attract accordion performers (professional and non professional) and encourage greater festival participation. Festival items included an array of top class items from the Australian Concert Ensemble, Barry Cooper, Peter Grivic Elizabeth Jones, Maurice Jones, Ross Maio, John MacDonald, Lionel Reekie.

Another new feature was the Lou Campara Testimonial. Lou Campara has made a significant contribution to the accordion in Australia over the last 60 years. Lou came to Sydney in 1938 where he quickly established himself as an accordion entertainer at local venues including the Regent Theatre. Since then Lou has travelled and toured extensively both locally and internationally, performing on many shows and television programmes such as the first Benny Hill Show. After a sudden stroke in 1995, sadly Lou had to cease playing the accordion. Lou was honored at a concert on Friday night and a Testimonial Dinner on Sunday night.

The international competition classes were again strongly fought with 6 entries in the top class, 2 Australians and 4 Chinese. There were also 3 Chinese in the 15 years and under and 2 Chinese in the 12 years and under international class. The audience enjoyed some very close competition and the weekend wound up with its traditional Farewell dinner celebration with great music fun enjoyed by all.
 
Australian International Accordion Championships and Festival
28 to 30 May 1999


For 1999, the event venue was changed to the Polish Club in Ashfield and the dinner was moved to the Polish Club restaurant as a larger venue was needed.

The event a Testimonial to John MacDonald in honour of his significant contribution to the accordion in Australia over many years, including some 36 albums, a number of which have gone 'Gold'.
This year saw the rules of the top international class change for the first time since 1993 from two 20 minute programs to two 15 minute programs. This was also a year of very few Chinese entries due to the Chinese government failing to approve passports for the many applicants in time. However, the top class still had 4 entries, 2 China, and one each from Australia and New Zealand. Overall there was a record number of competition entries spread throughout the classes.

Another feature was the North Shore Accordion Orchestra from New Zealand who performed twice during the weekend along with an impressive list of high quality festival items that the audience enjoyed very much.

Future Plans

For the future, President Tania Lukic sees five main directions in which the AATA would like to develop.
1. Continue to expand the non competitive festival part of the event.
2. Continue to honour those in Australia who have contributed greatly to the accordion in our country.
3. Continue to develop the relationship with other accordion groups and associations both in Australia and overseas.
4. Try and encourage increased international participation from other countries around the world.
5. Encourage more world famous artists to tour to Australia to perform and to conduct workshops.

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