Update Sept. 3, 2009: Cory Pesaturo is the first American to win a World Accordion Championship for the United States in 25 years. The competition, called the 62nd Coupe Mondiale World Accordion Championships, is the most prestigious International Accordion competition in the world, and this year, was held on August 25-29, 2009 in Auckland, New Zealand. Below is my original February post:
Cory Pesaturo, 22, is the only student who ever graduated as an accordionist (2008) from the New England Conservatory (NEC), the oldest conservatory in this country, located in Boston. “I didn’t go to NEC to study accordion,” Cory says. “I had had fabulous teachers, such as Tulio Gasperini, and later, Lou Ludovico. I was 17, and I had already won several competitions. At that point, what I was looking for, was to become a powerful musician. NEC’s Contemporary Improvisation and Jazz departments are among the best in the world; they’re quite open about accordion and know that it’s becoming cool again, and they gave me fantastic training in multiple musical genres from folk styles to classical and, of course, jazz. Now, I am out there to help people enjoy the multiple facets of this instrument.”
Death and Transfiguration: There is a better way…
In music, just as in any domain, the entrepreneurial fearlessness starts with the strong conviction that “there is a better way…” Entrepreneurs innovate by bringing new ideas but also, and more often, by revisiting, challenging, or reframing established concepts, methods, or products. “I am kind of a rebel in the accordion world. Part of the tradition hampers the perception of what you can do with an accordion.” Cory says. “Some accordionists play the same tunes over and over again; worse, they play it the same way. The end result is that preservationists have almost killed what they loved most. I have to fight an old image of the accordion that’s ingrained in the mind of my parents’ generation – not my parents, thank God! This middle generation sometimes looks down upon the instrument. Their parents and grandparents liked accordion, but by the end of the 1960s, what people sometimes call the “Golden Age of the Accordion” was dying quickly. Although, to be fair to the middle generation in this country, their disaffection wasn’t completely unjustified because of the advent of rock and roll. The silver lining, though, is that my generation did not have the chance to hate the accordion since it was already dead, and, to us, it’s a new thing almost.” Because of this “death,” blinders are removed for Cory’s generation. “I tend to do all of the genres,” he says. “I play French. I play Italian. Spanish. Jazz. Classical. Romanian. Klezmer. Funk stuff. Zydeco and Cajun music, and I love to try anything. One day, Dick Contino, a accordion legend, told me that I had what was needed to bring back the accordion. It’s quite a task. But my mission is to do it, or at least significantly contribute to doing this in this country. I owe this to Dick, to my other role models, my friend Eddie Monteiro, extraordinary players of the past such as Charles Magnante or of the present, such as Ionica Minune, who is able to play at supersonic speed innovatively for ten consecutive minutes, and of course to the man who was the first to play jazz on the accordion Art Van Damme. My musical education at NEC in Jazz has enabled me to look at the whole accordion world with a different perspective.” There, Cory is also very passionate when he speaks of his three main role models in Jazz, Arthur Tatum (1909 –1956), Sten Getz (1927 –1991), and Bill Evans (1929-1980). “Basically, when you get into the Jazz world, you learn all the tools you need to do most anything…”
A glimpse at Cory’s talents: you can navigate inside and through as well as zoom-in/out the pictures and videos – and also in full screen.
“…And the digital world helps it’s image to become cool as well.”
Like many accordionists, Cory owns several accordions. “We tend to collect a lot,” he says, “because each one has a different sound. My dad has become good at fixing them. One of my favorites used to belong to Charles Nunzio, one of the great pioneers of the instrument. He had studied with Pietro Frosini. It has a beautiful “wet” musette kind of sound – as opposed to a “dry” sound that is more for classical music. I love my Sonola, and, of course, my Roland. It’s a brand new innovation that came up a couple of years ago. A completely digital accordion. They have developed a new technology for the bellows, so it stays realistic for players. I can go back and forth from the acoustic to the Roland and it doesn’t affect my playing. The Roland has 800 accordion sounds on it. So you have anything you want. It’s MIDI capabilities open up limitless doors for any sound on the planet. But know that at Roland, they are not trying to take over the accordion world. They just want to give accordionists an accordion that they can do anything with, to sit next to the ones they already have. Guys in my age group love it and I can see that people of all generations relate very well to it. I am one of their US demonstrators so I currently travel around for them and participate in various trade-shows, and demonstrate the instrument to the accordion world. For example, I was at the NAMM fair in Annaheim.”
In addition to practicing his accordion everyday, transcribing and arranging, Cory works like crazy. Taking care of business means building an audience, getting known by the people in the business of innovation who like music, by all sorts of players in the entertainment industry, the video game world – any world in fact. He plays everywhere, for an amazingly diverse audience, and he participates in a large number of festivals. He has recently recorded two CDs with George Garzone and his band “The Fringe”, and has been performing with them in the Boston and Providence region. He is an absolute fan of Formula 1 that he has watched since he was 2 years old. He is currently working on a Formula1 book/statistics that, he believes, will change the way people look upon the sports history and its champions – and his music is regularly played on Formula 1 broadcasts. And he has another hobby, also work-intensive. He is known to many as “The Snowman” for his meteorological work (he may be the only non-formally trained meteorologist TV guy in Rhode Island). His 2005 Atlantic Hurricane Season compilation (http://www.weathermatrix.net/tropical/2005records.htm) has been used by virtually everybody. He likes applied statistics “almost” as much as Accordion.
Cory is kind, easy-going, charismatic and fun to be with. No wonder he has lots of fans… including Bill and Hillary Clinton: “I had won a National championship in my age group when I was 12. My uncle sent a tape to the White House because they had amateurs play at Christmas time; they saw the tape and they liked it. They called me to go in; my parents and I went down and I played in a hallway in the White House; my dad kept pushing to get me to play right near where Bill was and he ended up asking me to play for him privately during a break. We hit it off and we have been friends ever since basically. I went back three more times and I have played for him and Hillary on 10 different occasions since 1999 till now.”
To know more:
About some of the big names in accordion and jazz that I mention in this post: it is easy to find extensive information about all of them via Google. I also suggest that you listen to the videos posted on YouTube.