conducted by
Welk Resort Center & Champagne Theatre
American Accordionists' Association


Dwayne Dopsie from
Metairie, Louisiana.

Action Shots

Press Release



  Wednesday, March 24, 1999

Today saw the arrival of the five finalists in the Search for the Hottest Accordionist. Greeted by the TV cameras, the contestants gave an impromptu performance at the Springfield Airport, before making their way to the Welk Resort in Branson.

With members of the media including USA Today and CBS Sunday Morning TV Show present, the candidates spent the evening rehearsing and being interviewed for various newspaper and TV shows.

It is our pleasure to profile the contestants who are pictured below during their rehearsal:

(The finalists are, alphabetically)

While playing at her girlfriend's house after kindergarten one day, Terri Conti stumbled upon her friends' brothers' purple accordion. To hear her tell it, their "eyes met from across the room and I knew this was it". Since the age of 6, Terri has continued to excel in her accordion artistry and currently plays in Philadelphia. She specializes in Klezmer... but loves other ethnicity's like Irish, Italian, French and German. She is an entrepreneur with her own stock market business, but continues to explore new avenues with accordion. She recently directed a high school performance of "Hello Dolly"


Dwayne Dopsie started playing the accordion alongside his father at age 7. When he was just 9 years old, Dwayne was a featured guest on the Dolly Parton Show and performed during a Super Bowl half-time show when he was 10. Through the years, Dwayne has starred in commercials and today heats up the New Orleans music scene with his band "Dwayne Dopsie and the Zydeco Hellraisers" that performs for more than 150 people a night.


America first witnessed Phoebe Legere's accordion virtuosity and vocal bravado when she opened for David Bowie in 1990 for a crowd of 20,000. Since then, this New York City-based artist who studied at Vassar College, has showcased her accordion at hundreds of venues. She has hit the airwaves many times with appearances on ABC's "World News Tonight" and even a performance of "Auld Lange Syne" at the 1998 New Year's Eve "Ball Drop." She is scheduled to appear on Fox-TV's "Penn and Teller Show" on April 9. Phoebe and her band, Swingalicious, recently enjoyed a highly successful limited run on Broadway with her original musical, "Good, Clean, Fun."


Thanks to a special deal of "Six free music lessons" he received from a fellow second grader, Tim Padilla became interested in the accordion early on. He was soon competing in accordion contests nationwide and has won top prizes in his age division over the past 10 years. Although he shares his talent with residents of convalescent homes as a charitable effort, Tim is no stranger to the hot music scene having performed "Knockin' on Heaven's Door" along with Guns 'n' Roses "Slash" and serenaded Tony Bennett over the radio. And, just last Christmas, Tim played "Little Drummer Boy" on-stage in L.A. with the band "Chicago." Currently he is working with his swing band - Rhythm on the Rocks" - in California.


Jason, a native of New Hampshire, is currently a sophomore History major at the University of Missouri, Kansas City, where he is also studying accordion with Joan Cochran Sommers. At UMKC Jason is active in the UMKC Accordion Orchestra, which performs all over the world. A past student of Rosita Lee Music Studio in New Hampshire, Jason has competed with much success in various National Competitions, and last year was both the Jazz and Classical Champion at the American Accordionists' Association National Festival held in New Orleans.


Thursday, March 25, 1999


Before a standing room only audience, the jury announces that the
"Hottest Accordionist" in the USA is Dwayne Dopsie

Hottest - Dwayne Dopsie


The contest opened with the offical announcement, read by the Lennon sisters on behalf of the Mayor, that Thursday, March 25, 1999 is:

"Welk Salutes the Accordion Day"
in Branson, Missouri by proclamation of the Mayor.


Members of the JuryMembers of the Jury heard five outstanding accordionists, each giving the performance of their lives, hoping to become the "Hottest Accordionist" in the USA. With a spread of only three marks between the five contestants, Dwayne Dopsie was awarded the first place and the honor of the being the "Hottest Accordionist."

