Accordion Articles - Art van Damme (1996)


Written by: Bob Berta, President San Fransisco Bay Area Accordion Club
Publication: General
Date written: September 1996

The Cotati Accordion Festival honored Art Van Damme this last weekend. It gave me and a few other members of the club the golden opportunity to talk to him at length about his music, the history of jazz and many other neat topics.

First let me say that Art has a mind like a steel trap. He remembers names, dates and hundreds of neat anecdotes that make for a fascinating telling of musical lore.

Art started out as a classical accordionist for about ten years before switching over to jazz. He played with many famous names over the years. He himself was listed as one of the top ten jazz musicians for something like ten years.

He said he never practiced...played so many gigs he didn't have to. Said in his entire married life he probably never played more than five or six hours at home. In fact since he retired he has played his accordion for a total of about ten minutes! He said he doesn't get any enjoyment out of playing for himself.

Another interesting comment was that the only treble reed he used was the bassoon reed. He often stripped out the other reeds from his accordion. He has an early (about 1954) American made Excelsior that was one of his favorite accordions. He had previously removed the other reeds so when he recently found them in storage in his house, had them reinstalled in the accordion. He played the ten minutes to see how they worked out....that was it.

Maybe once he gets tired of retirement he might be persuaded to play again....but I suggested along with some other club members that he should consider writing an autobiography. Perhaps if others encouraged him to do the same it might happen. It would be a fascinating story!
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