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Through the Lens of Attendees2023 Festival Review

Compiled by Esther Lanting

What stood out to you about the 2023 Festival? What will you remember?

Joyce Frye, Wilson, WY

“What a wonderful welcome for a first-time participant at ATG! Accordion lovers are clearly an affinity group--if you love the accordion, you're one of us. The time was filled with twice daily workshops--everyone useful, and twice daily concerts of one sort or another-everyone brilliant. Then there were rehearsals for the Festival Orchestra. My eight years of playing saxophone in the school band did not prepare me for twenty measures of repeated oom-pahs; it was easy to get lost, but with careful listening, also possible to pick up again. Challenging and fun. I can't wait for you-tube to become available so I can send the link to friends and say, 'hey, I did that". You'll most definitely see me again next year--hopefully with a new accordion and better prepared!”

Adam Fundak, Aiken, SC

“I highly enjoyed how many younger people attended the festival. The Reunion Island Orchestra enhanced the experience a dramatic amount. In both the concert itself, as well as the additional young competitors, it was very enjoyable.

This year there were a number of competitors in each category. After switching to the Chromatic Accordion this past year, I had much to learn in order to prepare for competition. Under the instruction of Ms. Beverley Fess (ATG Executive Board member) and additional preparation help from my former teacher and grandmother, Diane Young (ATG member), I was ready to compete. I first competed in the open solo category using Minuet from Berenice by Handel, where I was judged by Dr. Herbert Scheibenreif of Austria and Ms. Paula Bechtold of Missouri. Following, I performed Stas Venglevski’s Summer Sunshine for Grayson Masefield and Ms. Amy Jo Sawyer in the contemporary solo category. I earned a superior rating in both categories.

In addition to competing, I was able to enjoy several engaging workshops. The first workshop was held by Frank Busso Jr. introducing “Fake Book Ideas for Soloists and Accompanists.” Another insightful workshop held was Grayson Masefield on “Bellows/Bellow Control.” Other workshops included Ms. Liz Finch speaking about “The Art of Arranging Music” and Anthony Schulz updated us about “The Accordion Downunder and Aural Awareness.”

The highlight of attending the ATG was the concert series. This year we were treated to the Polyphonia Orchestra who traveled from Reunion Island off the coast of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean. The orchestra consisted of young people playing seventeen accordions plus a variety of more traditional orchestra instruments. In addition to performing a magnificent concert, teens from the group also performed in various categories of competition. There were a number of other concerts that were quite entertaining, including Cory Pesaturo, the Kansas City Orchestra, and of course Stas Venglevski. Unfortunately, due to my school changing to year-round-school, I was unable to attend the festival finale performed by Grayson Masefield.

Paula Bechtold, Springfield, MO

“We just experienced the ATG 2023 Festival, and the memories are many and great to say the least! Being able to reunite with so many of our old friends, as well as meeting and making new friends helped make it so memorable. I enjoyed the constant activities provided by the wonderful workshops and competitions. The entertainment at the luncheon and banquet really helped continue the joyful atmosphere of the event. The Concerts each evening were most enjoyable. We loved seeing the Chicagoland orchestra and how they have progressed, as well as all those inspiring young people from the Reunion Islands. It seems every year Stas Venglevski finds new ways to entertain and delight us. This year was no exception. His duet concert with Nathanial Holman on the marimba was wonderful! The UMKC Ensemble simply wowed us with their virtuosity and engaging selections. And Grayson Masefield capped off the festival with his inspiring concert. My most cherished memory from the festival was playing in the Festival orchestra with Joan Sommers and so many wonderful musicians, on that beautiful stage at Wheaton College. Many thanks to all the Board members who worked so hard to make this event a great success!”

Beatrice Makdah, Verona, WI

This year's ATG Festival was very enjoyable. I was particularly impressed with all of the young people who participated. Between the many children who competed and the Polyphonia Orchestra from the Reunion Island, it was truly inspiring. Their hard work and enthusiasm for the accordion is remarkable. Additionally, the enthusiasm and good spirit of the performers, workshop presenters, and attendees created an unforgettable experience for all. Having participated in the Festival Orchestra and a few other ensembles, I'm looking forward to playing again in next year's Festival Orchestra in Kansas City.

