Article inspires generational transfer of musical instrument

Boy gifted with Italian-made antique accordion

Boy must grow into this accordion
This Dallape accordion will get a new lease on life thanks to a gift from a local senior to a Los Gatos boy. (Submitted)

When Virginia Primon was a shy teenager in the 1950s, playing accordion was something that got her onto a community float, to serenade people along the streets of San Jose during a community parade.

After going to college to become a teacher, she just didn’t have time for it anymore. And it was really too heavy for her anyways.

“I loved playing accordion,” said Primon, who now lives in Los Gatos and will celebrate her 80th birthday later this month. “I’ve turned to playing the piano now.”

She’d begun getting rid of her old sheet music, while the antique accordion languished in storage.

But when Primon picked up the Sept. 29 issue of the Los Gatan and read the story of Colin Kennedy, the 11-year-old local boy who was recently honored with a scholarship by the prestigious Cotati Accordion Festival, she knew it was time to give her treasured item a reprise.

“I read about Colin Kennedy in the Los Gatos paper today. I have an accordion that I think he should have,” she wrote to Michael Zampiceni, Kennedy’s teacher. “I played it when I was a young woman, then it became too heavy for me and I could no longer play it.”

Dallape is a genuine Italian accordion manufacturer which has been in the business since 1876. Its models can fetch thousands of dollars on the used market.

The accordion weighs about 25 pounds—much heavier than the Scandalli model Kennedy currently plays, which is just 15 pounds.

When Zampiceni reached Colin’s mother Natasha Lyukevich, she understood the weight of what this meant for her son.

“This gift is a great honor, inspiration, and responsibility for Colin,” she said. “Colin will have to grow into it.”

They drove across town to Primon’s home to go pick it up.

“I was just blown away by it,” Kennedy said. “Then, she started telling us about the accordion.”

The accordion gifted to Colin Kennedy is much bigger than the model he currently plays. (Submitted)

Primon’s mother paid about $1,000 for the instrument back when she lived in the Rose Garden area of San Jose, she explains.

“She never should have got it because it was way too heavy,” Primon said, adding it was her accordion teacher who’d talked her parents into the Italian brand. “It meant a lot to me.”

Primon studied at the Figone Accordion School under Lou Figone and Angelo Sparacino, who were known around the region for regular performances on “The Italian Hour,” and other radio shows—like the “Farm Report” in Watsonville.

“I loved it,” Primon said, looking back to her younger years. “I belonged to the accordion band.”

Lyukevich said her son was excited to be recognized for his musical passion. She knows this is the beginning of a new journey—restoring an antique.

“It needs to air out,” she said, adding it exudes history and soul. “It definitely feels like it needs to be brought back to life.”

“I was just blown away,” Colin Kennedy said about the gift he received just days after his birthday. (Submitted)

Colin couldn’t be happier about this chance to delve into Italian history, second-hand.

“Not only did she give us this accordion, but she also gave us this folder with all this old sheet music,” he said, adding one was actually by his teacher’s father—who composed the song he performed recently in Cotati. “It’s just amazing.”

One of the pieces of sheet music given to Kennedy was actually arranged by his teacher’s father. (Submitted)

Colin said he just wants to be the best accordion player he can be, and says the first step to nursing the Dallape back to health will be to let his teacher examine the priceless possession.

“I’m really looking forward to playing it,” he said. “My focus right now isn’t on expanding my horizons—it’s on refining my skills.”

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Drew Penner is an award-winning Canadian journalist whose reporting has appeared in the Globe and Mail, Good Times Santa Cruz, Los Angeles Times, Scotts Valley Press Banner, San Diego Union-Tribune, KCRW and the Vancouver Sun. Please send your Los Gatos and Santa Cruz County news tips to [email protected].