Photo by Jay Hudson
By Christa T. for Accordion Americana Austin, Texas is home to one of the most diverse musical landscapes in the United States. The accordion has always had a role in the local music scene from the advent of the town’s German Beer Halls in the 1800’s, through the evolution of Tex-Mex music. Because of this presence, the accordion is alive and well represented in Texas music, today.
One of the most popular and respected Texas accordionists is Debra Peters. For the last 24 years, she has consistently performed in Austin and all around Texas with her band, Debra Peters and The Love Saints Band. Debra is a career singer, songwriter, accordionist, pianist and session musician. Also, well-known in Austin as a teacher of the accordion, she is an entrepreneur, producing and marketing her own music recordings and accordion educational videos.
Women musicians who have their own bands are rare. But, a woman musician with the professional longevity that Debra Peters has shown, are all the more rare. Monthly, for the last 2 decades, Debra Peters has appeared at the legendary Broken Spoke in Austin. Also, throughout that time, Debra and her band have toured Europe, Japan, Mexico, North America and Hawaii. Debra Peters and The Love Saints Band were featured at the International Accordion Festival held in San Antonio, Texas. They are scheduled to appear at the upcoming 2016 Texas Folk Life Festival in Austin. This marks the 32nd anniversary for Texas FolkLife, which was started in 1984. The festival presents and honors the diverse cultures and living heritage of the Lone Star State. Tex-Mex and Zydeco/Cajun music are represented in The Love Saint’s Band’s repertoire along with Americana, polkas and other dance music. The daughter of a Canadian railroad engineer, Debra enjoys performing a selection of railroad songs, as well.
As an accordion educator, Debra has presented workshops every year for the past 12 years. ” I am a lifelong music student as well as a lifelong music teacher. Around every corner, there is always something more and great to learn!” Her vision of producing and marketing her own accordion educational videos came out of a workshop held in Las Vegas. Upon viewing an accordion lesson video done by another accordionist, Debra remembered that, as a child, she was introduced to the piano by a lesson video on VCR. At that moment, she determined that she would create her own lesson videos. “It was almost like I was stung by a bee!” Immediately, she went to work to produce an educational video and, in 2005 created The Blues, Chords and Chops. The reaction from her students was positive and in 2007, Debra created The Blues ,Chords and Chops, Volume II. Since then, she has produced and marketed other video accordion lessons, including one that focuses on bass patterns for the Stradella bass keyboard, 25 Bass Patterns. It was a lot of work for the already busy musician to “write and present the lessons, film and edit them, design the covers, produce the actual copies, set up the mail system, build a website, and do the marketing.” She persevered, and today sales from her web site are healthy and she has plans for more lesson videos.
Her enthusiasm for the accordion and her passion for people is evident. Debra strives to encourage others to play the accordion, especially girls and other women. A hardworking professional musician, Debra Peters is inspired, not only to entertain, but to empower others who seek to become skillful accordionists locally and in places far away from her Austin, Texas home. Update: Debra Peters and The Love Saints Band have been invited to participate August 20-21, 2016 at the Cotati Accordion Festival, Cotati California.
Love Saints Music, Austin Texas USA
Photo by Ed Steele
By Christa T. for Accordion Americana I have been playing the accordion for years, and now I am writing about the accordion. I have been listening to those musicians who currently perform as professional accordionists and I am trying to foresee how the accordion will be played in the future and envision who is going to make this instrument important, again. I have not found any accordionist yet who, I believe, may hold the future of the accordion in his or her hands, until I heard Ginny Mac.
Hailing from Fort Worth, Texas, Ginny Mac is a former member of the two-time Grammy Award winning group named Brave Combo, based in Denton, TX. Brave Combo has been noted for its rabid cult following across the country, a notable fan being David Byrne, who chose them as his wedding band. It was a good vehicle for Ginny Mac to begin her professional career in 2011 because, as Paste Magazine noted, “Brave Combo, is…eclectic and artistically ambitious, with a high degree of musicianship and a strong DIY ethic.” Since 2013, she has performed with her own band, and divides her time between Los Angeles and Texas.
Unlike some bands that feature a keyboard player who may whisper a few well placed right hand chords but never goes near the bass keyboard of the accordion, Ginny Mac is all over the entire instrument. She is unafraid and unapologetic of the fact that she is an excellent musician and a dynamic entertainer. In recent memory, it’s unusual to see an accordionist play while singing solo, and to do both, well at the same time. Ginny Mac combines both voice and instrument, masterfully, with each complementing and supporting the other. She has a beautiful, sultry voice that lends itself well to the songs that she chooses to perform. In spite of the enormity of her accordion on her small frame, a seriously full sized Scandalli, Ginny Mac is seasoned, comfortable and confident on stage. For her range of proficiency and performance, a smaller accordion would likely be inadequate.
When she is not busy with an active touring schedule, Ginny is writing and arranging new original music for an upcoming album and collaborating on multiple musical projects. With a repertoire that covers vintage country,(‘I Fall to Pieces’) Orbison, (‘ Blue Bayou’) Texas Swing, Jazz, Gypsy Jazz, Parisian style accordion and everything in between, it’s taken for granted that Ginny can play and sing anything.
Ginny Mac has recorded four albums; the newest released in Spring 2014, “On The Street Where You Live,” is a collection of classic tunes and originals, featuring many of her friends and greatest musical influences. The project includes Grammy Award winners Woody Paul and Joey Miskulin (Riders In The Sky), legendary Nashville fiddler Buddy Spicher, the great bassist Bob Moore (Roy Orbison), and several of Nashville’s premier musicians. “It was an unforgettable experience,” she says, “I was fortunate to learn so much and make music with these wonderful people.”When she is not busy with an active touring schedule, Ginny is writing and arranging new original music for an upcoming album and collaborating on multiple musical projects. Lately, she is concentrating on the music of Queen and her hero, Freddie Mercury, who inspired her to perform (and also to refuse to have her own overbite corrected).
While it’s easy to see the accordion’s place and performance in history, it’s more difficult to determine what the future holds for the accordion in popular American music. Will it grow in popularity as an acoustic instrument, or evolve into a futuristic instrument with a totally different sound, or just fade away? I believe that it is a brand new day for the accordion in American music. In my search, I have found that the accordion is more present than ever in the “people’s music” in America, Country, Pop, Rock & Roll, Jazz, Alternative, and all kinds of ethnic music and even circus music. Ginny Mac is performing in many of these genres. Whatever direction she decides to take the accordion, or not at all, that is the way the future of the accordion will go, as well. I’m looking forward to seeing her evolve as an entertainer and also seeing the accordion accompany her on her journey.