Accordion Articles - Musician or Magician? By Mary Tokarski

Musician or Magician??

Written by: by Mary Kasprzyk Tokarski of the "K" Trio, USA.
Publication: General
Date written: November 2000

Today I was driving my car, and something my husband Frank always says crossed my mind. He frequently refers to me as a "magician . . . I mean, musician" . . . "she can make her accordion talk!" You know what . . . he's right!

What other profession can turn a person who's had a bad day into a happy-go-lucky spirit! A musician can make you sad or glad, exuberant, elegant . . . can create images in your mind of peaceful, floating clouds . . . angry, turbulent storms . . . shining stars . . . tumbling waterfalls . . . mysterious places! It's "MAGIC"!

There's something in the delivery of the music that lifts the spirit to an ethereal place; where the world and all its insanity just seem to disappear!

Thinking back over my learning years with Michael Fernino of Ansonia, Connecticut, I realize that his guidance awakened my imagination, creativity and "magical" musical skills, qualities and talents.

I remember sitting on my lesson thinking, "What on earth is he talking about?" . . . as he'd talk about the movement of a phrase . . . or motion and no motion! Over time, through experience, and all of his prodding, I guess I finally got it! Of course, maturity helps some, too; but learning to "listen" and create from the inside gives the musician (magician) a head start in life!

My whole outlook on life seems to stem from my musical creating! I find myself giving mundane tasks in my every day life a musical song, or chant, to brighten up the job! My musical training helps me to "find another way" of doing something that isn't working as well as I'd like it to! When I teach, I constantly look for the things I like . . . and ways to recreate the ones I don't like!

Remember that old phrase: "If at first you don't succeed, try, try again!" WELL, FORGET IT! Learn to think, instead: "If at first I don't succeed . . . . CHANGE SOMETHING!" Draw from all the musical information we store inside to decide what's "happening", then adjust your thoughts to eliminate the problem! (i.e., am I using wrong fingers, are my notes correct, is my phrase correct, is it sounding as I want it to?) Once the problem is recognized, you can then decide on HOW to fix it!

Maybe it's only a new thought about the way the phrase should sound! I have to admit here, that with many of my students, I find this is the real answer! Most of the difficulties in performing a selection of any kind stem from an incorrect thought! As long as all the basics are in place . . . notes, rhythm, fingering . . . then the only other way to think is SOUND! Changing the emphasis on just ONE note in a phrase usually will make the entire thing flow more freely! Finding that note is the challenge!

To instruct my students in this technic, I usually ask them to play a small phrase without any accent. Then I ask them to try putting in the rhythmic accent (not a real hard accent, but just that feeling of beat accent!), listening to the result, and deciding if it works. If not, try another spot . . . until the music makes sense . . . a sentence of sound, if you will!

Given any piece of music, I set out on a journey to find out what the composer wanted me to look for! Sometimes the title will give me a clue, but other times, I have to really listen to what the notes have to say, and then "create" an image in my head . . . a story, if you will . . . that will guide me through the entire selection!

This is one of my "secrets" to memorizing music as well. Having this "story" (or "map") of what you're going to create in a piece, makes you less likely to lose your place . . . EVEN if the worst happens . . . like wrong notes, or major slips . . . you can ALWAYS start up on a new part of the story!

Learning how to "think" this way depends greatly on your physical ability to execute the notes and rhythms the composer gave to you on paper. The rest comes with multitudes of experience . . . and much patience! To this day, every time I play a piece of music, the music remains the same, but I'm delivering it with today's sense of being . . . perhaps happy, sad, angry, calm, powerful . . . who knows!!

A great example of this is a piece I learned on accordion called "Autumn Breezes" by Pietro Frosini. Some days it's a very gentle breeze . . . other days, it turns out to be a hurricane! It depends on my mood! However, the ease of ability I have in executing the notes and rhythms makes me able to think of "other" things as I play . . . like . . . maybe I'll make a HUGE crescendo here . . . . a little echo there . . . an accent or two in a strange place! Whatever seems right at the moment -- or how adventurous I'm feeling!!!!!

But, I've come to the conclusion that THAT's what makes playing the music so much fun for me! Whenever I stop thinking about the "story" or "map" of my music, I'm not happy with the overall effect I create!

Do remember, however, that the "ease" of ability in executing the notes and rhythms can only come from the solid technical and theoretical study of your chosen instrument! There's no replacing lots of good practice!

The Moral of this story: Achieve enough technique to be comfortable performing even the most difficult passages; achieve the knowledge about music that's necessary to decipher anything you can pick up; achieve an ease with your instrument by learning to handle it properly and effectively; and THEN . . . achieve the ability to release yourself from being the "player" of the music, to becoming a "listener" of what you're doing!

By listening to yourself as others would hear you, amazing "magical" things will begin to happen! You'll find lots of fun things to think about as you play, new ways to express a phrase, a new sense of accomplishment in your music . . . and consequently, in your life!


For workshops or performances contact: The "K" Trio
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