2009 NAA Convention News: by Laura Niland

The 2009 National Accordion Association Convention was held in Richardson, Texas on March 11-15. The action-packed weekend featured many hours of great accordion music.

The NAA Convention was the site of the merging of two accordion worlds, that of the MIDI with that of the acoustic accordion. The introduction of the Roland FR-7 added new dimension and excitement. The MIDI presentations on the Roland FR-7 by Joe Natoli and Chris Rybak were exciting!

Joe also used the FR-7 in the Gene Van Orchestra to add dimension to the Accordion Orchestra. The Gene Van Orchestra added keyboard and vocals as well as percussion which was a first at the NAA Convention.

Thanks go to the Roland reps Ron Langford and John Fedorko who were more than generous with their time and expertise at the convention. Roland brought several of the MIDI (digital) accordions and also showcased other products including amps and recorders. There was ample time to visit other dealers including Concerto, Petosa and Castle Accordions.

Thursday's workshops included several band practices. The Nick Ballarini Accordion Fusion Band demonstrated skills on acoustic and MIDI accordions with fun music arranged by Nick. Dee Langley, President of ATG, also conducted an accordion band with her own arrangements of Dance Band music including Wipeout, Amor del Bajos Corrales and All I Have to do is Dream. Dee is a talented musician, conductor, and arranger who contributed a great deal to the convention this year.

Thanks to ALL the band conductors who did a superior job by allowing accordionists to participate in the various groups.

In addition to these directors, Shelia Lee worked with Mario Pedone to arrange several pieces of music for the Texas Folklife Festival and demonstrated the musical arrangements to be used at the festival.

Shielia did a fantastic job with all of her workshops giving pointers on how to memorize music, how to practice effectively and how to enjoy what you can do!

The Kucera Family and Wally Boyer gave a "Mini" West Fest Jam session, while Debra Peters from Austin helped us work on our singing techniques and playing for fun and profit. Jamie Hall gave a workshop on Cajun Rhythms and jammed with others in the lobby amidst loud applause.

Friday was busy with dance music by Gordon Kohl, Bellows Control by Ron Pivovar, Concerto Accordion techniques with Paul Pasquali, numerous Roland Workshops featuring Natoli and Rybak, Chuck Henry with Polish music, Dr. Daniel Kott and MECA on introducing youth to accordion music and dance, Mary Tokarski with Accordion Music and Fun , Dick Albreski Techniques with Accordion and his Youth Orchestra which was very successful. Wally Boyer and the Circle of Fifths, John Martin with Internet Musical Tools, Visentine Playing by Ear, and more.

The evening was filled with great dance music from various bands while the Circle of Champions was another showcase of talents to an appreciative audience. A few of the artists who appeared at the in concerts include: Mario Pedone, Dee Langley, Nick Ballarini, Jessica Faltot, Rebecca Ratliff, Greg Klugiewicz, Mark Kenneth, Mary Tokarski, and more. The Circle of Champions was well-attended and certainly a special presentation worth repeating next year.

Saturday was packed with workshops by Kilpatrick on Cajun/Creole, Dr. Ian Fries on the Accordionist's Spine, Mary Tokarski and Dee Langley with a new and special Directors Workshop, just to name a few.

The evening performance had presentations from Paul Pasquali and tenor vocalist Peter Clegg, Blair Kilpatrick with Steve Tabak playing Cajun/Creole music, Jessica Faltot and Rebecca Ratliff duets, Mary Tokarski with music from Maddalena Belfiore, Joe Natoli and Tokarski duet, and soloist Joe Natoli on the Roland FR-7, with the Finale being the Gene Van Accordion Orchestra of approximately 18 members.

The NAA Convention Committee and President, Norman Seaton, should be congratulated for all of their work for a successful convention. Many thanks to the Hyatt Hotel staff for their service to its guests. And of course thanks go to all the presenters, dealers and supporters of NAA for helping to make this year's convention truly special.

We look forward to the National Accordion Association Convention in 2010.

Gene Van Orchestra
Front Row: Mary Ann Van Paemel (IN), Jessica Faltot (TX), Rebecca Ratliff (TX), Kenn Baert (IL), Julianne Hyde (IN), John Kovach (TX)
Second Row: Laura Van (IN), Barbara Hums (TX), Vince DelPrete (IN), Pam Richardson (TX), Gene Van ( IN), Dee Langley (MN), Michele Scheffler (OR), Phil Geminder (GA), Joyce Schultz (IN)
Visiting Vocalist are Ross and Valina Witte (TX).
Missing from the picture are Joe Natoli (OH) and Esther Lanting (IN).

