|Joan Grauman, AAA Historian|
And All Because of a Bumper Sticker
JoAnn Pankow and Art Piel
|Originally published in 2019 for AccordionUSA.com.|
|“Who is this crazy person tailgating me??”, thought my good friend and fellow accordionist, JoAnn Pankow. She was driving to the Carver Center in Purcellville, Virginia to return containers that she uses to prepare and deliver meals through the center’s home-delivered meals program.
The woman behind the wheel, Karen Michaels, was not going to give up. She pulled into the left lane of the road (yes, where oncoming traffic could be an issue!) and asked JoAnn to please stop. She did, and what a sweet meeting that turned out to be!! Why did Karen tailgate and stop JoAnn? Karen had been desperate to find other accordionists to play with her father. Then she saw JoAnn’s “I’d Rather Be Squeezin’” bumper sticker.
Karen’s father, Art Piel, is an accomplished accordionist. Art now has Alzheimer’s and has moved near his daughter to a dementia facility. Karen wanted to keep her father busy and fulfilled, so she signed him up as an official volunteer in Loudoun County, Virginia.
Karen and Art were on their way to — you guessed it — the Carver Center where Art would play accordion for an adult daycare group. JoAnn returned her containers, then walked over to where Art was playing the popular music of the 1940s. She sat at the piano and joined him. Art was so pleased!
“My father lives in the moment,” Karen said. “If it’s a joyful moment, he will remember being happy.” She spoke of her father’s love of the accordion and of music in general. Art taught himself to play the accordion at the age of 5, then took lessons on and off, but he mainly plays by ear.
Art worked on his sight-reading skills when the Connecticut Accordion Orchestra was formed. He loved playing with this group, then under the direction of Linda Soley Reed. Linda described Art as “the sweetest person I have ever met. He always volunteered to help with everything and anything and was always the first to arrive at rehearsals and performances.” It was sad for all when it became apparent that Art was losing his memory.
“My father is still physically fine, but the dementia has become very advanced. This doesn’t take away his passion for music and he still plays with feeling,” Karen noted. She asked JoAnn if she would consider accompanying her father again. JoAnn drove to the facility where Art now lives. His roommate is an accomplished guitar player and they frequently play together. JoAnn joined the duo playing the hits of the 40s. This time she brought her accordion. Art was thrilled!
Karen reflected on that first amazing meeting with JoAnn, which she feels was “God’s intervention.” Karen was running late that day, and she is almost never late for anything. “That car with the bumper sticker was RIGHT in front of me! If I had been on time....”