We like to think that each performer at the Cotati Accordion Festival experiences much more than their hour set on stage during the weekend. What they end up discovering is a whole culture of accordionists from  a vast number of  genres and a park full of sophisticated music lovers. Along with that discovery they find the  networking, the general feeling of joy, and the benefits of a multicultural experience.

   This year we had 30 acts, but among those acts were international  performers that were in Cotati, and  in California, for the first time. For Tracey Collins from New Zealand, Elena Stenkina from Moscow, and Yasmine Azaieaz from Tunisia, the Cotati experience was in their words, unforgettable, joyous, and an event that they will always want to return to.

   However, the C.A.F. experience did not end on Sunday, August 20th, for Elena, Yasmine and Tracey.   They proceeded to  team up with Cory Pesaturo and  carried the festival aftermath with them, as they traveled through Calfironia, ending up in Los Angeles. For Elena and Tracey it was an eye opening experience being in California for the first time. Fortunately for them, they had the  tour guide extraordinaire, Cory Pesaturo, to guide them through the sights and sounds of the Golden State.

     The first thing they did was to go for a drive through the redwoods, which for Tracey is especially interesting since they have redwood forests in New Zealand! From the redwoods it was a short drive to take in the sights of San Francisco where  they filmed Elena playing atop Twin Peaks, looking like she was floating above the City by the Bay. Next, having unpredictable preferences as first timers in San Francisco, these internationalists first went to the Candy Store at Fisherman’s Wharf and Boudin’s for the bread.

     After exploring San francisco they hit the road again. Normally Cory would be taking Highway 1 to L.A., ,but since it was closed in spots they went route 5 for their eventual  introduction to  the City of Angels.

Cory took them to the sights of Griffith Park, a Dance Off and the famous Dance Dance Revolution at Santa Monica Pier, and then to Leah Zeger’s home for an all night jam session.

    Yes, it was the same Leah Zeger who performed in 2022 with Cory at our festival, and she was generous with her hospitality as her home filled up with some of the top L.A. jazz players, members of the L.A. Accordion Club, friends of Cory’s from the MIDI world, and even a few guests who weren’t musicians. The house guests all came to experience the talents of Elena and Tracey and to enjoy the rare session of Leah Zeger and Yasmine playing their violins together. From what I understand the after party went into the wee hours and the music never stopped.

     However, Cory was not done with them yet. The next night he took them all to the Hollywood Bowl for a memorial Concert for Wayne Shorter hosted by Herbie Hancock and a great collection of Jazz legends. . In the middle of the show, and unannounced,  Herbie, brought out Carlos Santana and Joni Mitchell to perform.. For Tracey and Elena it was not a bad way to be introduced to their first California experience. 

     Naturally, Cory, who is an intense lover of fast cars, had to give them his idea of an L.A. driving experience by renting a Tesla Plaid in order to zoom around the Hollywood Hills. Elena not only loved it, but they filmed her playing her accordion as Cory took advantage of the Tesla’s 0-60 in 2.1 seconds speed while racing through the mountains. Fast times in the accordion world!

     After she got back to her home in New Zealand, I asked Tracey what her experience was like while playing at the  festival and taking the music on through the state. Tracey replied, “I had so many highlights over the weekend, meeting so many amazing people, including the talented artists, the incredible team running the festival, and the lovely people who attended the festival. The whole Cotati team was so organized and they made the festival run super smoothly behind the scenes. They really made you feel like you are part of the festival family”.

     As for Elena, she was so appreciative of Liz Finch(vice president of the Accordions Teachers Guild) putting them up in her home during their stay in LA. As for Cotati, “it was very inspiring to perform in Cotati, to have people love what I am doing on stage, and to see that there are thousands more people in the park who love the accordion as I do”.

    We will definitely be having them back again in the future.

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