Teach Accordion? Yes YOU CAN!

Answer to Last Month’s Article in a USA Accordion Newsletter – about a 5 year experienced accordionist wanting to teach.

I want to sincerely thank the lady that replied to the question. Yes – in a perfect world everything she said is honestly TRUE. But we are not in a perfect world. In the 1940’s & 50’s – every major city and just about every minor city had an accordion teacher. A well-qualified teacher with years of experience and an education to back it up.

Up until the last 20 years – there were major universities in the USA – that offered degree programs for accordionists. There were major publishers willing to publish accordion arrangements and major accordion manufacturers that were pumping quality piano accordions into the USA.

WHAT HAPPENED??? – the era of the Guitar!!!

  1. There are NO – ACCORDION APPLIED DEGREE program that I am aware of in the USA.
  2. There is NO – TEACHER training for the accordion that I am aware of in the entire USA.
  3. There are FEW – Accordion Studios any more. Only a few scattered teachers.
  4. There is NO – Central testing entity in the USA for students or teachers – to get “certified”
  5. There are NO – Publishers that will even address publishing new accordion material
  6. The LAST GENERATION of accordion teachers have retired or expired!

NOW how do we address the resurgence that is happening?

  • There is a generation of young people that do not know what an accordion is. These young people are SO EXCITED – when they get the opportunity to play one. AND I am talking ANY KIND of an accordion – Diatonic, Piano, Chromatic, Cajun!
  • There is a generation that grew up in the 1950’s that are returning to their accordion.
  • There are music teachers in elementary schools that are using the accordion in their daily music programs (one on every student in the class!).
  • I personally answer the phone and walk in questions DAILY – about how to start taking lessons on the accordion.
  • I have an accordion blog with over 52,000 hits in 8 months from accordionists all over the world – that need and want beginner to intermediate level accordion music – much less access to a teacher!

How do we address this? We NEED TEACHERS!!! WE NEED every accordionist today – to start teaching. There is such a shortage – it is like starting all over again – but it can be done.

Now with that said – let me answer the person that has played the accordion for 5 years and wants to start teaching. PLEASE IGNORE what the other lady said – entirely! You love your instrument and you want to share it with others. FANTASTIC! GO FOR IT! As it stands now – you can see there is NO WAY for you to receive the education that the responder was referring to – so here are my suggestions for you:

  1. Purchase the best method books that are available (I recommend the Palmer Hughes 1-2-3-4-5) After 5 it is nothing but a collection of classical pieces.
  2. Don’t rely on these books entirely – supplement with newer songs, more technique building drills, and even some embellishment and chord accompaniment.
  3. Become extremely proficient at each and every song that you will teach your student and be able to accompany them on each song – either unison or by playing chord accompaniment and little runs. (You only need to be 1 song ahead of them!)
  4. Plan something they take home and return to you each week – written theory, little song they work out on their own, maybe a transposition to another key of simple beginner song. The goal is to engage them throughout the week – when you are not with them.
  5. NEVER swamp them. They should be working on 3 songs. ONE almost DONE, One half way done, and one new one (maybe only 16 measures assigned) Only require memory of a few songs – let them pick the one they want to remember! And start a photo copy note book of these songs.
  6. Make the student’s lesson exciting. ALWAYS have them SHOW OFF to start. This will be a great warm up for them. Can even be from their “REMEMBER” notebook.
  7. REWARD REWARD REWARD – gold stickers, candy bars, high five to parents, planned monthly get-togethers – where they can show off (do not call it a recital!) Keep it informal.
  8. AND be ready to FIND the songs they want to play. Either purchase it, write it, or hire it written. BUT ALWAYS cater to their taste in music! NO MATTER how beginner they are!
  9. Finally – try to organize a group of students together. They will have a blast – they can play unison or simple duets together. Don’t make it a major “CONDUCT THE ORCHESTRA” – event – more like a jam.
  10. AND for the teacher personally – be honest about your playing background. Continue to seek further knowledge in all areas and musical styles. The more you stretch and grow – the more your students will too. So – film yourself, record yourself – critique yourself – teach yourself – never stop seeking out opportunities to better yourself. It will reflect in your students!
  11. AND as far as technique, bellow control, accordion position, expression, etc. If you as a teacher exhibit it – the student will too!

PLEASE – anyone interested in becoming “A Certified Performer” or wanting more information about how to become “A Certified Teacher” – please contact me. I have a solution and over 75 people WORLDWIDE are participating! You can to!


Editorial by Shelia Lee