Then & Now

My Journey Back to Playing Accordion

By Diane Guffin

Featured in the 2016 Spring Issue of Accordion Life Today.



“Whether it was the anticipation of being able to play my own accordion once again or my relief of not having to tell my Mother that it would be gutted and hung from my rec-room wall, who knows?”



An Unexpected Second Chance


I watched Patricia Bartell’s hand glide up and down the keyboard, flipping from one register to another in her examination. My childhood accordion responded with such painful noises that I knew this would be a lost cause. I just had to make one last attempt at finding someone who could repair the damage sustained from a wet basement 12 years earlier. Twice before I had heard the verdict, “beyond repair.” Shifting out of the straps, she placed it on the floor and with a reassuring smile said it would take a lot of work, but she was fairly confident it could be restored.


At age 51, I had no intentions of studying music again. I was 15 when Mr. Filippini passed away, and that had ended my accordion music lessons that I’d started at age 9. It had been a lifetime … at the time. In my 36-year hiatus I’d pull the accordion out around Christmas time and play a few familiar carols, then forget about it again until the next year.


Whether it was the anticipation of being able to play my own accordion once again or my relief of not having to tell my Mother that it would be gutted and hung from my rec-room wall, who knows? But somehow I left the studio that day with sheet music in my hand. I hadn’t “read” music in three decades — but four months, eight lessons and countless rehearsal hours later, Able To Play Music’s ‘Vivace’ accordion orchestra took 2nd place at the Coupe Mondial … and I was hooked! As I already said, I had no intention of “learning” to play the accordion again. After all, I’d just retired from a stressful career, and my plans were to simply play — Meaning golfing, sailing, boating, travel … not so much the accordion.


Joy in the Journey


Barely three years have passed since I first set foot in the Able To Play Music studio and I am surprised at my growth. I never would have believed in such a short time, I would be playing the level of music I am today. I have talented and patient teachers to thank. What also amazes me is how much more I am enjoying the learning process as an adult. In my youth I was a determined, hard-working student, but I did not appreciate the physiological benefits of music study. Today, when I’m challenging my musical limits with a new piece of music, I feel a sense of accomplishment with even the smallest improvements. There really is joy in the journey.


And who knew that learning accordion would open up so many social opportunities? My new best friends are scattered geographically, but we find ways to get together to practice ensemble music, sip a little wine and have a ton of fun. With the help of our drummer (my wife), our group, the Portobellows, were awarded first place in a competition last summer.


My accordion and I made many public appearances last year, including my best friends’ wedding, a New Year’s celebration and the clubhouse with my ladies golf league. It traveled with me to Belize, Costa Rica and the Philippines. If it’s not obvious yet, I am having a blast and it keeps getting better. Thanks to Skype, I’m taking lessons when I am far from the studio, and practicing with my ensemble friends. I am drawn to festivals and a “camp” in Oregon with workshops, orchestra rehearsals and concerts in a beautiful state park setting.


Then & Now | You are never too oldLearning New Things


It took months for the studio to repair the extensive internal damage, but I was reunited with my childhood accordion. The feeling was like reconnecting with an old friend I hadn’t seen in years. And so it is to be learning music again. Not only am I learning new techniques, new forms of music and making wonderful new friends, I am also rediscovering how good it feels to learn new things about myself. Who says you can’t be a kid again?!






Do you have a story like Diane’s? Or are you just starting for the first time? We’d love to hear from you!


February 14, 2017

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