What is it about accordions and Massachusetts?


Performance by the accordion orchestra during Open Mic Night
Photo by Stewart Dean

Well, damned if I didn’t have another amazing time at another freaking accordion camp in the great state of Massachusetts. What are the odds? Apparently they are pretty effing good.

Just when I thought my musical week at the Cape last year couldn’t be topped, I experienced the Northeast Squeeze-in, a relatively undiscovered gem of accordion get-togethers known as NESI.

Picture a mid-September weekend in a rustic campground in Western Massachusetts. Add some great grub, a plentiful supply of BYOB, endless jamming, an open-mic night, a contra dance, a late-night pub sing, an accordion orchestra—the list is endless. Throw in 80 or so of some of the nicest, smartest, quirkiest, most talented, and humble humans I’ve ever met, and that should give you a slight idea of what made this far-too-short weekend so unforgettable. I was positively over the moon.

NESI scheduleThe workshop part of the weekend was spontaneous. There was something for everyone, regardless of their skill level. The attendees are also the instructors, so if you want to teach something, you simply write it on a Post-It note and add it to the board.

The hard part was deciding which workshops to attend. You had your pick of topics like French musette folk songs, accordion repair, jazz improvisation, Klezmer, even French folk dancing (that was a freaking blast; the folks who weren’t dancing were making the music for us to dance to).

I have to mention again how talented and kind these attendees were. It wasn’t enough for most of them to play just one instrument. They had to play two, three, or even four. Uhm…seriously? That’s just showing off. But here’s the rub. They made people like me, someone who is still struggling to play just one instrument, feel welcome.

I glommed on to some of those talented people during my performance at the open-mic night, which was a bit of a turning point for me. I never enjoy performing on stage with an accordion–it brings on Asian flu-like symptoms and unrelenting hot flashes. But this time I had a freaking blast. Here me and my wicked-cool pals Dave, James and Meredith perform Tico Tico. And, yes, James is playing four instruments—accordion, clarinet, a foot-pedal cabasa, and a samba whistle. If I didn’t dig him so much, I’d want to punch him.

Here’s a bit more of open-mic night.

Hours of Contra dancing followed the performances and after getting ridiculously sweaty I ventured into the main cabin for a cold beer (or two) and the late-night pub sing. Hot damn, this was fun.

I felt like I was reuniting with old friends instead of hanging out with a bunch of strangers. The entire experience also reminded me  of how lucky I am to be hopelessly devoted to the accordion. This beautiful but largely under-appreciated and misunderstood instrument has exposed me to so much delight in this world. I suppose there might be some accordion-playing dirtbags out there, but I haven’t met one.

Accordions rule.

P.S. Stewart Dean took some amazing photos of the event. You can find them on his Flickr page. 

5 thoughts on “What is it about accordions and Massachusetts?

  1. Karen, thanks for sharing your reflections and video from NESI! The first time attending will always be special, but like visits to a treasured family vacation spot, returning each year is a chance to catch up with old friends, learn new music, and make more memories together! NESI just keeps getting better each year.

  2. What a trip! Ha ha you brought me back I in time to again laugh and smile and wish I was there for more. What a treat to meet and perform with you and Meredith and James. What fun to learn the contra dance. What a gas to attend the Pub. I obviously missed Craig singing and that fellow on guitar, plays concertina too, sheesh. What a Start, that Friday night in the library playing. ‘Take me out to the ball game’ and ‘ you are my sunshine’ round robin and lastly, what a fine good bye on Sunday. It was all not stop, wasn’t it ?

    • Dave, I agree. It was a gas from the moment we drove onto the campground and heard Mark Vidor playing his accordion on the park bench to the moment we left. Non stop.

  3. Just browsing, found accordions by karen, and blog abt NESI. Then, suddenly there is my friend Dario and Me playing Saturday nite waltz. YES! we are going back this year and bringing friends. Thanks for the memory!

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