The jury members, who judged the contestants while considering: overall talent, entertainment value charisma and professionalism, are pictured here from left to right: Larry Welk (son of Lawrence Welk, and current President and CEO of the Welk Resort), John Bahler (Music Director for the Welk Resort), Joan Castle (Queen of Piano at the Welk Resort and long time cast member of the Welk Show), Art Van Damme (accordion Jazz legend), Dale Buse (well known Pianist), Gail Lennon (Singer/Songwriter from LA, now resident in Branson), Faithe Deffner (President of the American Accordionists' Association.)


Pictured here are the contestats at the Prize Giving, pictured left to right they are:
Dwayne Dopsie (Winner), Phoebe Legere, Tim Padilla, Terri Conti and Jason Stephen
Action Shots

Tim Padilla of Norco, California

Phoebe Legere of New York, New York

Jason Stephen of Kansas City, Missouri

Terri Conti of Ocean New Jersey

Dwayne Dopsie of Metairie, Louisiana

The Lawrence Welk Resort Center in Branson, Missouri and the American Accordionists Association in New York -- two icons of the accordion world -- joined forces to "Search for the Hottest Accordionist." and attracted substantial publicity, ranging from the front page of the Entertainment Section of USA Today to the opening monologue of Jay Leno's Tonight Show. Leno quipped that the contest could "take forever," but the five finalists will be ready to compete on March 25th on the stage of the Champagne Theatre in Branson, Missouri.

CBS Sunday Morning filmed and interviewed the contestants and are scheduled to air a segment on the "Search for the Hottest Accordionist" on their April 4th, 1999. USA Today is scheduled to print an article on Monday March 29, 1999. Associated Press reporters were also present, and will have articles appearing accross the country.


The finalists: Terri Conti, of Ocean New Jersey; Dwayne Dopsie of Metairie, Louisiana; Phoebe Legere, of New York, New York; Tim Padilla of Norco, California; Jason Stephen of Kansas City, Missouri were selected from over 150 entries.

The grand-prize winner Dwayne Dopsie, will be invited to perform live in the Welk Show at the Welk Resort, to appear with Myron Floren at the Polka Festival in June, and to perform at the American Accordionists' Association Festival in Nashville from July 7 to 11. In addition, Dwayne will be given the opportunity to record in a studio, will be featured in an Internet site hosted by Accordions Worldwide (at and will be promoted in a professional brochure.

  This national contest was designed to spark America’s interest in the accordion and may even reveal the accordionist of the Millennium. Finalists were judged according to overall talent, charisma, professionalism and ability to entertain. A tape of the finalists has been submitted to a number of top TV shows which expressed an interest in featuring the sizzling accordion of "the Hottest.".
1. The grand-prize winner will receive the opportunity to:
  - Perform live in The Welk Show at the Welk Resort Center & Champagne Theatre
- Perform along with Myron Floren at the Welk Resort's Polka Festival in June
- Perform in events and concerts organized by the AAA and/or affiliated organizations
- Hold a one-year membership in the American Accordionists' Association
- Receive media exposure in local and national TV, radio and print outlets
- Record in a studio
- Be featured in a site on the Internet
- Be promoted in a professional brochure
2. Runners-up will receive:
  - Tickets to the live Welk Show
- A one-year membership in the American Accordionists' Association
- Media exposure in their hometown TV, radio and print outlets
3. The judges, no strangers to entertainment and music, include: Art Van Damme, legend Jazz accordionist; Larry Welk, Jr., son of the great bandleader; Faithe Deffner, president of the AAA; Dale Buse, Master Dance Floor owner; John Bahler, conductor of the Lawrence Welk Orchestra, and Gail Lennon, lead vocalist and arranger for the Lennon Brothers Swing Music Show, and famous Welk pianist, Joan Castle.

Further information available at 1-800-505-WELK

Welk Resort Center & Champagne Theatre
c/o Mr. John Bahler, Conductor, Lawrence Welk Orchestra
1984 State Highway 165 Branson,
MO 65616

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