I get lots of recurring questions at shows about my instruments and how I came to play them, so I put together a FAQ:

How did you get started playing the accordion? Have you played it your whole life, etc.?

Honestly, I never really liked the accordion until very recently. I thought it sounded cheesy and I didn't like the typical repertoire. As a lifelong pianist, I’d been recruited a few times to play with bands (including the wonderful Edna Vasquez) using someone’s borrowed or rundown accordion. Knowing next to nothing about the instrument, I’d managed to "play" the right side as a glorified portable keyboard as long as I kept the bellows moving.

But then, in 2018, I found a really nice Petosa piano accordion at a garage sale. I was instantly struck by its build quality and sound, so I bought it on a whim. I didn't really start playing it until a year later, when its portability seemed like a solution to join in with classical chamber music and Irish tunes.

Over about 4 months, I taught myself how to play the Stradella bass (the left side of the accordion with the 120 small buttons). Then, in May 2021, I switched over to the Chromatic (CBA) C-griff right hand system. By Thanksgiving 2022, I had added another totally different LH system called Darwin. So it's been a lot of learning and relearning from scratch!

What's the deal with those unusual boxes you play?

Those are button box accordions, which are more commonly seen in Europe than in North America. My two all-wood boxes are out of the European folk tradition and hand-built in modern times by businesses still in operation. One is a Castagnari Magica 3° 5 row 96 bass Chromatic Button Accordion made in the town of Recanati, Italy, and the most recent one was custom built in the Toulouse region in SW France by Marc Serafini in his small workshop. It has some unique design features that blur a lot of lines between the (usually) mutually exclusive worlds of Diatonic and Chromatic boxes. For simplicity, I refer to it as a button box accordion, but in reality it is a Frankenbox that is in a category of its own.

How did you end up with your unique accordion?

I have been repeatedly tempted by the compact diatonic boxes used in Irish and European folk music. They have an appealing, inviting, warm, and rich melancholy sound, and their decreased size and weight allows better maneuverability. However, I couldn't ever commit to one tradition or learning multiple systems and buying/hauling multiple boxes. (C#/D or B/C for Irish, D/G for English, G/C or C/F for much of Europe, B/C/C♯...etc.). Looking at the endless varieties of bass configurations within each of these made my head spin—I wanted an intuitive, consistent system that didn't require a ton of planning/practicing to know what key I wanted to play something in and whether certain combinations of notes would even be available.

Sensing years of expensive acquisitions and frustrations ahead, I instead made the decision to have my perfect "Rosetta Stone" box designed and built by Marc Serafini that works across all these keys and folk traditions, doesn't weigh a ton, and can also do additional interesting non-related harmonies, countermelodies, drones, as well. As for the sound, the precision and quality of the handmade reeds play a major part in their appealing sound, dynamic range, and expressive capability.