In Search Of…The Tri-State Accordion Club

An old time instrument is getting popular again thanks to a local group

Earl’s Grocery and Saloon in La Crosse is a relatively new bar with a very old fashioned feel. And on the second Tuesday every month, it also features an old fashioned sound as well.

For the past two years the Tri-State Accordion Club meets up over music and the love of an instrument that unfortunately over time has faded in popularity. Ron Reimer is the brainchild behind this club. “There’s actually accordion players coming out of the closet to renew this instrument.”

Heidi Barreryo is proof he’s not joking.  “I had an accordion pretty much sitting in the closet for 10 years. Finally I went in to Leithold’s and they gave me Ron Reimer’s name and I started lessons about 5 years ago.”

But no experience is needed here. The purpose of this club is for people of all abilities to come together. In fact the night we were there was Colman Silbernagel first night. “Growing up I always road around listening to my grandparents play polka music in the car. And I always thought it would be really cool to play the accordion and a family friend said, ‘hey I have one, you can have it.’ And so I took it. I tried to teach myself to play the accordion for about 4 years. And failed…miserably. I’ve been taking lessons from Ron for about a month now and it’s been wonderful. I’ve learned a lot.”

Tom Faella’s road to playing the accordion is an interesting one. “Somebody gave me an accordion at work. My job is to resolve the North/South corridor issue so I decided I needed something challenging to do. So I learned to play the accordion. And it was perfect.”

And while Raymond Mattison has the most years of playing under his straps, he’s actually one of the babies of this bunch. “I’ve only been coming here…this is my third time.”

To the untrained eye, playing the accordion can seem difficult. Truth is, even to those trained – it is! “So the one side is similar to the piano. So a lot of the club members have a background in piano and that side comes easily”  “The left hand is bass notes and chords.” “And that side is all by feel since you can’t see it.” “Your moving the bellows in and out at the same time so there is really a lot of coordination.”

“So then you are doing something different with your right hand then with your left hand…and all the time trying to make the bellows go in and out. So it’s pretty tough.”

They don’t always play perfectly, but the play together and that’s the point. “There’s always someone on hand to help you get started. It’s a very welcoming group and everyone is welcome whether you are playing your first note or you are a seasoned pro.”

“It’s awesome. It’s great. It’s really cool to hear how good you can really sound.”

“We’re really friendly. We don’t make fun of people that make mistakes. We all make mistakes. This is just for fun. Even if you are just beginning I encourage you to come in and play. We make music with whatever we got. When we play something really well it sounds like an orchestra. That’s what keeps me coming back.”

The group meets at 6:30 PM the second Tuesday of every month at Earl’s Grocery and Saloon in La Crosse. You can find more information on Facebook by searching for ‘Tri-state Accordion Club.’