The International Accordion Initiative (IAI) is on of our most exciting programs. As we begin our process, I thought the membership of NAAC would get energized and excited about this program by learning a little bit more about the plans and concepts behind.
Kayla Allen Lescure is the founder and chair of the program. Below is a short digital interview I conducted with her to help you all get to know more about what is in store in the future!
1. What are the unfulfilled need(s) that exist for accordionists (yourself included) that the IAI program will meet?
[Kayla] We need more opportunities to participate in workshops from various artists and teachers, as well as the possibility to witness great performances that can be a rich source of inspiration. The IAI exists to heighten the awareness of accordion - both within and outside of the accordion communities now across the U.S., and to cultivate an exchange with the incredible musicians in France, Italy, Spain and Portugal, as well as other countries (Brazil, Ukraine, Russia). We want to import the talent and technique emerging from these countries. Our goal is to reach out to musicians and non musicians - people who aren't aware of the vast possibilities of this instrument. Most music lovers are crazy about the accordion. We'd like to place artists in music festivals that aren't affiliated with the accordion - as one way of creating awareness. Eventually, the idea is to create a stronger infrastructure on our home turf, getting the accordion into more schools and in the hands of children, so that the awareness can expand into the future with our younger generations.
2. What will your initial programs with the IAI look like?
[Kayla] The focus is to create a welcoming environment for guest teachers and artists from abroad. From that awareness we will eventually build a strong, communicative network amongst us all in order to develop and implement regular workshops and performances. Youth outreach is so important, but we need to create a stronger infrastructure in cities that have small or no accordion communities, and build on existing infrastructures for the places that do, in order to harness the support needed for these kinds of programs. Obviously any kind of program will need funding - so the idea is to seek out resources through cultural exchange organizations, consulates for whichever country an artist might be from, corporate sponsorships, etc.
3. What are the cities/regions you are targeting right now for the program to begin?
[Kayla] I'm reaching out to existing accordion organizations and regional associations across the U.S. I live in Los Angeles so I'll certainly start here. And the great news is, of the international accordionists I've spoken to, they all WANT to come to the U.S. and are completely open to traveling here. I grew up in Louisiana and there is already an accordion culture there, specifically in south Louisiana - even though Cajun and Zydeco are stylistically so different, it's a culture that's open to all music and it makes sense to bring international artists there. Nashville is a great target, because of its strong community of professional musicians. Those are a few ideas, but as I said, we're happy to work with any organization or association in the U.S. that has the desire to bring in a guest artist/teacher.
4. Is there anything you are allowed to tell us about the contacts and prospects you’ve made so far?
[Kayla] Christophe Lampidecchia who recently won the Gus Viseur award for his recent album "Douce Joie" is working with the director/producer for UN music, Robin diMaggio. We are in the process of finding funding to get him to Los Angeles to record and perform. Other contacts are under wraps for the moment, until we are able to confirm certain arrangements, but very exciting.
5. What inspired you to start the IAI?
[Kayla] Seeing the amount of talent in Europe and everything the artists, both established and up-and-coming, have to offer. I recently participated in a workshop at the Centre National et International de Music et d'Accordeon in France. Jacques Mornet is a giant amongst pedagogues in Europe with a focus on musicality above all. He has taught in Russia and China for years and students in those countries vie for grants every year to come and study with him in Auvergne. The teachers on his staff are outstanding. They're passionate and demanding, with a very high standard and a strong methodology. We can borrow from them in the best way. The students he's trained are regularly competing in international competitions and are highly gifted. They have so much to offer. I'm also inspired by seeing beautiful performances from artists like Richard Galliano and Christophe Lampidecchia, who won the Prix Gus Viseur last year for his latest album.
6. Is there anything else that you would like the North American accordion community to know about what is going on with IAI?
[Kayla] For the moment it's all about support and communication. The IAI is also open to any suggestions - we are here to act as a liaison between the U.S. and the international accordion community and to facilitate the interaction between the two.