CHICAGO (CBS) — The accordion. Did you know people still play it?
And not just the beer barrel polka.
You can hear the sound of music from inside a suburban hotel ballroom at the 78th annual Accordion Festival in Lisle.
84-year-old Joan Sommers is the conductor. She leads dozens of musicians pushing, pulling and pressing their instruments who make up the orchestra.
They’re busy rehearsing for Saturday night, when they’re the stars of the festival. No messing when Ms. Sommers is up front, with baton in hand.
“I do take it seriously,” said Sommers. “If you want people to grow, you have to ask them to improve. They can’t improve if they play at the same level. You have to challenge them and make them better.”
Down the hall, workshops, competitions and informal playing take place.
Nick Ballarini grew up in Chicago, and now the accordion is his career.
“Picture a bunch of harmonicas inside. These keys open the valves,” said Ballarini.
11-year-old Nathaniel Troxell is from Barrington.
“If you press the button, it doesn’t work unless you pull it,” said Troxell.
Back in the big ballroom, Sommers continues her coaching and conducting with the precision of a drill sergeant.
She has no doubts about Saturday’s concert.
“It’s gonna be great, I know that.”
To catch the musicians in action, concerts are scheduled for Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 7:30. Check out the Accordion Festival website for more information on the event.