Accordion to my heart

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Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

playing the piano accordion
Dr Kazoullis says “the pump action” is everything when playing the piano accordion.

When playing his piano accordion, Dr Steve Kazoullis of the Paediatric Dental Practice in Benowa, QLD, is linked to family tradition—and it’s a lot of fun.

“The piano accordion is responsible for me becoming a dentist. When I started at the University of Queensland, I was enrolled in computer science with plans of working with computers. I ran into a mate, Matthew Athanassiadis, who had just completed his first year of dentistry. We got talking and he said, ‘Steve, dentistry is great. You should do dentistry.’ Until then, I had no interest in becoming a dentist but Matthew had planted a seed. Two weeks into my computer science degree, I switched to dentistry. I first met Matthew at piano accordion lessons when we were kids. If I’d never played the piano accordion, I’d probably be an engineer today.

“Growing up in an extended Greek family, everyone played a musical instrument. My father played the piano accordion, my uncle played the violin, another uncle played the mandolin and at every gathering there was dancing and music. I wanted to be just like my dad so I started on the accordion when I was very young. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t play.

“The big challenge with the instrument is the bellows. You have to get the pump action just right because that’s what gives emotion and emphasis to the instrument. Varying the pressure and transitioning from in to out is what separates an artistic player from a technical player. There are limited octaves on the keyboard so you sometimes have to be quite creative when you play.

“I’m also involved in many other musical pursuits. It was a bit ridiculous that my band had three accordion players, so I learned to play the bass. I’ve always loved The Beatles and I liked learning some of those McCartney bass lines. I sang Byzantine chants in a choir which was also a challenge. Byzantine notation is on a different scale to Western music and doesn’t give an absolute note reference. It describes the quality of how you sing rather than the exact note. There’s a lot of leeway for artistic licence and a good choir master is a must. My dad was a carpenter and he came into possession of a harp that was smashed by an airline. He put it all back together and it’s been sitting in my living room for a while now. My next plan is to learn how to string it, tune it and play it. 

“My musical tastes are varied but I keep returning to the piano accordion. There’s a great deal of tradition with the instrument and a link between myself and my origins. My family’s been in Australia since the 1920s and the piano accordion is a nice way of remembering where we all came from.” 

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