Honorary Director of the 2000 & 2006 Cotati Accordion Festival
Age 91, revered accordion craftsman, loving father, trusted friend to many, passed away peacefully in his sleep on Saturday, September 29, 2012.
Vincent, the son of Italian immigrants, born on December 21, 1920, grew up in the North Beach area of San Francisco. There he began learning the art of accordion building, developing skills as a young boy that he perfected throughout his lifetime. His talent, coupled with a warm hearted, sincere demeanor, garnered him the respect and adoration of many who crossed his path. Upon serving honorably in the U.S Coast Guard, Vincent returned home after World War II. He traveled around the country for two years playing one of his specially made accordions on a train tour sponsored by the Knights of Columbus. In 1946 Vincent opened his accordion business in San Francisco where he began growing his business into a distinguished hub for musicians in the Bay Area and throughout the United States. He had an enduring career for nearly 65 years doing what he loved, and more importantly, surrounded by those he loved.
He is survived by his loving children, Diane Marie Smith and Vincent Felice Cirelli; grandchildren Sheri Ann Carter, Vincent Joseph Cirelli, and Vincent George Smith; great-grandchildren; Alyssa Ann Cirelli, Victoria Marie Carter, and Caden Carmello Carter. He is preceded in death by his loving wife of 49 years, Ann Victoria Pirolo, parents Felice and Carmella Cirelli, and his sister Alice Vorhis.
Family and friends may visit on Thursday, October 4, 2012 after 4:00 PM and are welcome to attend the Vigil service at 7:00 PM at CHAPEL OF THE HIGHLANDS, 194 Millwood Drive at El Camino Real in Millbrae. Private services and interment will be at Holy Cross Cemetery in Colma. The family suggests memorial contributions be made to the .
Chapel of the Highlands, Millbrae
Published in San Jose Mercury News/San Mateo County Times on October 2, 2012
My interview was conducted in July 2007, Penngrove, California at the annual Accordion Club of the Redwoods picnic.
This is a summary of that delightful conversation with Vince Cirelli.
December 21, 1920 – September 29, 2012
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