“Accordions make you laugh. They make you happy. It makes you smile to say ‘accordion,’” explains Frank Busso of the instrument’s appeal. Busso, who’s been playing since he was 7, is vice president of the American Accordionists’ Association, which is bringing its annual festival to Memphis July 15th-19th.
One of the highlights of the festival will be when the 100 or so members of the association’s all-ages Massed Band take over Graceland to perform “Love Me Tender” and “Blue Suede Shoes.” The association also will hold a number of workshops and several competitions, including one for female accordionists in honor of late member and composer Maddalena Belfiore. Another big draw will be Polka Hall of Famer Joey Miskulin — he’s worked with Johnny Cash and Paul McCartney, among others — who’ll be playing with the country and comedy group Riders in the Sky (pictured).
Many of the festival’s events are open to the public, and attendees can expect to hear a range of pop, jazz, polka, and classical. Busso and his group will perform Haydn’s “String Trio,” scored for two violins and bass.
According to Busso, the instrument’s accessibility is one key to its enduring popularity. “All you need is a brain, two arms, and two hands,” he says. “Everybody can play it.” — Susan Ellis