This week, I’m guest blogging for the Canadian Music Centre. It’s my fourth and final blog post in a series ...
So a lot of people don’t know this about me, but my first musical instrument was the accordion. It’s something I don’t normally talk about. I still have my childhood accordion. It stays in the closet and makes an appearance once or twice per year. Otherwise, it lives in seclusion and darkness the rest of the time.
I started taking accordion lessons when I was 5 years old. And I must have been pretty good as my parents had a shelf-full of trophies from music festivals as evidence. I played many concerts, festivals and functions as a child growing up in Ottawa. It became a defining thing of who I was as a child. If anyone came over, I had to perform and be ogled at. I brought it to school to play for my classmates. If I did well at a music festival, it would be announced over the PA at school.
As I got to being 12-14 years old, playing the accordion became my scourge. I was bullied about it by classmates. I did everything in my power to keep it a secret that I played. I started taking piano lessons during this time period. The piano was looked at as a more respectable instrument, one of prestige and elegance. Everyone took piano lessons, NO ONE played the accordion. I wanted to fit in, I didn’t want to be laughed at. Gradually the accordion lessons were no more, and other than a handful of performance requests that were executed in the most clandestine of ways, my accordion began what is now a lifetime of sequestration in my closet.
And that is a true pity. Despite our culture’s constant making fun of the accordion as a hokey, oom-pa-pa instrument, it is actually capable of such beauty and lyricism. Mechanically and musically, it is the perfect marriage of a keyboard and wind instrument. In a way, it has many more expressive tools available to it than the piano. (Try doing a crescendo or decrescendo as you hold a note on the piano!!).
Just like the Cat’s in the Cradle song, now I wish I had time to play the accordion more often and regret my childhood attitude about it. Even though I hardly open the case (and even less frequently play), I’m still compelled to keep it, despite my minimalist attitude about stuff. I think it’s one of my true life mementos.
I also think I hang on to it because of the meaning it has to my parents. It’s my way to connect with them in a spiritual and cultural way. When Lisa and I made our wills a few years ago, my parents made it clear that that accordion would be given to them if we were to pass before.
So there it is…I’ve come out of the closet…I am an accordion player! And I feel pretty proud of it!!