When did you start playing the accordion?
I picked it up back in fourth grade, so I was eight or nine.
Did anyone inspire you to play?
It’d be Weird Al Yankovic. My brother and his friend had this CD of his, called “Running With Scissors,” and I really liked it and kept listening, and eventually I was like, “I think I want to be just like him.”
Have you ever performed on a stage?
There was the tryout for Houndstock. I made it, and they gave me an entire five minute slot. It was sophomore year, and I played in Houndstock, with my set, and that was really fun, and like everyone was clapping with the beat. It was only five minutes, but I destroyed those five minutes.
What are people’s general reactions when they hear that you play the accordion?
The question I always get is, “Is it hard?” And it was at first. “How do you know all those buttons, since there are like 120 of them?” I’ve learned, and it’s easier than it looks. Most people’s reaction would be, they usually think it’s pretty cool; at the same time, I don’t think they’ve ever aspired to be an accordion player.
Do you have a favorite piece?
“Beer Barrel Polka” and “Too Fast Polka” are considered standards for the accordion. There’s one piece called “Tarantella.” It’s got this one fast break in the middle of the song, and it’s just really fun to see how fast I can play it.
How different is the accordion from other instruments? Does it require a different skill set?
It does, since you’re playing a treble instrument and a bass instrument at the same time. The left button is your base, and the keyboard’s your treble, so it’s just different, and I find that it’s a lot harder to play. Drums, all you need to keep is the beat, you can just turn on the radio and pick up any song, and like bass, is a lot easier to improvise on, but accordion, I have to have the music, because it’s so tough. It’s really hard, but it’s really fun.
Did you have a teacher?
I’ve been with her since the beginning. I still take lessons from her. She’s had me since fourth grade.
How long do you practice per week?
I really don’t practice as much as I should, and I know I should, I’ve just been so busy lately, I’ll be lucky if I get once or twice a week. To be honest, I’ve never been good about practicing. When I was in fourth and fifth grade, they were paying for my lessons, and I wasn’t practicing, I definitely don’t practice as much as I should.
When you do practice, how do they go?
For the accordion, normally, sometimes I do a warm-up song, so I can get the feel of getting warm. Then I’ll play the stuff that my teacher’s given me to learn that week, or I just go right into the song. I usually break it up, so I do the keyboard first and just run through that, and then I’ll run through the bass, and I’ll play it together. That way I can be familiar with both.
Do you find it hard to coordinate pushing the bellows and playing the keyboard?
The accordion is technically a woodwind. What happens is that, the bellows are expanding and contracting with air, and when you hit a key or a base knot, it opens up a valve or reed that air gets forced through that and makes your note. It’s actually pretty easy to match the two. There’s a syncopation thing going, but the base pattern for the accordion is usually just bass chord chord, or bass chord, base chord. It might be different notes, but the structure for almost every song is the same for bass, so you get that down pretty soon after you learn.
Do you have a favorite style of music?
Polkas are definitely the most fun. They’re usually like faster tempo, I hate to say traditional, it’s really not a traditional piece, but at this point, they’re getting so old it’s considered traditional. It’s just the most fun to play. Waltzes are very deliberate and precise. I’ve always had a motto: “There’s no way to be sad while playing the accordion.” You have to have fun, and especially when you’re playing a polka. So I’d say that’ll probably be my most favorite style.
Do you plan to play in the future?
Yea I do. I know I’m stopping lessons at the end of the summer, since I’m going away to college, and it’ll be just too hard to drive back every week for lessons, but I want to keep playing. I’ve never regarded myself as really being that good. I’ve been playing for around eight or nine years, and it’s like I don’t think I’m fantastic, but then again, there’s no one to compare yourself to. I’ve got me and Weird Al, and it’s not even fair, since he’s so good.