Maestro Anthony Galla Rini

The Cotati Accordion Festival’s 1991 Honorary Director

Excerpts from Biographical Sketch by Willard A. (Bill) Palmer

Anthony Galla-Rini was born in Manchester, Connecticut, on January 18, 1904. His father, John, was a bandmaster who had a great influence on Galla-Rini’s early musical development. Although John Galla-Rini was himself only a mediocre musician, he, nevertheless, driven by visions of stage success for a family act produced by himself, carefully trained his children to perform on the vaudeville stage. Anthony’s father began teaching him the comet at the age of four, and then at the age of seven, accordion lessons were added, also taught by Anthony’s father. Anthony’s two older sisters were already playing the violin and comet, Anthony Galla-Rini. Clotilde playing the violin and Victoria playing the comet. Since John Galla-Rini played several instruments himself (accordion, comet, euphonium, and guitar), he used the collective talent of his family as a means to escape his job in Manchester at the silk mill. He quickly discovered that the audience loved to see children on stage and that they were willing to pay handsomely to see them perform, so he created a very successful road show that featured acts with himself and his children. In those days, John Galla-Rini and son Anthony appeared on stage under the names ”Palo and Palet,” fictitious names John had created. This invented name was still being used as late as 1921 for the recordings on the VOCALION label by the Aeolian Company. The name appearing on those records was A. PALET GALLARINI.

Although the vaudeville acts were quite successful from a business standpoint, it is evident from today’s perspective that the children’s welfare was not a primary concern to John Galla-Rini. His principal objective was to earn a living – any way he could – and the use of his children’s labor, in whatever way was expedient, and culturally accepted during those times. He refused to pay his children anything for their work, giving them only the bare necessities of clothing and shelter. This continued until Anthony reached the age of 14; at that time he rebelled and refused to goon stage without any pay. Today, Anthony Galla-Rini holds no animosity toward his father for any misfortune or loss of opportunity that he may have had during his childhood. Indeed, it appears that any temporary misfortune, whatever it may have been, was somehow offset by other life experiences and training during that period. When reflecting on this early experience, whether good or bad morally, one cannot help but reflecting whether there would be a Maestro Galla-Rini today had it not been for his father and the childhood vaudeville act.

During the 21 years from 1911 to 1932, Anthony Galla-Rini played the Keith, Orpheum, and Interstate Circuits, as well as Pantages and Loew Circuits. Many of his performances were broadcast in all the major cities from coast to coast in the USA and in Canada. The last theater he played was the Palace in New York City at the time when vaudeville had begun its decline. During the same period, Anthony had learned to play the piccolo, flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, French horn, trumpet, trombone and tuba, including all of these instruments in his act, along with the accordion.

In 1932 Galla-Rini abandoned all the other instruments, except the accordion (which was his first love), and he decided to concentrate on a career with significantly different objectives than those that had been inculcated in him by his father and that subconsciously persisted long after John Galla-Rini’s personal influence and domination were no longer present The objectives that Anthony wished to stress for the remainder of his professional career were: 1. To teach the accordion as a professionally recognized instrument, 2. To exploit the full potential of the accordion, 3. To compose and arrange music and 4. To promote the accordion in the concert field where he felt it truly belonged.

In achieving his first objective, Galla-Rini opened his first studio in San Francisco where he experienced great success teaching the instrument he loved. Also, in this beautiful city of San Francisco, he met and married another love of his-life, the former Dina Louise Petromilli, daughter of Pasquale Petromilli, owner of the famous Guerrini Accordion Factory. In 1936 Dina Louise gave birth to a son, Ronald Pascal, who is today a prominent nondenominational minister.

While Galla-Rini taught principally in San Francisco, he also established branch studios in the surrounding areas, hiring some of his outstanding students to run them. Galla-Rini lived in San Francisco until about 1936, at which time he and his family moved to New York City. One of the reasons for his move was to further the other career goals that he had set for his life. He had come to believe that these career objectives could best be achieved by moving to New York City where most of the music publishers were located.

In 1938 Galla-Rini was chosen as one of the original founders of the American Accordionists’ Association (AAA) in New York City. However, due to a professional disagreement, Galla-Rini resigned from the AAA after the majority of its members voted in favor of a single note annotation for the bass staff versus full chord notation. Indeed, Galla-Rini felt strongly about this matter but he did not harbor any ill feelings toward those that disagreed with him. In other areas the AAA, in agreement with the American Teachers’ Guild (ATG), adopted his system to employ “Circles” and “Dots” as a practical shorthand means for identifying the registers and corresponding reeds sounding for the bass and treble keyboards. He also introduced the terms bass, tenor, contralto, alto and soprano as names to indicate the five sets of reeds in the left hand keyboard. Both of these recommendations were accepted by the joint committee of AAA and ATG.

Today Anthony Galla-Rini resides in California where he is very active in promoting the accordion. With his many accomplishments and world-wide recognition as the foremost leader in advancing the accordion, is it any wonder that he is known the world over as “Mister Accordion”? The world will probably never again see another accordion master as Anthony Galla-Rini.