Songbird Series – Bird Branch Interviews – Skyler Fell

Click here for interview with Ginger Murrary.

About Accordion Apocalypse


The accordion is a musical instrument of the handheld bellows-driven free reed aerophone family, sometimes referred to as a squeezebox.
The accordion is played by compressing and expanding the bellows, while pressing buttons or keys to allow air to flow across reeds, thereby producing tones and chords.
(literally: the lifting of the veil), is a term applied to the disclosure to certain privileged persons of something hidden from the majority of humankind.
Main PersonalPicture
Skyler Fell is an accordion repairwoman, tuner, sales person, inspirator, and teacher at San Francisco’s Accordion Hub, The Accordion Apocalypse Repair Shop. Professionally trained by master craftsman and accordion builder, Vincent Cirelli of Cirelli Accordion Service, and Boaz of the former Boaz Accordions. Skyler offers accordion sales & online store, tuning & repair, accordion workshops, and admission to the San Francisco Antique Accordion Museum. Available by appointment.
Skyler also performs with many groups of talented friends, as “The HoboGobblins”, HUMANWINE, and also assorted trio’s and circus troupes. She has played many venues including Slims, Amnesia, The DNA Lounge, The LA Accordion Festival, The SF Accordion Festival, The High Sierra Music Festival, Burning Man, The San Francisco Accordion Club, Silicon Valley Accordion Society, Circo Romani at Cellspace, Lucid Dream Lounge, The Dreamtime Circus, The Autonomous Mutant Festival and the world famous Cotati Accordion Festival. She can also be found playing at local street parades, bart stations, and farmer’s markets. She is currently working on putting a new SF Accordion Festival together in 2010 to host awesome accordion bands and fans, and bridge the gap between accordionists in the bay area.How the Accordion Apocalypse Started:
In the late 90’s after seeing talented musician Danyella aka. The Little Prince in the awesome all girl psycho cirkus punk band “Cypher in the Snow” at 924 Gilman Punk Rock Collective in Berkeley. I was hooked. “Where do I find such a beautiful and emotion producing instrument?….and so close to my Ukranian roots.” I soon stumbled upon the wonderful “Boaz Accordions” on Sacramento St., and asked if I could do a “work/trade” cleaning and organizing accordion reeds by pitch for my first accordion lessons and a borrowed a little accordion to practice on.
Later I visited Europe, and stayed with Danyella at this amazing squat and played at a free winter circus class, in Amsterdam. At the school we practiced and learned juggling, playing accordion, massive jump ropes, stretching, unicycle, and all kinds of fun stuff. We would go out and busque on the squares and busy streets. What new exhilirating joy!Upon my return to the Bay Area, I found a broken accordion in the Cyclone warehouse in the industrial district of San Francisco. I new exactly where to take it! I again visited Boaz Accordions at their new larger location across the Bay, and asked for a repair estimate. Then I started a payment plan bringing them $20/week for my first accordion repair. After a cordial visit from me every week, and learning of our shared metalworking background, interest in fixin’ stuff, and love of Klezmer music, eventually Boaz Rubin took me under his wing and offered me an accordion repair apprenticeship. Boaz and Judy Rubin put me to work turning little tiny brass buttons on the jewelers lathe for a concertina, doing bellows repair, and refreshing the wax and leathers on older accordions.One year later, Boaz got offered a job in Richmond, Virginia working with “Hohner”, and left quickly to take the job. I helped the Rubin’s move and worked with them 24 hours a day 7 days a week to pack up both their shop and home. Since they left years ago, I have continued to service the accordion community by opening The Accordion Apocalypse Repair Shop. Where I take appointments, do all kinds of accordion repairs, tuning, and teaching. In addition I study 2 to 4 days a week with my mentor, 87 year old accordion builder Vince Cirelli. I have found passion in the accordion and the friendly surrounding community and work hard at my accordion shop “The Accordion Apocalypse Repair Shop”, blossoming since the move out of a farm house garage in Oakland, into a larger better suited warehouse studio right by Candlestick Park in San Francisco’s Bayview District (Open January 2006).

