Honorary Director of the 2000 Cotati Accordion Festival
Vincent J. Cirelli
By Vincent F. Cirelli
Master craftsman Vincent Joseph Cirelli began to develop his skills early while growing up in the North Beach District of San Francisco. In 1920, the year of his birth, North Beach was considered the hub of the accordion culture and San Francisco was the center of a flourishing accordion manufacturing industry. Vince remembers the accordion factory of Guerrini & Company located within walking distance from the house where he lived as a young boy.
His informal introduction to the instrument began at the early age of ten. He recalls the sound of an accordion emanating from an open window while playing outside one day. “I liked the melodic sounds that I heard coming from the accordion.” Shortly thereafter, he began accordion lessons with Emilio Civita, a graduate from the Conservatory of Music in Milano, Italy.
By age 12, his growing enthusiasm for music and dedication to the instrument caught the interest of Faust Piatanesi of Colombo & Sons. Vince was offered a part-time job after school, and with his father’s permission began working as a shop helper at Colombo & Sons Accordion Corporation. This event would eventually direct young Vincent’s future to the accordion making industry.
During his attendance at Galileo High School in San Francisco, Vince continued to develop and refine the skills crucial in becoming an accordion maker. Attending both day and evening classes at Galileo’s woodworking and cabinet shop, he utilized every available resource for making accordion parts. Upon graduating in 1939, Vince once again returned to Colombo & Sons. This time however, working alongside master craftsman Mario Zanoni, Angelo Pietri, Chuck Zanoni, and master tuner Eric Gylling.
Returning home after serving four years in the U. S. Coast Guard, Vince established Cirelli Accordion Service in 1946. Initially, he began making accordion parts including bass and treble shells for Pacific Accordion. Later that year, Caesar Pezzolo, the well-known composer and teacher, appointed Cirelli Accordion Service to upgrade his imported accordion line specifically for the American market. The design revisions incorporated by Vince greatly improved the instrument and these changes were communicated to the factory in Italy. The accordion, La Melodiosa, was a success and considered by many artists, one of the finest accordions produced at that time. Vince also managed to complete the first of seven Cirelli accordions later that year. Deciding to “road test” his new instrument, he signed with the popular train tours of that time to entertain onboard while traveling across America.
Married in 1949, Vince moved his expanding business to another location in San Francisco. He focused primarily on repairing, tuning, and teaching the accordion. Contracted through West Coast Wholesale Music, H. C. Kessler, and Pacific Music Supply Co., Vince inspected and serviced virtually every new Frontalini, V. Soprani, and Galanti accordion received by these companies. If you have ever played or currently own one of these instruments from the Bay Area, chances are that the master craftsman himself subjected it to a thorough going-over.
In 1963, world-renowned recording artist, Michael Corino introduced Vince to Lee Deiro, owner of Pietro Derio Publications of New York. After several discussions, Cirelli Accordion Service became the exclusive West Coast distributor for Pietro Deiro Publications, one of the world’s largest accordion music publishing houses. That same year Mario and Edward Pancotti, of the Excelsior Accordion Company, established a full service Bay Area dealership through Cirelli Accordion Service. Vince sold and serviced the Excelsior accordion line to many fine musicians and recording artist for more than twenty-seven years.
Today, nearly sixty years later, this great-grandfather amazingly is still very dedicated to his enduring career with the accordion. He continues to provide the same high standard of specialized service including restorations of unique historical instruments. Vincent J. Cirelli is truly a master craftsman and many people throughout the entire accordion industry recognize him.
“I am eternally grateful to the San Francisco pioneers of the accordion manufacturing industry. Without their generosity and support I would not have been able to learn this fascinating trade. My life has truly been enriched by the many talented artist and kind friends that play this remarkable instrument.”
— Vincent J. Cirelli