'Happy music' makes the good times roll
12:00 AM CST on Sunday, March 4, 2007
By CAROLYN TILLERY / Special Contributor to The Dallas Morning News
In the mood for a little Slovenian polka music? How about a tune or
two from the Balkan countries? If so, you're in luck.
'Some people stay up all night playing the accordion,' says
Dallasite Norman Seaton, who formed the accordion group.
The National Accordion Association is hosting its 20th annual
convention Wednesday through March 11 at the Richardson Hotel in
Dallas resident Norman Seaton, who started playing in 1981 and
formed the association in 1986, said 35 states will be represented
at the convention.
"Some people stay up all night playing the accordion," said Mr.
Seaton, the association's president.
Variety in musical styles and skills are sure to be found at the
convention, said Allen resident Jim Rommel, who is conducting one of
"There are all kinds of accordions, as they come from so many
different countries," Mr. Rommel said. "You'll hear Cajun, Russian,
classical just all kinds of music. Then, of course, there's
Germany, Sweden, France and even Mexico music."
Mr. Seaton, who plays a Petosa piano accordion, said he and his
wife, Sharon, took up the instrument after a chance encounter.
"We visited a local German restaurant, and there were two accordion
players performing there," he said. "My wife said she had always
wanted to know how to play the accordion. I'm the type of person who
if someone says they want to do something, I'm an enabler."
Mr. Rommel, who has played the accordion for 32 years, always
travels with his accordion and finds jam sessions all over the
country. He learned to play as a child after a door-to-door
accordion salesman offered free lessons.
Both men contend the biggest misconception about the accordion is
that it is difficult to play.
"It's got a worse image problem, because people like accordion
jokes," Mr. Seaton said. "They use the music in a lot of television
commercials. But simple songs can be picked up almost
immediately. ... It's probably the most joked-about instrument,
followed by the tuba."
He also has an old button accordion, which has buttons, rather than
keys, to play.
"This one, an Organola, I got for $19.85 worth of postage," he said,
motioning to the instrument at his home. "I was contacted by this
man he was 90 who found it in a field during World War II and
told me I could have it if I paid for the postage to get it here."
Mr. Seaton said the accordion originated in Europe in the early
1800s and was popularized in the 1850s. It caught on in the U.S.
during the vaudeville era.
An instrument can cost from $1,500 to $15,000.
Dallas resident Nick Ballarini has been playing the accordion for
more than 50 years. He said there's one problem with the instrument
or, specifically, with accordion players: age.
"I would like to see more young people learning to play," he
said. "That's its stereotype, except in Europe and China."
Mr. Ballarini said the instrument's attractive quality is it
produces "happy music."
"I just like to play it pretty," he said. "I like to play at places
like the arboretum and just play what people want to hear."
The convention will offer workshops, jam sessions, accordion
orchestras, performances and a polka party and concert.
Numerous events are open and free to the public. For $10, you can
attend a polka dance, accordion concert or folk dance lessons.