Gordon Kohl, Chula Vista, CA

For me, the highlight of the festival was playing at the banquet and in the orchestra. I would like to see some off time put in each day so people can see the sights.

Heather Masefield, Milford, Auckland, New Zealand

“My Brother Harley, and my two children Amber and Grayson and I arrived back to Chicago (we had return airfares from our city of Auckland New Zealand to Chicago) along with Australian Anthony Schulz to attend ATG. I have attended ATG events since 1979 and last was in 2018 so I knew many of the people attending and welcomed making many new friends. I had practised my part for the orchestras, under Maestro Joan Sommers, making use of the zoom rehearsal 2 months out. I roomed with Jane Christison and was grateful she allowed me to use one of her accordions. I enjoyed videoing the workshops, please watch these if you missed them. The last nights performances of the Festival Orchestra in the prestigious Wheaten College Theatre was memorable - great sound. Then it was Graysons turn to play - Gorka Hermosa's new work especially commissioned for him to play at ATG, the video game Dredge, played whilst Grayson played the 4 one minute themes were part of a varied programme. Then it was off to Osh Kosh and for Grayson to perform a fundraiser concert at the Accordion Museum in Superior. Thanks go to all involved with the organisation - very much appreciated”.

Brian Money, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada

This year’s ATG Festival was truly an international accordion event with great accordion solo, ensemble, and orchestra performances.

It was wonderful to see all the young accordionists, particularly the Polyphonia Orchestra from Reunion Island, taking part in the ATG competitions. The youth dressed very smartly for the competitions and performed their pieces with confidence.

This year’s festival highlighted the need for the older generation accordionists to pass technique and artistry to the younger accordionists. This need to transfer knowledge across the generations also applies to accordion repair technicians and teachers so that the mastery of accordion repair and performance does not become lost. Anthony Schultz from Australia highlighted this in a talk titled “Update from ‘Downunder’ plus Aural Awareness” on the accordion movement in Australia.

Helmi Harrington, PhD, gave great insight on the evolution of the accordion over the years in her “Accordion Family Genera” talk.

We all enjoyed a wonderful example of passing accordion artistry from one generation to the next when 80-year-old father Frank Busso, Sr., and 44-year-old son Frank Busso, Jr., entertained us in a strolling accordion ensemble during our Thursday lunch.

Moving the accordion Petting Zoo from our hotel to Wheaton (IL) College for the last day of the ATG festival was a great way of showcasing the accordion instrument not only to children but also to young college musicians.

The workshops were all well prepared and presented. For me the standout workshop was “Hand Care for the Musician” by Lynda Griffith, DPT Orthopedic Manual Therapist. I ended up purchasing her book, Playing Well: The Prevention and Biomechanics of Musician Injuries. This is a subject dear to me as I am dealing with musician’s dystonia in my right hand.

A wonderful highlight for me was the ATG awards ceremony. I couldn’t help but feel the Reunion Island competitors’ excitement as the Polyphonia Orchestra loudly cheered for each of their friends as they received placement awards. The Competition Committee, chaired by Beverley Fess, deserves kudos for a very successful awards ceremony.

I have been very impressed when young accordion competitors attending international accordion festivals and competitions meet and form lifetime friendships. I saw this for the first time in Victoria, BC’s, 2013 Coupe Mondiale. At this year’s ATG, I witnessed this again when Elijah Clements from the United States was included with the other Polyphonia Orchestra accordionists, conducted by Pierre Varo, in their final performance on Friday night.

We cannot forget the wonderful evening performances in the Wheaton College concert hall. They really showcased the versatility of our cherished instrument—from solo to small ensemble to an instrument playing alongside string, woodwind, and percussion in a full orchestra.

In summary, this year’s ATG Festival gave me a chance to reconnect with my dear accordion friends from the 1990s Galla-Rini accordion camps at Silver Falls, Oregon, in addition to meeting old and new ATG friends. On our final day, it was nice to see the current ATG Board of Directors recognize Betty Jo Simon for her dedicated years of service on the ATG board and her many years of promoting and professionally playing the accordion.

Our current ATG Festival Planning Committee deserves a well-earned thank you for their hard work to put together a very successful festival. I left feeling a bright future lies ahead for the accordion as the ATG Board of Directors is putting modern technology to good use to promote all facets of accordion globally to all generations of accordion enthusiasts.

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