Female Accordionists of the World and Their Legacy




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female accordionists and musicians

Even though in some countries accordions have been musical instruments predominantly associated with male folk musicians and singers, female accordionists not only are well-known accordion virtuosos but a lot of young female musicians are opting for an accordion as their instrument of choice these days.

In countries like Russia, China, Germany, and the Balkans region, female accordionists have left a significant legacy when it comes to not only folk tunes but classical music and various musical genres. A list of accomplished female accordionists is quite big but in this article, I will name just a few.

Pauline Oliveros

California native, Pauline started playing the accordion at age 10. As a young accordionist, she developed her musical ear and went on to master several musical instruments and even teach music theory as a college professor at UCSD.

Amongst many compositions and musical scores for the accordion, as well as the book titles, Oliveros is also credited for inventing the “Deep Listening Technique.” Pauline is one of many accomplished female accordionists in the US whose accomplishments popularized this wonderful instrument amongst women musicians.

Video courtesy of The Saturn Archives

Pauline played Piano accordions. Her favourite brand was Titano Cosmopolitan Italian-made accordion like the one below.

Loreena McKennitt

Loreena is a well-known accordionist, singer, and composer from Canada. As a trained classical pianist, Loreena embraced a piano accordion naturally and composed some amazing pieces that range from Christmas music to melodies that resonate with Arabic, Celtic and Spanish influences.

Her beautiful voice blends so harmoniously with the sounds of an accordion that we can with certainty say that they are a match made in musical heaven.

Video courtesy of James Cameron

Loreena’s favourite accordion brand is Giulietti Piano Accordion. They are superb quality Italian accordions that also be purchased in North America. Click on the button below for more info.

Radojka Zivkovic

Radojka (pronounced Radoyka) is not only one of the best female accordionists in Europe and perhaps the world, but she also holds the world record for having the longest career as an accordionist, spanning over seven decades.

A native of Serbia (where many accordion virtuosos come from), Radojka left an incredibly rich legacy in the world of Balkan folk and accordion music. She played a Serbian version of the Bayan button accordion known as “Dugmetara” and was considered a naturally gifted accordionist that often outperformed her male counterparts.

Radojka’s favorite accordion is Dallape Bayan, a B-system accordion. These are world-famous collectible accordions made in Italy.

Ksenija Sidorova

A native of Latvia, Ksenija is the world’s leading contemporary female classical accordionist. Described by New York Times as a “breathtaking virtuoso”, Ksenija is definitely a role model that younger girls should look up to.

She started playing the accordion at age six and has performed from Carnegie Hall to Royal Albert Hall. Ksenija has proved that accordions are definitely feminine instruments. She continues to perform with well-known music stars and orchestras all over the globe. For more info, you can visit her website.

Ksenija’s favorite accordion brand is the Italian-made piano accordion Pigini.

Eva Ybarra

A Texan born and raised with Mexican roots, Eva is often referred to as the “Queen of the Accordion.” She definitely earned that title with her hard work in a music genre of Conjunto music that is dominated by male performers. Eva started out early, at age four she was already taking piano lessons and at age six she was playing accordion tunes she’d hear on the local radio station in Texas.

With a musical ear developed at such an early age, It is no wonder that Eva became an accordion virtuoso and a professor of accordion music who recorded her first record at age 14. “I started by listening to the radio and I learn by ear, copying what I heard. But I did not want to copy anyone, I wanted my own style.” Ybarra said in one of her interviews. Ms. Ybara is considered one of the national treasures in Texas and the US and she continues to perform, teach and record.

Video courtesy of Los Del Valle

Patricia Bartell

A native of Bolivia, Patricia started her accordion journey at the age of 8. She has studied under accordion and piano masters for years and obtained her degree in music education and accordion performance from Whitworth University. As an accomplished accordionist, Patricia competed in various international accordion competitions.

She is now an educator and an accordion coach to accordionists of all levels and ages. She is the founder and owner of an online education and tutoring website Accordion Life Academy. She also helped develop the HOHNER teacher certified, Simply Music Accordion Method which is endorsed by the HOHNER Accordion company.  

Patricia is an ambassador of HOHNER brand accordions and she owns quite a few. They are her accordions of choice and she coaches her students on them and also recommends them as the best choice for a beginner as well as professional-level accordionists.

Merima Kljuco

A native of Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Merima is one of those multifaceted musical talents that are simply born to create magical tunes. She started playing the accordion at an early age and continued majoring in accordion studies in high school and college.

As a concert accordionist today, Merima performed with some of the most renowned orchestras all over the world. She composed several scores for film and theatre. Noteworthy is the soundtrack for Angelina Jolie’s film “In the Land of Blood and Honey.” She also performed with the “National Jewish Theatre” and has authored two popular books on Jewish and Bosnian folk tunes on the accordion.

Melinda West

She is a multi-talented instrumentalist who has performed with some of the biggest names in music. Her genius at playing accordion earned her credits for Hollywood Bowl and LA Philharmonic, then she wowed Disney California Adventure by joining Klezmer-fusion band that plays mostly Klezmer sounding tunes.

During UCLA studies, her award winning formative rock band We The Folk showcased on Royce Hall’s “A Tale of Two Lilies” featuring 15 piece chamber ensemble; which was followed up as singer songwriter leading Sugar Rum Tantrum to explore world stages through records & tours.

She’s an unstoppable singer-songwriter who captures hearts with her unique sound. Her band Sugar Rum Tantrum captivates audiences across the country, showcasing their spirited accordion melodies and upbeat folk beats during regular tours and records!

Video courtesy of Lovercraft

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