In this episode of The Italian American Podcast, we speak with world champion accordionist Cory Pesaturo. We also interview Mary and Elise from the Italian Garden Project who are trying to preserve the wonderful gardening traditions of Italian-Americans via The Italian Garden Project.
Cory Pesaturo (“C Pez”) is one of only four accordionists to win World Championships on both the acoustic and digital accordion, and is the only person to ever also win a world championship on jazz. He is a graduate of the prestigious New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, MA, where he was the first musician ever to major and graduate in the accordion. Cory’s main contribution is his visionary thinking of how the accordion should be used, played, and presented in modern music. He has given a TED Talk about this, which is currently the only talk in the world about the accordion.
Pesaturo’s extensive resumé includes appearances at the White House for President and Mrs. Clinton on four different occasions, beggining at age 12, including eight other appearances for the Clintons since 2000 and 14 letters from the first family. On one of those occasions, he became the youngest person to ever perform at a State Dinner, performing with the Marine Strolling Strings for the President of Hungary. Some television appearances include the Late Show with David Letterman playing with Johnny Depp, the Columbus Day Parade in New York City and nationally televised programs in New Zealand, Canada, Italy, Tunisia, France and Finland. On an American broadcast, then-CNBC host Maria Bartiromo once said, “No one is currently doing more for the Accordion than Cory.” Cory currently gives master classes on both music theory and the accordion at various universities throughout the U.S. and Europe.
A win at 16 years old in a concerto competition at the New England Conservatory of Music gave Pesaturo the rare opportunity to perform with the Brockton Symphony Orchestra as a featured soloist, where he became the youngest accordionist to ever solo with a symphony orchestra in the US back in 2003. Concerning his Jazz side, Cory recorded two CDs with saxophone legend George Garzone and his known band “The Fringe” at age 19 and has performed with jazz and music legends Quincy Jones and Wynton Marsalis. His performances at all three of his World Championships were played on accordions that were not his and were generally 90% improvised; both aspects are unheard of in the accordion world.
“Love what you do and do what you love. Don’t listen to anyone else who tells you not to do it….” – Ray Bradbury
- “Rhode Island is 50% Italian, so there were accordions everywhere.” – Corey Pesaturo
- “Once 7 o’clock came it didn’t matter if the game was over, it was Lawrence Welk time.” – Cory Pesaturo on Sunday dinner at his grandparents
- “My success was because of my Italian upbringing.” – Cory Pesaturo, world champion accordionist
- “The old Italians were so strong and thick skinned.” – Cory Pesaturo, world champion accordionist
- “My father wasn’t the most educated man, but he knew the value of hard work.” – Dolores Alfieri on her Italian immigrant father
- “It is the lifelong goal never to have a 9 to 5.” – Cory Pesaturo, world champion accordionist
- “I am trying to make the accordion cool again.” – Cory Pesaturo, world champion accordionist
- “You want to make Italians achieve something, tell them they can’t do it.” – Cory Pesaturo, world champion accordionist
Here are some key points from the episode:
- Pesaturo talked about the importance his Italian upbringing played in his ascension to world champion accordion player. His father continued to push him to get better, no matter what accolades he won.
- Pesaturo talked about how the accordion was very popular when his parents were younger, but in today’s world accordionists are very rare. His goal is to bring attention back to the accordion by playing it in a modern way.
- Pesaturo talked about some of his biggest accomplishments, which include playing accordion at The White House and on The Late Show With David Letterman.
- Pesaturo played his accordion during the interview.
- The mission of The Italian Garden Project is to celebrate the joy and wisdom inherent in the traditional Italian American vegetable garden, preserving this heritage and demonstrating its relevance for reconnecting to our food, our families, and the earth.
- Mary and Elise from The Italian Garden Project visit with post World War II Italian immigrants to document their gardening procedures. This documentation includes photos and their specific gardening routines. They then share that information through their website.
- To help The Italian American Garden Project you can visit Italian American gardeners o make a donation here.
Anthony Fasano and Dolores Alfieri
Co-Hosts, The Italian American Podcast