Marian Kelly

Honorary Director of the 1999 Cotati Accordion Festival

A long-time musician and self-described accordion activist, Marian Kelly has been involved in Cotati’s annual festival since its beginning in 1991.

Marian especially enjoys seeing young people play the accordion and is delighted to hear the accordion turning up more and more in a wide variety of contemporary music. Although her personal tastes tend toward the classical, she feels that the accordions expansion into rock and pop music is a sign of the instrument’s popularity and durability. (Another sign of its future durability, Marian points out, is that the accordion is Y2K compliant.)

As Marion sees it, the fun, entertaining nature of accordion music translates well into a wide variety of musical styles. In her words, a lot can happen “under the accordion umbrella.”

Her interests in the accordion has strong roots in her childhood, where playing the accordion helped her overcome her shyness as a young teenager. Bored with the piano, Marian began accordion lessons at age 12 at the Pizzitola Music Studios. By age 14 Joe Pizzitola had taken her under his wing and she was already teaching for him (to her Mother’s dismay). She was a featured performer with Joseph F. Pizzitola’s 50-piece Plectro-Accordion Symphony Orchestra.

In addition to building her confidence, the accordion introduced Marian t life beyond Northampton, the rural town in western Massachusetts where she was born and raised. Since her family didn’t travel, the orchestra provided her with a chance to see people and places that would otherwise have been beyond her reach. She played in a wide variety of settings, from a formal concert with the orchestra in New York City’s Town Hall with Andres Segovia as a guest artist, on the “Show Train” that took people to Broadway shows, where high-schooler Marian wandered through the cars and played requests as passengers talked, sang and partied!

Marian considers herself “a dabbler,” but the truth is that she’s a woman of strong and varied interests, which she throws herself into with an uncommin level of enthusiam.

In the mid ’70s she founded and operated T-Shirt Town, a chain of stores that anticipated the later popularity of T-shirts bearing images. She has also run a travel agency, worked as an accountant, and done tax preparation.

Squeezed between accordion and businesses came four children, all musical (of course) and, she reports, highly intelligent and interesting people who keep her relatively current with the hi-tech world nad of whom she is very proud.

Over the past eight years, Marian has held various offices for the BAAC and is currently president of the organization. Since Marian has been involved with BAAC, its membership has grown tenfold … from about 30 in 1991 to more than 300 today. She is still teaching, attending international accordion eventsk and is currently exploring several accordion-related business ideas.

“The accordion is challenging me to find a way to get behind its renaissance and push,” she says, “One of these days, I’ll decide what I want to be when I grow up, but it’s a big effort.”