National Accordion Convention 2009 - An Accordionist's Dream
by Julianne Hyde

A typical stroll through the Hyatt's lobby might find one hearing the quiet hum of the buffer meticulously glossing the floor to its mirrored sheen or the vacuum's whirr as it collects the carpet remains of the day. But not this weekend. During the recent National Accordion Association convention, the lavish hotel decorum was brought to life by sweet melodies from accordionists sharing their hearts, souls, and love for this versatile instrument. No matter the hour, with every turned corner, the senses were caressed with a variety of musical styles, spoken as only an accordion can.

Throughout the three-day event, this truly international group of attendees were offered opportunities to attend workshops, experience performances from those "great and small" and "professional and novice", and peruse the 4th floor, which had been transformed into a demonstration center where Roland showcased their latest and greatest electronic creations for the accordion world among other dealers, collectors and hobbyist.

Workshops covered a wide range from exploring the accordion's multicultural performance integration to practical/useful educational sessions. At the same time, throughout each day/evening, one could attend special performances. Thursday night's highlight was the Accordion Bandstand, which provided both "novice" and "more experienced" accordionists an opportunity to perform beautifully arranged pieces, under the direction of Dee Langley, Cajun musicians and the accordion group Infusion, that not only entertained the audience, but created an experience they will certainly remember for a very long time.

Friday afternoon, Gene Van and Vince Del Prete incorporated their jazz/Broadway blend with a stellar performance that completely "wowed" the audience. This led into a fun-filled Friday night choice between the "Polka Fest" and the "Circle of Champions". The former was jam-packed with renowned talent that kept the dance floor filled, while the Circle of Champions showcased a multiplicity of talents.

From the truly novice button accordion student to the phenomenal showmanship of Mark Kenneth and Dr. Mario Pedone, this event provided the audience with the "sophistication of performance" combined with a spattering of comic relief, (not to mention their incredible solo/duet performances), from our "hosts" Jessica Faltot and Becky Ratliff, with a little help from their Indiana friends.

The excitement continued to build and one could feel the camaraderie and fellowship strengthen as the days passed. By Saturday, it was as though the group had known each other for years. They gathered in the afternoon for the "youngsters" of Dick Albreski Oklahoma City - whose performance touched hearts and renewed the "thrill" seeing these "up-and-comers".

Culminating the festivities was Saturday's grand event, "Touch of Class". Everyone gathered in eager anticipation to hear such greats as Mary Tokarski, Joe Natoli, 2Accordions, Paul Pasquali on the Concerto with Peter Clegg Tenor and Sauce Piquante. Rounding out the evening was a special performance from Indiana's Gene Van Accordion Orchestra, whose unique style brought the audience to their feet and left them wanting much more.

While we focused on the vast array of entertainment that satiated our musical appetite, one cannot forget the fabulous hospitality of the Hyatt Hotel whose immaculate surroundings were truly enhanced by their obvious customer satisfaction focus. The expansive breakfast buffet is second to none, and the catered meals brought typical dinner conversation to a quiet murmur right through to the delectable desserts.

Unfortunately all good things must come to an end, and early Sunday morning the halls once filled with Cajun to Classical were transformed back into a serene convention center. While the musical frivolities were replaced with conversation among good friends/new acquaintances preparing their leave, it didn't take long to realize that their heartfelt, "See you next year!" would bring this special group of people back for yet another National Accordion Association adventure! On a personal note I'd like to extend kudo's to the entire NAA team who made my first experience a memorable and rewarding experience.

Here today, With Youth - Here Tomorrow!
by Dick Albreski

Realizing the need for youth participation in the National Accordion Association (NAA) family of Presenters, NAA President Norman Seaton and the Governing Board have instituted programs to encourage that level of experience to participate. Beginning in 2008, the NAA has offered financial assistance based on donations along with free band music to the very young and up to the age of nineteen.

The March 2009 concert was another positive step in the right direction with seven accordionists performing a flawless program to an appreciative audience. The 'Rising Stars' who performed in this years event were Jairon Baquero, Jonathan Conner, Micaiah Elliott, Flora Hollifield, Roxanne Sidebottom, Bria and Maddie Smith.

At this point in time, 'fun and education', not competition is the motivation. For the past 2 years, NAA member, Dick Albreski has arranged the music and conducted the Youth band. Realizing the limited event practice time, the arrangements are intended to meet all ages with less playing stress and more musical satisfaction. As a reward for all efforts, the Youth concert and solo performances are gifts to the parents, family, friends and NAA guests.