Nelson accordionist will solo with Victoria Symphony

Rebecca Bracewell has been recognized as the best accordionist under 18 in Canada.

Rebecca Bracewell is travelling in uncharted territory. The 17-year-old Nelsonite is a classical accordionist, one of only a handful in the country and one of the best. And although it is almost unheard-of for an accordionist to solo with a symphony orchestra, she will be doing just that with the Victoria Symphony on August 2.

At the world accordion championships in 2013, Rebecca was named the best accordionist under 18 in Canada.

Floating stage

Each year Victoria’s  Symphony Splash event auditions youth soloists and chooses two to perform with the Victoria Symphony on a floating stage in the Victoria harbour for tens of thousands of people. This year Rebecca will one of those soloists.

She says the accordion is normally associated with various kinds of folk music but it is gradually making its way into classical and other kinds of music.

“Accordion is slowly coming back and it is getting cooler,” she says.

Rebecca plays a special kind of accordion called a Bayan, developed in Russia in the early part of the 20th century.

“Most traditional accordions only have chords on the left hand, but mine has an entire keyboard, and that means I can play anything a piano can play.”

She started playing piano at age seven. At 14, feeling uninspired, she gave it up.

“I decided I really like music but piano was not what I wanted, so I started playing the accordion. It felt more like me. It was different. No one I know plays it, so it was the uniqueness, and it is so versatile — you can play any kind of music with it.”

Living in her teacher’s house

Last year Rebecca moved to Victoria to attend school so she could study with the internationally recognized accordionist Jelena Milojevic, one of the few classical accordion teachers in Canada.

“I live with her and her husband and three kids. She is really young and cool, and very un-music-teacher-like, but she is very good at teaching. Outside of practice she is a friend.”

A role model

Milojevic told the Star that Rebecca’s upcoming performance with the Victoria symphony is big news throughout the accordion community in Canada.

“It has a tremendous impact on everybody. Young accordionists in Canada, this affects them, knowing they can get an opportunity to play with a symphony — they didn’t know it was possible. Rebecca has opened the door. They are looking at her as a role model.”

In 2013, Milojevic brought the world accordion championships to Victoria.

“It was a really high level of music,” says Rebecca, “and that is when I really got to see what was possible. I had hit a dead end because I didn’t see how far you could go with it, and then I saw those players.”

Discovering Piazzolla

It was the first time she had heard the music of Astor Piazzolla, the Argentinian composer who revolutionized tango music during the last half of the 20th century. That was a turning point for her.

“It is not too classical and not too folk. It is just perfect,” Rebecca says. “It is a classical spin on tango. For the Symphony Splash I will be playing two of his pieces — Libertango and Oblivion.”

Returning the accordion to acceptance

Rebecca says she plans to finish high school and travel to Europe with her accordion teacher, “to experience European accordion culture, because there is not a lot of that here.” She says accordion culture exists mostly in Eastern Europe.

After that, “I would like to be in a small ensemble to perform and write music, and to bring the accordion back into acceptance. There are only about five classical accordion players in Canada who play at a very high level.

Growing up in Nelson

Rebecca says Nelson produces many young performing artists because “people support each other here in a way that people can’t in big cities, and you experience a lot of art when you grow up here. You are immersed in it. You are healthy and happy. It’s safe, the people are amazing, it is beautiful and green. It’s such a great place to grow up.”

Just Posted

Craft cannabis development planned for Castlegar

Plans are underway for one of the first craft cannabis industrial parks in the province.

Abra Brynne wins Kootenay-Columbia Green Party nomination

Brynne is one of three candidates who will challenge MP Wayne Stetski

School district trustee reprimanded

Allan Gribbin was formally censured for comments and published statements

Stetski talks up NDP election platform

NDP candidate for Kootenay-Columbia riding outlines election ‘commitments’ to Canadian voters

Rossland council passes plastic bag ban despite legal questions

Appeal court ruling threw bylaw in limbo, but council voted to move forward

VIDEO: B.C. MLA Michelle Stilwell takes first steps in nearly 30 years

‘It actually felt like walking. It’s been 27 years… but it felt realistic to me’

Report of dead body in B.C. park actually headless sex doll

This discovery, made at Manning Park on July 10, led police to uncovering two other sex mannequins

Grand Forks fire chief found to have bullied, harassed volunteer firefighter: report

WorkSafeBC, third-party human resources investigation looking into allegations complete

Dog recovering after being drenched in hot coffee, B.C. man charged

Man was taken into custody, charged, and released pending a court date

Taekwondo instructor, 21, identified as B.C. bat rabies victim

Nick Major, 21, an instructor at Cascadia Martial Arts in Parksville

Science expedition to Canada’s largest underwater volcano departs Vancouver Island

Crews prepared for a two-week research mission to the Explorer Seamount

B.C. shipyard to get one-third of $1.5 billion frigate-repair contract

The federal government has promised to invest $7.5 billion to maintain the 12 frigates

Worried about bats? Here’s what to do if you come across one in B.C.

Bat expert with the BC Community Bat Program urges caution around the small creatures

B.C. on right road with tougher ride-hailing driver rules, says expert

The provincial government is holding firm that ride-hailing drivers have a Class 4 licence

Most Read