for the Accordion|
National Education Association (NEA)
Chris Kotterman - May, 2004
As Pennsylvania member Joe Soprani will gladly tell you, the accordion is the most beautiful and misunderstood instrument in the world. For him, it's about more than folk music and polkas. It has been his passport to a life of unique experiences. Soprani, who was a band director in Philadelphia for 19 years, is also one of the world's foremost accordion players.
As a young man, he traveled the world to entertain troops as a performer with the USO and later with the Air Force Band, picking up the titles of US Accordion Champion and alternate world champion along the way. He's also performed as a soloist with the Philadelphia Orchestra.
"That was my dream, to play with the Philadelphia orchestra, and I did, when I was 18," he says. Since retiring from teaching in 1996y, Soprani spends his time performing locally and recording in his studio. He has arranged hundreds of pieces for band-including a tune used in Bon Jovi's 1997 world tour-orchestra, and accordion.
Though he has taken the accordion to new heights, Soprani himself remains firmly grounded. A military plane crash in 1953 while on the USO tour cured him of any desire to fly. His four years in the Air Force required him to travel the world by plane, but he has not flown since 1959.
"The would put me next tot he escape doors without even asking," he says.
Still, his preference for solid ground hasn't hurt his career. Soprani recently released his own CD of Italian folk songs, and next fall he'll premier his orchestral arrangement of "Carmen Fantasy" with accordion solo, and the Immaculata Symphony in November 2004.