Since at the Bayview location, The Accordion Apocalypse Repair Shop has expanded to include a large showroom with both new and used accordions and accessories, an online store, museum cases with beautiful antiques, a well organized repair center, group workshops and rentals for beginners, racks of books and sheet music to peruse. Specialties include antique re-builds, and small sized piano accordions.

For the past 3 years Skyler has been studiously apprenticing with Vince Cirelli. Here is some interesting information about this talented, amazing, and warm hearted accordion hero.

Skyler’s Mentor Vincent J. Cirelli of Cirelli Accordion Service-
Master craftsman Vincent Joseph Cirelli began to develop his skills early while growing up in the North Beach District of San Francisco. In 1920, the year of his birth, North Beach was considered the hub of the accordion culture and San Francisco was the center of a flourishing accordion manufacturing industry. Vince remembers the accordion factory of Guerrini & Company located within walking distance from the house where he lived as a young boy.

His informal introduction to the instrument began at the early age of ten. He recalls the sound of an accordion emanating from an open window while playing outside one day. “I liked the melodic sounds that I heard coming from the accordion”. Shortly thereafter, he began accordion lessons with Emilio Civita, a graduate from the Conservatory of Music in Milano, Italy.

By age 12, his growing enthusiasm for music and dedication to the instrument caught the interest of Faust Piatanesi of Colombo & Sons. Vince was offered a part-time job after school, and with his father’s permission began working as a shop helper at Colombo & Sons Accordion Corporation. This event would eventually direct young Vincent’s future to the accordion making industry.

During his attendance at Galileo high school in San Francisco, Vince continued to develop and refine the skills crucial in becoming an accordion maker. Attending both day and evening classes at Galileo’s woodworking and cabinet shop, he utilized every available resource for making accordion parts. Upon graduating in 1939, Vince once again returned to Colombo & Sons. This time however, working alongside master craftsman Mario Zanoni, Angelo Pietri, Chuck Zanoni, and master tuner Eric Gylling.

Returning home after serving four years in the U. S. Coast Guard, Vince established Cirelli Accordion Service in 1946. Initially, he began making accordion parts including bass and treble shells for Pacific Accordion. Later that year, Caesar Pezzolo, the well-known composer and teacher, appointed Cirelli Accordion Service to upgrade his imported accordion line specifically for the American market. The design revisions incorporated by Vince greatly improved the instrument and these changes were communicated to the factory in Italy. The accordion, La Melodiosa, was a success and considered by many artists, one of the finest accordions produced at that time. Vince also managed to complete the first of seven Cirelli accordions later that year. Deciding to “road test” his new instrument, he signed with the popular train tours of that time to entertain onboard while traveling across America.

Married in 1949, Vince moved his expanding business to another location in San Francisco. He focused primarily on repairing, tuning, and teaching the accordion. Contracted through West Coast Wholesale Music, H. C. Kessler, and Pacific Music Supply Co., Vince inspected and serviced virtually every new Frontalini, V. Soprani, and Galanti accordion received by these companies. If you have ever played or currently own one of these instruments from the bay area, chances are that the master craftsman himself subjected it to a thorough going-over.

In 1963, world-renowned recording artist, Michael Corino introduced Vince to Lee Deiro, owner of Pietro Derio Publications of New York. After several discussions, Cirelli Accordion Service became the exclusive West Coast distributor for Pietro Deiro Publications, one of the world’s largest accordion music publishing houses. That same year Mario and Edward Pancotti, of the Excelsior Accordion Company, established a full service bay area dealership through Cirelli Accordion Service. Vince sold and serviced the Excelsior accordion line to many fine musicians and recording artist for more than twenty-seven years.

Today, nearly sixty years later, this great-grandfather amazingly is still very dedicated to his enduring career with the accordion. He continues to provide the same high standard of specialized service including restorations of unique historical instruments. Vincent J. Cirelli is truly a master craftsman and many people throughout the entire accordion industry recognize him.

“I am eternally grateful to the San Francisco pioneers of the accordion manufacturing industry. Without their generosity and support I would not have been able to learn this fascinating trade. My life has truly been enriched by the many talented artist and kind friends that play this remarkable instrument.” – Vincent J. Cirelli

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