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Accordionist is a rare
find in Henry County

 

By Melissa Robinson
Contributing Editor   

  In what appears to be a cross between a mini piano and a harmonica, the accordion is a free reed instrument believed to have been invented in the early 1800s in Europe. From the lively polka music of Central Europe to romantic pieces reminiscent of Venice, Italy, the accordion is an instrument that has crossed ethnic and cultural boundaries.

Vincent Aleandri, a professional musician and accordion specialist holds an accordion that he has restored.

Photo by Mickie Jackson

  Although popular in folk music, use of the accordion may seem old-fashioned now, but there are still many active clubs and enthusiasts all across the Unite States.

  However, try to find someone to repair an accordion, and you may be out of luck, at least in Cherokee County where Juanita Hughes lives. But Hughes, a piano and accordion player lucked-out when her son-in-law, Jerald Hill, found Henry County resident, Vincent Aleandri, a professional musician and accordion specialist.

  And it was Aleandri who painstakingly rebuilt one of Hughes’ prized possessions—a Paolo Soprani accordion from Castelfidardo, brought back from Italy by her uncle, Druey Kaiser Waters, during his travels around the world with the Merchant Marines. She said her uncle brought it back in the 1940s for his own family who kept it for years but eventually gave it to Waters’ sister, Hughes’ mother.

  Hughes, now in her 70s, is a columnist for the Cherokee Tribune, and also an accomplished pianist, and said she decided to take up the accordion as her mother did, many years before. Her mother was already adept at playing the accordion, having bought her first one from a Sears and Roebuck catalog. After two lessons, she realized she knew more than the accordion teacher and continued to teach herself. Hughes followed in her mama’s footsteps, learning and playing all the gospel songs her mother played.

  However, over the years, from use and time, her little accordion suffered from wear and tear and although she has two larger ones, the smaller instrument is easier for her to carry and hold. She decided to have it refurbished but was surprised when she couldn’t find a local professional to do the job.

  “Jerald was helping me find someone to repair the accordion and he found Vinnie through the Atlanta Accordion Club,” she said.

  Hughes beamed as a child does on Christmas morning when she saw her restored accordion for the first time.

  “It’s so pretty. How exciting. I can’t wait to play it,” said Hughes.

  Her face lit up as she began to play.

  “This brings back so many memories,” she said.

  Aleandri, of Hampton, is a professional accordionist, having spent 20 years playing at Walt Disney World in Florida, where he eventually became the lead musician.

  Originally from Greensburg, Pennsylvania, a suburb southeast of Pittsburgh, Aleandri started playing Italian music on the according at age nine, with his father, John. He also toured with the Duquesne University Tamburitzans during his college years.

  “Disney found me playing for an Italian dance group, then I was invited down there to open for the Italian Ambassador and they asked me to stay. It was a great opportunity and I worked all over the park, with opera singers in the Italian pavilion, and in the French and German pavilions,” he said.

  He worked at Disney from 1982 to 2003. After two decades with Disney, he worked as a musician for Seaworld. Upon retirement, he and his wife moved to Georgia to be closer to their grown children. He found Henry County the perfect fit, and not one to really retire, he still plays gigs as they come up and sells and services accordions, a specialty trade that few professionals in the South can claim.

  He works out of a little workshop and said he doesn’t need to advertise, as much of his business is through word of mouth. He also plays gigs when requested and is a popular performer at the City Café in Fayetteville during Oktoberfest. Most recently, he performed for the Porsche groundbreaking in Gwinnett County and said he finds more musician work north of Atlanta.

  In addition to accordion restoration and repairs, he is also active in the Atlanta Accordion Club and has a CD of accordion songs titled Accordion Expressions.

  For more information on Aleandri, contact him at vjaboxman@bellsouth.net.

 

 

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