Piano accordions were first developed in Europe in the mid-1800s, preceded by button accordions, harmonicas, and pump organs, whose ancestors include East Asian free reed mouth organs like the Chinese sheng. The development of the keyboard itself is much older, with the earliest known ancestor, the hydraulis pipe organ, dating to the 3rd century B.C.E.
My childhood piano lessons paved the way for me to learn accordion. A friend who dealt in the flea market gave me my first one. The late Mary Barney, who I worked with at the Trailing Yew on the island of Monhegan, Maine, oriented me to the buttons. I started out playing contra dance tunes and am now writing music on the accordion. I especially love to play on the Monhegan dock on Trap Day, the start of the lobster season.
Some years ago I did a stint as music director at the Community Church in Franconia, New Hampshire. My lovely Accordiana accordion by Excelsior, which I play on my CD Joyful Confluence, was a gift from a church member who didn’t want it to languish unplayed in her closet. Thank you so much, Paula H.!
In this video, I use accordion to accompany my original song Haul and Stack, about firewood, featured on my CD Joyful Confluence.
A few other links:
- extensive accordion history by Sheila Lee, as presented by Mike Hursey
- accordion history by Henry Doktorski, as presented by The Classical Free-Reed, Inc. (select History of the Free Reed Instruments, then Birth of the Accordion)
- Wikipedia‘s take on the piano accordion
- keyboard history from the Encyclopaedia Britannica