Poor accordion! Despite its ubiquity in musical traditions around the globe, it clearly suffers from an image problem here in the United States, where too often it is subject to derision and ridicule. Fortunately, the bellowed beauty has a youthful champion—Cory Pesaturo—a musician on a mission to make the accordion “cool” again. And based on the reception he had at a recent series of concerts and university classroom visits in Chicago, his objective just might be within reach. In a conversation that stretched over an hour, Pesaturo shared stories about his years of accordion studies and performances, as well as the history of this fascinating instrument. Both Pesaturo and the instrument he plays share significant connections to Italian and Italian American history, and our talk touched on the central role that music plays in preserving cultural memory.

Pesaturo was introduced to the accordion at a young age by his father,...

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