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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

Memories of “Mama Stella” Allison, Maryland

Originally published August 12, 2016 by

"While I'm Away" performed live by Stella Allison and Joan Grauman, composed by Stas Venglevski.
Click to play:
On Monday, August 8, 2016, my former duet partner and dear friend Stella Allison passed away after a lengthy illness. For all who knew Stella (and if you were ever in her presence, you knew and loved her!), she will be remembered for her joyous laugh, her great jazz renditions, and her total love for being with her friends in the accordion world.

Stella Werner Allison was born in 1929 in Maryland and remained a loyal resident of the state her entire 87 years. She began studying the accordion as a child with the celebrated Washington, DC accordion teacher, Sylvia Kaplowitz, and was the youngest girl to be invited to perform in Sylvia’s all girl band at the age of 12 (she is pictured with this band, third girl from the left, at age 13 in 1942). In their gowns, these young girls performed constantly during World War II to raise money for War Bonds.

Stella, 3rd girl from the left, 1942.

After graduating with a degree in music education from American University in Washington, DC, Stella took a 40-year break from the accordion to raise a family of four, and to serve in many political, community and church organizations. In her early 60s, Stella dusted off her old accordion, studied with Dr. Carmelo Pino and began soloing, mostly on the west coast, where her son Tom lives, for over ten years.

Picture above: Stella Allison 2006.
below: Stella Allison with duet partner Joan Grauman, 2007 at the Golden Gate Bridge.
Then, Stella met me. I was “retired” from playing for close to twenty years in a Balkan/Gypsy band and was basically not playing the accordion anymore. Someone put an accordion on me at a party and Stella listened. “I like the way you play and I want you to be my duet partner”, said the forceful, lovable Stella. I hemmed and hawed, Stella’s husband Roy put some sheet music in front of me, and Stella said, “Stop that FRITZIN’ AROUND, and let’s play!!”

From that moment on, our lives were never the same, and I feel very blessed! We toured the country together for 4 ½ wonderful years, playing our duets and making the audiences laugh at accordion camps, festivals, for the Northern Virginia Ragtime Society and many other venues and private parties. Actually, Stella made everyone laugh, as her sense of humor was totally delightful!!

When Maddalena Belfiore and Linda Reed asked the two of us to play at the 2005 AAA Luncheon Concert in Dearborn, Michigan, we worked very, very hard to do our best at this event. Even at that time, Stella’s physical health was declining, so we decided to do a live concert CD while we were “at the top of our game”.

In November 2005, we taped our concert live and the CD from that fun-filled evening sold out within months. We two “mediocre accordion ladies” were thrilled! This CD was recently re-released and can be obtained by contacting me at:

Stella had to put down her accordion by the end of 2008. We stayed close until the end, and enjoyed reminiscing about our magical years together making wonderful friends from all over the country and Canada.

I must add that the beautiful duet compositions by Stas Venglevski, to which Stella introduced me, were what motivated us to work for hours weekly during our first couple of years together.

Picture above: Stella Allison with duet partner Joan Grauman while performing for the Northern Virginia Ragtime Society in 2005.

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