Festhalle 2020 Performers
Kevin Solecki was born and raised in Warren, Michigan. He started taking accordion lessons at the age of 6. At the age of 17, he joined a nationally known polka band from Pennsylvania, the Polka Family Band. After several extensive months of traveling the country with this band, Kevin decided to relocate to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania where he currently resides.
In 2005 Kevin recorded and released "Solecktions”, an album consisting of different styles of polka and waltz from around the world. “Solecktions” was nominated for a Grammy Award during the 2005-2006 season. Kevin has also released “Solecktive Sounds” and “Romantic Melodies”.
Solecki’s career highlights include performances on some of the world’s top cruise ships, a PBS Television documentary on the polka, a GRAMMY nomination for his debut album "Solecktions" followed by multiple visits to the GRAMMY Awards since, performances at some of the nation’s top Accordion Conventions, and a personal invitation from Harry Connick Jr. to help him perform at Pittsburgh’s historic Heinz Hall in June 2013.
The 23 years old award-winning accordionist Emmanuel Gasser lives in St. Charles, Ontario, Canada. He fascinated audiences everywhere, since the age of nine with his breathtaking performances. He is recognized as one of the best young accordionists in North America, winning numerous trophies and awards in many North American and International competitions, as well as representing Canada at the Coupe Mondiale, Trophée Mondiale, FIF Castelfidardo, IAWK Germany and IAC Switzerland. Recent awards include, First Place in the Carmen Carozza International Memorial Competition and First Place in the International Elsie Bennett Composition Competition hosted by the American Accordionists' Association with his compositions in 2016 and 2017. More recently, Emmanuel performed with Switzerland's best folkloric musicians during the famous Heirassa Festival and on National TV. He has also further developed his skills as a church organist and singer. Emmanuel has exceptional musical maturity, having composed over 50 original pieces. In the past he has studied with several world champion accordionists, especially with the late Alexander Sevastian. Emmanuel plans to further develop a career as composer and performer; performing solo, with ensembles and orchestras.
Barry Smith is a performer, conductor, and composer who began studying both accordion and piano while in 1st grade. In 2000, Barry earned a BM in piano performance from Wheaton Conservatory of Music. He then moved to Kansas City, where he taught private music lessons at the Celebration Academy of the Arts until 2006. During this time Barry did post-graduate studies at the UMKC Conservatory of Music. He accepted the position of Music Director at Oakwood Baptist Church in 2006, as well as the position of music program director for the Discovery Homeschool Academy in 2007, where he led classes and productions for 200 children. In 2012, Barry released a CD of original compositions entitled “Variations,” and also served as an adjunct professor at Longview College, teaching music history. Throughout his music career Barry has performed both as a soloist and in duos, on both the accordion and the piano. He, his wife Angel, and their three daughters currently reside in Spokane, WA, where he serves as the founding pastor for Connection Point Church.
Bonnie Birch and Fortissimo!
Bonnie Birch grew up surrounded by Italian relatives. Her maternal grandparents (Abramo and Adele Pennacchi) settled in Black Diamond, WA in 1907 from Garfagnana, Italy.
When Bonnie first heard the accordion at the age of 6, she immediately knew she had to have an accordion. The next day, her father went out and got her first accordion from the Stancato accordion school. Italian music always came naturally to her.
Fortissimo! consists of Bonnie (and fellow musicians) and one or more opera singers usually tenors and baritone. They perform Neopolitan classics and other tunes which were popular during the early wave of Italian immigration.
Performing at LIAC this year will be tenor extraordinaire Gino Lucchetti. Gino grew up in Chicago where his parents were both operatic performers. He is a popular featured concert artist singing a wide range both operatic and popular selections.
Gino and Bonnie both come from scientific/technical backgrounds and according to Gino, “a good scientist takes his science to an art and a good artist takes his art to a science.”
Zydeco Lowdown is a Pacific Northwest band playing traditional Zydeco from
Southwest Louisiana. This Band came together with people who have been playing Zydeco in the Puget Sound area for many years..
Zydeco is a high-energy, rhythmic, accordion-drenched music with elements of Caribbean rhythm, Creole and Cajun melodies, with some blues, country,
and a little rock-and-roll all thrown into the mix.
Zydeco Lowdown loves to play for dancers young and old. So whether you just want to tap your toes or get your groove on and kick up some dust, come-on out and hear Zydeco Lowdown lay down some authentic “Lowdown” Louisiana Zydeco for ya’ll right here in Leavenworth. Allons Zydeco!!!
Band members include:
Mark Myking on accordions, both piano accordion and the single row diatonic
Tina Tanaka brings her vocals and rubboard playing into the mix.
Randy Neal; Electric guitar.
Lisa Romaghlia on electric bass and vocals.
Cutts Peasley, Drums.
Beverley Fess is a Master accordion and piano teacher from Okotoks, Alberta, Canada. Classically trained, she started playing the accordion at age 6, was teaching by age 14 and conducting by age 17. She competed extensively and has had many award-winning students and ensembles. Besides teaching and performing, Bev is the conductor of the Spokane Accordion Ensemble.
Beverley is very proud of helping develop Michael Bridge to international competition level. She has trained teachers, adjudicated at accordion music festivals, served as conductor of several accordion ensembles and orchestras, served as a music examiner, sat on the executive committees of several accordion associations and runs frequent workshops. She is a founding member and current board member of the Accordion Association of Calgary, member of numerous other accordion associations and a current board member of the ATG.
Bev has dedicated most of her life to music education and promoting the accordion. Beverley recently celebrated 50 years of accordion teaching. In recognition of her time and dedication to the instrument was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Accordions & Teachers Guild International in 2016 and was awarded the Art Van Damme Education Award at the Las Vegas International Accordion Convention also in 2016.
Creosote is the accordion duo of Jamie Maschler and Gabriel Hall-Rodrigues based out of Seattle, WA. Together they play a dynamic array of original and world music. Maschler and Rodrigues are both seasoned musicians and have individually and collectively mastered their craft of performing, composing and arranging on the accordion. Expect to hear elegant and clever arrangements of new and old Brazilian and world music.
Jamie is based in Seattle, WA where she studied accordion under three-time Latin Grammy Nominee Jovino Santos Neto at Cornish College of the Arts. Brazilian culture inspires her current projects; Seattle’s only forró band - En Canto, and accordion duo with Gabe-Hall Rodrigues - Creosote.
Gabe Hall-Rodrigues is an Arizona-native accordionist, pianist and vocalist currently residing in Seattle, WA. He began playing the piano at age 7 and quickly realized his love for music and performing. In 2010, after only studying the accordion for a year, Gabe won the American Accordionists’ Association’s Virtuoso Solo Competition.
Richard Noel is originally from Portland, Oregon, where he studied under Eileen Hagen, but has since lived in Bakersfield, California where he was a Professor of Psychology. He has built himself a reputation in the world of Roland digital accordions because he has taken the time on each instrument to develop extensive sets, user programs (UPGs), and various orchestrations that have become somewhat standard in the industry for these instruments (FR-1X, FR- 3X, FR-4X, FR-7X, and FR-8X). These sound files are created with taste and orchestrational sensitivity that makes them some of the most sought after sounds in the industry by a great percentage of V-accordion owners. Richard is also an excellent performer on these instruments, and has dozens of videos on YouTube demonstrating those sounds in some very creative and crafty arrangements.