Luke Persson takes a moment to focus before drawing his arms apart, then moving them inward. A steady sound escapes from the accordion he cradles in his lap as his fingers flit from the orange and white keys on one end, and from the 120 tiny yellow buttons on the other.
Luke is only 12 years old, but he is self-assured when he talks about his passion: playing the accordion. Inspired by his late grandmothers, Ann Abar and Sharon Hann, who both played accordion, Luke decided he wanted to play the quirky instrument as well.
“I listened to them and it looked like a lot of fun,” he said.
With $400 of his own savings, Luke bought his own accordion two years ago. He practices for an hour each day of the week, and takes lessons via Skype with an instructor from Okotoks.
He plays the regular gamut of traditional songs like the polka and waltz, but he also watches YouTube videos online and teaches himself how to play pop songs by watching other players. Learning the accordion came to him fairly easy, Luke said, as he already had previous experience playing the piano and reading music.
Donning a hat given to him by his grandfather, Luke recently took to the stage at the 38th annual Kimberley International Old Time Accordion Competition, where he was the only competitor from the Columbia Valley. He impressed the judges with his polka, waltz, schottische, and duet, and took home two first place and a third place trophy for his age category.
“I’m usually nervous before I start playing at a competition,” Luke said. “I’m up on the tall stage looking down on three judges. I try not to look at the judges.”
During a competition, Luke is judged on his note accuracy, as well as his ability to keep the correct speed and rhythm.
When playing the folded instrument, Luke’s main goal is to have fun, he said.
With his prize money of $1,000 from the recent competition, Luke is now on the hunt to upgrade to a newer accordion. He is also awaiting the return of Max Fanderl and Penny Powers, who are currently competing in a cross-alpine paragliding competition in the Swiss Alps and are trying to find a set of traditional lederhosen for Luke to don during competitions.
Luke is entering Grade 8 this September, and is hoping to learn how to play the bass in Mr. Constable’s band class.
He lives in Windermere with his parents, Cheri and Ken Hann, and his siblings, Jake and Angela.