18th Annual Las Vegas International Convention Review

Attendees picked up their name badge, program book and packet of materials Monday, October 23 and were treated to a free drink in Club Concerto with the music of Gina Brannelli.  At 6:30 PM the doors opened for the dinner and welcome concert.  That evening we heard from Steve & Michael Trucco, a father and son duo.  They were followed by Cory Pesaturo in a very special performance including Ken Seiffert on Bass and Rich Delabio on Drums.  Cory did a musical tribute to many famous American Accordion Legends including the late Tony Lovello and Dick Contino and played on the personal accordion of Guido Deiro.  It was a touching and phenomenal experience.  One particularly touching moment was when he brought his father to the stage to join him in a duet of Come Back to Sorrento.   Cory brought the audience to its feet several times and it was a great beginning to this year’s event.  That evening was more music in Club Concerto where the attendees were the stars!

Tuesday, began with classes – three classes offered each hour from 9 AM until Noon.  The classes were very well attended and there was great excitement amongst all the attendees.  At noon we had lunch followed by a special dedication program to Dick Contino.  First, we heard from Pete Contino (son of Dick Contino) who played and sang a few songs in tribute to his father.  Then we heard from Judy Contino (wife to Dick Contino) and she shared with us the history and life of Dick Contino.  It was a very touching and special hour.  After lunch Tuesday it was to Master Classes followed by the first day’s rehearsal of the orchestra with Joan Sommers.  Then there was a break to freshen up for the evenings events!

Tuesday evening, we gathered for dinner in the Arizona Ballroom and enjoyed fresh salmon.  First on the concert stage was Mary Tokarski who entertained us with some great Magnante arrangements and other songs that the crowd enjoyed hearing – taking us down memory lane of the Golden Age of the accordion in the USA.  Then Grayson Masefield finished out the night with an amazing performance of first classical pieces and then he proceeded to a lighter music and brought the crowd to their feet for several encores.   The youthful energy of both Cory and Grayson was noticed and the artistry of both though different was absolutely astounding – you had to be there to really appreciate these two young stars.  Then it was off to a very busy evening at Club Concerto where more people enjoyed the afterglow of the first full day of the event.

Wednesday, more classes, again three offered each hour during the 9, 10 and 11 o’clock hours.  The classes were full and there was a great excitement and already people were lamenting that there  is only one more day!  Lunch was followed by the presentation to Gordon Kohl of the 2018 Honorary Conductors Award.  Then past conductors were invited to the stage and we had a delightful hour listening to discussions from Pete Barbutti, Gina Brannelli, Gordon Kohl, Walter Ostanek, Joan Sommers, Mary Tokarski, Stas Venglevski and guest Grayson Masefield.  The hour with these stars seemed to fly by way too quickly.  Then it was back to Master Classes and orchestra rehearsal.

Wednesday evening was a costume Ball with dance music by Gordon Kohl.  It was great night as many attendees came in wonderful costumes.  We saw witches, colorful outfits of all kinds as well as Victorian costumes. The costume contest winner that evening was Jerrilynn Comollo dressed as the Queen of Hearts.  After the dancing and the awards for best costume we heard an outstanding concert from Kim & Dan Christian who did some wonderful songs from John Williams and even some fun polkas. For a couple of their songs they had with them Rob Patterson playing timpani on Concerto accordion as well as Rich Delabio, Richard Steichen and Dan Wright all on percussion.

Between acts Paul Pasquali gave a very special double award to Joan Sommers for having TEN years of incredible music.  Joan has conducted the International Accordion Orchestra since 2008 and every year has ended the show with an amazing musical grand finale.  First Paul presented Joan with the Gilded Key Award (actually a trophy with a gold accordion case key).  The second part of the award was having Joan unlock the accordion case to find a special handmade baton in an engraved wood case.  It was a touching event to which Joan announced she would return next year to do it all again – and Paul as well announced the date: October 15-18, 2018!
Stas Venglevski then took the stage and wowed us with a great performance with a variety of songs and brought the house down with a duet performance with Cory Pesaturo – the humor as they put on RED ACCORDIONS and RED HATS plus the music was a fantastic performance.  What an incredible evening of music and heartfelt accordion comradery. 

Thursday – back to morning classes – then lunch with a short performance by Gail Campanella, a presentation of appreciation from Linda Warren and John Martin to Paul Pasquali for 18 years of organizing the Las Vegas International Accordion Convention.  Then we laughed as our friend Pete Barbutti told jokes and kept us entertained.  There was a magical feeling in the air – but also a feeling of where did the last three days go.  Back to classes and a dress rehearsal for the orchestra in the main ballroom. 

The Gala Dinner Concert began at 6:30 with a wonderful prime rib meal followed by a magical night of entertainment.  First on stage for a short fun performance was Grayson Masefield, who also included a fun disco medley. Next we heard a humorous musical performance by Corky Bennett.  Then there was a raffle drawing for the over 100 people who registered for next year’s event.  Velma Conte was the winner of the FREE two night stay and $100 food and beverage coupon to next year’s event (October 15-18, 2018). Then the International Orchestra took to the stage with full symphony percussion section.  Professor Sommers then picked up her baton and the magic of a full accordion orchestra began.  All that can be said is what an incredible rich sound.  The performance included a great medley of songs from La La Land arranged for accordion orchestra by Liz Finch.  Then for the grand finale Joan brought to the stage Cory Pesaturo, Grayson Masefield and Stas Venglevski for a rousing rendition of Lady of Spain as a tribute to Dick Contino.  You really had to be there to experience the grandeur and excitement.  What a great finish to a magical four days in Las Vegas!
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