As a classically trained professional jazz pianist and piano teacher who has been studying accordion with Henri Ducharme for over a year, I would highly recommend him as a teacher. There are several other accordion teachers available who live much closer to me, but I drive about an hour and a half every week to study with Henri because of my great respect for his knowledge of his instrument, his highly developed teaching skills, and the wealth of information he has about aspects of the accordion that seem to be only available through contact with someone such as he who has dedicated himself for decades to the serious study and performance of his instrument.
— Michael Whiteley
The relation between teacher and student is an intimate one, and we should all choose our teachers with care. Three things that distinguish my accordion teaching:
1. Teaching Repertoire: This is a Palmer-Hughes Free Zone
The Palmer-Hughes Accordion Method is the only real published accordion method in English, and it was great for children forty years ago — it’s what I started on — but it was never a method intended for adults. For adult learners, the P-H topics are not well-sequenced, the repertoire is unmotivating, and the pacing is inefficient. I use Palmer-Hughes occasionally for a trip down Memory Lane with my students, or for sight reading practice, but for regular teaching repertoire I use a variety of music, sequenced for adults, such as:
- Folk music from Eastern Europe to Brazil
- Arrangements of music from Amelie
- Compositions written especially for students
- Arrangements of early Punk Rock hits
- Accordion duets written and arranged for students
- Some classical (Bach is a great workout for the left hand)
excerpt from September 11, 2001, written for beginning students
2. “I didn’t even know there was such a thing as classical accordion.”
I started accordion at age five, 1962, when I received a red twelve-bass accordion under the Christmas tree. My father played and his father played. I began with quick and dirty half hour lessons at a music store on 87thth Street in Chicago bursting with accordion and guitar students. After three years my father was dissatisfied and switched me to a teacher of classical accordion, with whom I stayed until I left for college. When I was twelve, we added weekly music theory lessons and piano lessons. I am grateful for the classical foundation I received, as good technique is relevant no matter what genres of music I play. Unfortunately, I’ve met too many students who have previously learned a hodgepodge of bad technique. Then if they want to get better, there is nothing to do but unlearn bad habits. Better to get it right the first time.
3. Being Able to Perform is not the same as Being Able to Teach
For twenty years, I have taught mathematics from Kindergarten through college students. Math and music have at least one unfortunate thing in common, that they are both subjects in which a lot of children (and children who’ve become adults) have learned to feel that they are incompetent. “I’m not good at math” comes from the same mindset as “I never could play a musical instrument.” I am grateful for my math teaching career; it has greatly enriched my accordion teaching.