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Joan Grauman, AAA Historian As the organization’s historian, I have been writing historical articles on events that led up to the creation of the AAA and were important for the AAA. This includes some of its influential members, as well as special events throughout the decades, and more.
Joan Grauman, AAA Historian

Dr. William Morse – World renowned conductor/jazz pianist
returns to the instrument of his youth!

Originally published August 1, 2017 by

The 2017 American Accordionists’ Association (AAA) Festival that was held in Princeton, New Jersey, from July 12 to 16,2017 brought us delightful moments and surprises – and the festival orchestra experience was no exception! The orchestra members were totally delighted with our guest conductor, Dr. William Morse, Music Director and Principal Conductor of the Jefferson Symphony Orchestra in Golden, Colorado.

The piano accordion was the first musical instrument Dr. Morse studied and, lucky for all of us, he has returned to the accordion in recent years. Although he had never arranged orchestral music for accordion, the arrangements he prepared for our festival orchestra were absolutely exquisite and beautifully balanced for four accordion parts plus bass. We loved playing under the baton of this warm and gracious man, and the audience was dazzled – what a long, heartfelt standing ovation we received!

Dr. Morse also presented an excellent, well-prepared workshop on “Getting Around Stradella”. His handouts included several exercises on technique and on expanding one’s knowledge of the accordion’s harmonic possibilities.

AAA Festival Orchestra, Princeton NJ, July 2017, standing ovation by audience.

Dr. William (Bill) Morse was born and raised near Cleveland, Ohio. When he was six years old, his parents took him to a dance where a band was playing. There were two accordionists and one was the Grammy Award-winning polka king, Frankie Yankovic! Young Bill was fascinated by the accordions. The musicians invited him to sit on the stage where he remained all evening, mesmerized, while his parents danced.

Bill could hardly wait to begin his accordion lessons. By the age of seven, he was studying the accordion with Karl Kolinski, and remained his student through high school. During this time, Bill was also a serious student of several other instruments including piano and percussion. He had no doubt that a career in music would be in his future.

Bill received his bachelor’s degree in piano and percussion from Oberlin Conservatory of Music, his master’s degree in orchestral conducting, also from Oberlin, and his doctorate in orchestral conducting from the University of Arizona. He also studied for a year at the Mozarteum Academy of Music in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Morse is a retired Professor of Music from Metropolitan State University in Denver, Colorado, where he conducted their symphony orchestra, taught advanced conducting, orchestration, jazz piano and music theory.

left to right: L to R:  Eddie Monteiro, Joe Natoli, Dr. William Morse, Joan Grauman, Guy Klucevsek, Will Holzhauser,
Dallas Vietty, Jamie Maschler, Evan McPherson, Mary Tokarski and (front) Linda Soley Reed.

He is also Conductor Emeritus of the Evergreen Chamber Orchestra in Evergreen, Colorado and has had highly successful guest conducting tours in Russia, China, England, as well as the United States. As a renowned jazz pianist, Dr. Morse has performed all over the US with the Queen City Jazz Band, the William Morse Trio and has accompanied such greats as Wynton Marsalis, Billy Taylor and Doc Severinson.

In recent years, Dr. Morse “had a calling” to return to his roots and the accordion. He became close friends with Robert Davine, Professor of Accordion at Denver University, and was inspired and encouraged. After conducting several concerti for Mr. Davine, Dr. Morse decided to take up the accordion again in the early 2000s. He purchased a lovely used Titano Emperor from Faithe Deffner, had it tuned to A440 for use in orchestras, and since then it has been a “serious labor of love” in his musical endeavors. He has soloed on accordion with the Evergreen Chamber Orchestra, Jefferson Symphony Orchestra, Concord Orchestra (Massachusetts), and the Mahlerfest Orchestra (Boulder, Colorado) and looks forward to many more years with his “new found old love – the accordion.”

William Morse and Joan Grauman

I am thrilled to report that Dr. Morse plans to join the AAA next year as we celebrate the organization’s 80th birthday – but this time, he will sit with us in the orchestra under the baton of Professor Joan Cochran Sommers!

I was extremely touched when Dr. Morse said to me, “I am so delighted and honored to be part of this festival.” The AAA is so very honored and delighted that you have become a part of our organization, Dr. William Morse!!

Video 1:

Video 2:
Video 1: AAA Festival Orchestra conducted by Dr. William Morse performs Ritual Fire Dance by Manuel de Falla
Video 2: AAA Festival Orchestra performs Suite No. 3 in DM by J. S. Bach

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