History of the British College of Accordionists


Diploma Holders | Sr James Anderton Award The Seventh Decade (1996 - 2006) | Francis Wright Memorial Scholarship

BCA International and National Graded Anniversary Festival 2021

The British College of Accordionists was founded in 1936 by the late Dr. Otto H. Meyer, Chairman of Hohner Concessionaires Ltd, and the late Albert Davison, MA, MusBac (Cantab), FRCO as a cultural and academic opportunity for accordionists to improve their abilities and musicianship through examination.

A panel of examiners were appointed, including Matthyas Seiber, Captain James Reilly RMSM and Conway Graves. Eustace St. George Pett, ARCM LRAM succeeded Albert Davison as a joint-Principal from 1936 until 1939. Dr Meyer then continued as sole Principal until 1959, when Ivor Beynon, LRAM, LRCM, LLCM (TD), ABCA (TD), LBCA followed him as principal.

During the Second World War the Examinations were continued by the virtually sole work of Conway Graves, whose memory is much revered by all who had the privilege of knowing him.

At the end of 1963 the College entered a significant new era when Ivor J. Beynon established a new, improved Syllabus of examinations, now also catering for eight Grades in Written Theory of music, those from Grade V onwards providing a qualifying element for the Practical Grades from Grade VI onwards.

In 1964 the College moved to the Midlands, with Leslie G. Law, ALCM, ABCA (TD), LBCA, as the new Principal, and by 1965 a board of administration, under the Chairmanship of the late Francis Wright, was formed, and he began a re-creation of the College as a purely examining body, with a fully acknowledgeable Constitution.

By 1972 this was achieved, by the establishment of a Governing Council, under its first-ever elected Chairman. This was C. James (now Sir James) Anderton, CBE, CSt J, QPM, CBIM Hons. MRNCM, Hons FBCA, who piloted the college through its registration as a Company Ltd by Guarantee and a Registered Charity. The now late Lord Taylor of Mansfield, CBE, had already accepted the patronage of the College (1968), and he announced and instituted the new Constitution in the historic speech to the Teachers Advisory Council at the Grand Hotel, Leicester, in 1972. This officially ended its existence as an autocracy- allowing it to become its own master,
and run by a Governing Council. At the time the President was Ivor J. Beynon, and the Principal was Leslie G. Law ALCM, ABCA(TD), LBCA. Since that time the Chairmanship has changed twice, first to Eric L Haley, OBE, and then (currently) to Colin F.Cook, MA, FIL.

In 1982, on the resignation of Leslie G. Law as Principal, this appointment was accepted by Rosemary Wright, A.MusTCL, AMusLCM, LBCA (TD), ABCA (TD), LBCA, who has brought a deep dedication to bear on her work of the College, and had a continuing influence on the continuing standard and reputation until her resignation in 1999.

On the death of Lord Taylor in 1991, Sir James and Lady Anderton became the Patrons, and the College was honoured by the acceptance of the office of College President by the late Albert Delroy, Hon FBCA, CCAEP (Paris), Dip BNAF (Milan), the world famous professional Accordionist.

In 1993 the Governing Council, as part of its policy of streamlining the administrational and economic structure of the College, decided to in the future to employ its examiners on an individual basis, as private professional academic musicians. Today the official bodies of the College are the Governing Council and the Teachers Advisory Council.

Since 1965 the Examinations of the College have run in harness with those of the Leicester School of Music for the Guitar, Organ, Piano, Keyboard and other instruments. These have been held in some 55 centres throughout that time, and in usually around 30 in any one year. A large number of excellent organisers act as Local Representatives, and have earned the gratitude of the College for many years.

Well over 100,000 Grade Certificates have been awarded in the 60 years of the College history. The Golden Jubilee was held in the Cholmondeley Room of the House of Lords on June 5th 1986, when over 60 people took part in the great celebration, including Lord Taylor of Mansfield, who had made the location of the event possible, Lord Heycock of Glamorgan, Chairman of the Welsh Board of Education, and Sir John Farr, M.P. for Harborough, who had taken part in many College occasions in the past.

There have, of course, been many memorable and important occasions along the path of the College’s history over the years, including major Concerts such as those in the Central Hall, Westminster, and the Wigmore Hall, London- in the days when the College was domiciled in London, and those in the De Montfort Hall, Leicester, in the years since.

Many Weekend Teachers’ Courses have also been held, at the one-time University Road, Leicester, headquarters, and at historic Langton Hall, near Market Harborough, on the southern border of Leicestershire, and since then at the present headquarters at the address below. These have usually incorporated a Musical Evening - a tradition still carried out today.

Undoubtedly, however, one of the most important and satisfying occasions was that in 1992, when the great legendary Scottish folk-music accordionist, Jimmy Shand MBE, accepted the College’s invitation to become the 8th Honorary Fellow of the College (HonFBCA). The Conferment took place on July 31st 1992, at the home of the then Governing Council member Robert Spencer, Rossie Priory, near Dundee, before 70 people - representing the cream of the Scottish folk-music world. The Conferment was made by the Chairman of the College, Colin F. Cook, MA, FIL, and the event received major coverage from radio and television, thanks to the BBC personality Robbie Shepherd, friend of Jimmy Shand, accordion-lover and Scottish folkmusic authority, reflecting well upon the College and its work.

In 1996 the College celebrated 60 years. At that time there had been 422 successful Diploma candidates including only six to the highest award the LBCA (TD) which was instituted in 1972. In 1997 the Chairman of the Governing Council Colin F. Cook accepted the Honorary Diploma (HonFBCA). The year also saw the end of era with the sad passing away of Francis Wright, a man who had devoted over 30 years as Chairman to the Board of Administration of the College and who will be sadly missed by the whole of the accordion movement.

In the millennium year the college held a meeting of the TAC and newly formed ATA which was combined with a diploma reunion - diploma holders spanning over 50 years came together to share their important memories of what the accordion and college had meant in their lives.

In 1999, following the resignation of Rosemary Wright as Principal, the Governing Council appointed Mr Cyril Pasby ABCA (TD), LBCA as Principal, and in 2002, Mr Raymond Bodell Bsc (Hons), FLCM, AmusTCL, LBCA (TD), ABCA (TD), LBCA to the new post of Executive Director. Following the retirement of Sir James Anderton in 2002 - an award for Excellence was introduced for the candidate obtaining the highest marks in Grade 6 practical examinations. This has been awarded to candidates from Glasgow, Malta, Watford, and Yorkshire in recent years.

In 2002 and 2008 - Francis Wright Memorial Scholarships were held to support young accordionists continue developing their studies - Three players were selected each time for the finals - the 2002 winner was Larysa Bodell and for 2008 Julie Langton.

Unfortunately, 2003 saw the sad passing of Principal, Cyril Pasby. It was in 2005 that a new Board of Administration was formed which today consists of Raymond Bodell (Principal), Graham Laurie (Vice Principal), Alistair Gillespie (Senior Examiner), Anna Bodell (Administrator), Pauline Noon (Secretary) and Karolyn Broadhead (Assistant Secretary) - this team continues to ensure the promotion of the Accordion and that the accordion takes its rightful place in the world of Music in the United Kingdom.