Sheri Mignano Crawford

2019 Honorary Director

I feel honored and humbled to be included among some of the world’s most notable and revered accordionists. They represent an astonishing group of musicians who have made unique contributions to the Cotati Accordion Festival and to the world of the accordion. As I survey the three decades of great accordion music at the festival, I consider myself lucky to be among such good friends and colleagues, some of whom are no longer with us. I am indebted to those pioneering squeezers who inspired me. I’ve written dozens of biographies of accordionists who have been my personal heroes. We owe so much to them and must always remember how they paved the path for the rest of us.

My musical training began in a Sicilian ghetto called “Goosetown” in downtown San Jose. I studied with Angelo Zappacosta at George Gregorio’s “G & G” accordion studio. My sister and cousins started their studies in this bunker-style building where we were introduced to sophisticated arrangements of classical music, fun marches, mazurkas, and polkas, and lots of great Italian music. The accordion band arrangements usually derived from O. Pagani music catalog and Frank Gaviani arrangements among other well-known accordionists. Great teachers and excellent arrangements combined with selecting an appropriate accordion that matched my skills and abilities.

My music studies included flute and piano which led me to a baccalaureate in music history and literature. It was my accordion that put me through college and graduate school as I strolled with it and waitressed in Italian cafes and restaurants. In 1973, I began teaching college humanities classes and retired in 1998. In the classroom I always found it useful to demonstrate historical themes with musical examples on the flute, accordion or piano. I wholeheartedly believe that familiarity with music should be in every student’s life.

I have been fortunate to have accrued lots of experience playing in ensembles. Saturday concerts under the direction of Fabio Giotta at Caffè Trieste in North Beach provided many opportunities to develop my technical chops. As a result, I began to front my own bands; in addition, I have been fortunate to play accordion and flute with mandolin groups, orchestras, and dance bands. For the past twenty years, I have concentrated on being an accompanist for vocalists who specialize in Italian canzone, French chanson, and the American Songbook. There is no greater pleasure than to work with dedicated musicians who take art songs seriously but with fun-filled enjoyment.

I consider my fundraising role as Coordinator for the Cotati Accordion Student Stage an important accomplishment too. The CAF board shows its support and the generous festival goers invest in the students and donate to this younger generation. There is no greater pleasure than to see students, their parents and teachers grinning from ear to ear while holding a scholarship check. A sincere thank you to the CAF Board for nominating me as this year’s honorary director and a special thank you to all the festival goers who have contributed to the accordion students!