Squeeze Play

Harrison Price, 11, of Freeland, has found playing the accordion to be an award-winning and record-setting musical hobby. - Cynthia Woolbright
Harrison Price, 11, of Freeland, has found playing the accordion to be an award-winning and record-setting musical hobby.
— image credit: Cynthia Woolbright

Don’t even try to get him into lederhosen. Harrison Price won’t have anything to do with the traditional European shorts with colorful suspenders.

“No, no, no, they’re not for me,” he said.

Don’t try telling Price that accordions are only to be played by oompah bands and old folks. He won’t hear any of it.

Price is out to break some stereotypes that surround his favorite instrument. And the 11-year-old is already breaking world records while he’s at it, too.

He was one of 644 players to help break the world record July 7 for the largest accordion ensemble.

The new record was set during the annual North American Old Time Accordion Festival in Kimberly, B.C., that was held the first week of July.

“They shattered the previous record,” said Holly Price, Harrison’s mom.

A massive ocean of accordionists played six songs two times in a row. Holly Price even took part.

“I play the piano so I was at least able to move the bellows and play the right hand,” she said.

Last year the accordionists tried to break the record, but only 567 played. This year they nailed it and Harrison couldn’t be more happy to have been a part of it.

“It was all so loud. It was awesome,” he said.

While at the festival, Price placed second in the 12 and under category. With a score of 88.1, he was nudged out of the win by six tenths of a point.

He would have taken first if it wasn’t for that darn lederhosen.

Michael Bridge, a lederhosen-wearing 12-year-old from Calgary was the kid to beat.

“He’s got the hat and everything,” Harrison said.

But Price doesn’t have to worry about Bridge and his lederhosen next year because the elder Bridge is moving up an age bracket. Harrison knows the drill and what it’s like to dominate younger accordion playing counterparts. During his first festival competition last year, he placed first in a division of 10- and 11-year-olds.

Of the three songs he’s required to play in each competition, Price’s favorite from this year was his piece de resistance — a waltz he plays called “Under Paris Skies.”

Each accordionist at the competition is required to play a waltz, a polka and a schottische.

Price’s polka was “Tyrolean Echoes,” while his schottische was, well, what’s the name of that one again?

Price always forgets the title, he even forgot the name in competition – which he figures got him docked a few showmanship points – but it wasn’t any big deal.

“Rustic Dance,” he said. “That’s it.”

Each player’s performance is judged on technical ability, whether it has an “old-time feeling” and whether the professional dancers on stage find it danceable.

“I’m just up there trying to play good music,” Price said of his style. “And to see what faces my mom is making.”

Those faces are few and far between. Holly Price makes them when her son makes a mistake. Talking about them makes Harrison laugh.

“I can see them from across the room,” he said.

While Jim Tobler, his accordion instructor, often picks out the songs for his young apprentice, it’s Price who makes them his own with all original arrangements.

In the living room of his family’s Freeland home, he makes quick work as he plays samples of some of his competition songs. He sits with confidence and plays with even more.

“I like moody, flowing songs,” he said. “Plus they’re easier to rearrange.”

Harrison said he prefers the Italian and French waltzes.

Price began playing the accordion a little over two years ago after a trip to Switzerland with his parents, David and Holly Price.

It was a reunion trip of sorts for Holly, as the Prices stayed with the same family that welcomed her as a young high school exchange student.

It was while in Switzerland that Harrison found a new love while watching his host family’s neighborhood band — the accordion.

“It was just really cool,” Price said. “It’s a great instrument. You’re a one-man band.”

Just two weeks after returning from Switzerland, Harrison began accordion lessons. The family visited Petosa Accordions in Seattle, one of the world’s leading manufacturers and distributors of the instrument.

“They make around 90 percent of the accordions in the world,” Holly Price said.

It was there that Price met his current instructor. A couple of weeks later, Harrison was already playing songs.

Harrison said playing the accordion is pretty easy to pick up: There’s only really three things to know. You’ve got to keep the bellows moving (that’s the folding part in the middle), you’ve got to when and which bass pegs to hit with your left hand, and you’ve got to know how to play a melody on the keyboard with your right hand.

“He just gets it,” Holly Price said. “Since day one he just sat down and was able to play.”

Harrison previously played the piano, he currently plays the drums, and has begun to learn the saxophone. It was his piano experience that helped give his playing a boost, Price said.

He now practices 30 minutes a day and heads to Lynnwood once a week for a lesson with Tobler. He has now joined the ranks of few.

“There’s not many accordion players around,” he said.

Since he began, Price and his accordion have become perennial fixtures on the local young talent and music scene. He’s become a regular at the annual South Whidbey talent show and often plays local festivals like last weekend’s Loganberry Festival and the annual Choochokam Festival of the Arts.

“I really like playing the markets,” he said.

At the festivals, such as the recent one in Kimberly or another accordion favorite in Leavenworth, Price attends workshops and jams with a ton of other accordion players of all ages from around the world.

“I love that part,” he said.

When he’s not playing the accordion he likes to listen to rock — usually with a slight punk edge. Bands like Green Day and Simple Plan are among his favorites.

But even when listening to the radio, Price said people shouldn’t be surprised if the music they’re bopping their head to has accordion in it. Eminem, John Mellencamp and Jewel are just a few of the current artists utilizing the instrument, Holly Price said.

While Price said he won’t be taking accordion lessons his whole life, he does admit to always wanting to keep the accordion around.

“It’s good for people, it’s good for young people to play, it’s good to keep it going,” he said.

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