Sunday, May 22nd 2011, 2:30 PM - UMKC James C. Olson Performing Arts Center
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Concert Review - 50th Annual Spring Concert
We thank you for visiting the UMKC Community Accordion Orchestra website and this review of the 50th Annual Spring Concert held in Kansas City on May 22nd, 2011 at the James C. Olson Performing Arts Center.

The University of Missouri Kansas City (UMKC) Accordion Orchestra presented a spectacular and final concert on Sunday, 22 May, 2011 in front of a capacity audience at White Recital Hall on the UMKC Campus, celebrating 50 spectacular years of music making under the leadership of founder and musical director Joan Cochran Sommers.

Although Joan Sommers will continue to organize and present accordion concerts of various genres in the Kansas City area, the 50th Anniversary Concert marked the final concert of the UMKC Accordion Orchestra, and attracted many alumni from across the country to rejoin the group to celebrate this historical event.

As part of the weekend activities, almost 100 alumni from all years of accordion activities at UMKC had a fun fill and emotional celebration dinner, where each guest, during the course of the evening stood and spoke of their adoration for Joan Sommers and the wonderful memories of their affiliation with the UMKC Accordion Orchestra.

The orchestra presented its first concert in the Spring of 1961, and for five decades was renowned for presenting an array of repertoire from Joan's spectacular arrangements of the large symphonic and orchestra works, popular pieces to important performances of new original works for accordion including many that were commissioned for accordion orchestra.

We thank Wolfgang Simon (right) for providing pictures of the concert weekend with us for you to enjoy.

Meet the Members of Orchestra

Joan (Pace) Cochran Sommers (Prairie Village, KS) began the study of the accordion at the age of 9 in Independence, MO and was teaching young students at the age of 14. She also briefly studied piano and organ as well as conducting and orchestration privately. She later earned both the Licentiate and Associate Diplomas through the Accordion Institute of America's affiliation with the British College of Accordionists Examinations with Anthony Galla-Rini as the Examiner. When she came to the Conservatory of Music, which eventually became the University of Kansas City Conservatory of Music, then the University of Missouri-Kansas City Conservatory of Music, she was the youngest faculty member. Joan, at the age of 27, was teaching as many as 100 students, both credit and non-credit, per week, privately and in classes, as well as conducting the accordion orchestra on Thursday evening and a preparatory accordion group on Wednesday evening. It was indeed a full time occupation but one which she loved.

Her students and her accordion groups won innumerable awards in local, state, national and international competitions and, in fact, she still holds the record for the greatest number of students who earned the honor of representing the USA in the world competition known as the Coupe Mondiale. She represented the USA-ATG in the Coupe Mondiale of 1955 (England) and of 1956 (Switzerland) and, although she did not win, the two experiences were undoubtedly great influences on her life-long desire to be an active participant in the work of accordion organizations.

She was awarded the title of UMKC Professor Emerita upon her official retirement in 2000 from the Conservatory of Music, but continued to teach until all remaining degree-seeking students were finished with their accordion degrees. Even after that time, Joan has continued to conduct the UMKC Community Accordion Orchestra for its Annual Concert in White Recital Hall and performances during the 2007 Coupe Mondiale in VA and its appearance at the Kennedy Performing Arts Center in Washington, DC. While today's concert will be the final one under the banner of the former UMKC Accordion Orchestra or the after-retirement title of UMKC Community Accordion Orchestra, it is hoped there will be other events, perhaps smaller, with both group and solo appearances, for a continued period of time in the future. After all these many years, it seems inconceivable for a complete stop to take place, providing health and the great desire remain constant. She was recently elected Vice-president of the Confédération Internationale des Accordéonistes while in Croatia attending the Coupe Mondiale. In October of this year she has been asked by the Chinese organizers of the 2011 Coupe Mondiale to conduct, once again, the World Accordion Orchestra on the closing concert of the event. And, yes, she intends to write that book which will include all the reasons her students have given her over the years for not practicing. Watch for it!


betty jo

Betty Jo Simon (Overland Park, KS) has been a member of the orchestra for most of 50 years. She earned her BM degree in Accordion Performance in 1969 and went on the first two USO tours which The Accordionaires made for the National Music Council/Department of Defense to Greenland, Newfoundland and Labrador and two years later to Germany. After graduation she taught for a while, and then toured as a soloist with The Fred Waring Pennsylvanians. She is married, has two married children, and one grandchild. She plays professionally in the KC area and has a German polka band, the "Alpen Spielers." Betty Jo has toured with the UMKC Accordion Orchestra on the last three concert tours to New Zealand, Eastern Europe, and Italy. In 2000, she performed on Chinese National TV in Beijing and Shanghai. She was selected to perform the Galla-Rini Concerto No. 1 on three concerts with the Auckland Symphony Orchestra in August of 2009. Betty Jo has recorded several CDs.


Ron Barrow (Leawood, KS) began playing the accordion at age 11 when his mother called him in from the sandlot baseball game to take a "free" musical aptitude test. Music took control and ruined his left from that moment forward! Forcing retirement from a certain career as a big league catcher, a jammed finger nearly caused him to miss the Indiana Accordion Championship and a trip to the World's Fair in New York City. Moving to KC in 1967 to study with Professor Joan Sommers at UMKC, he was required to play in small towns like Flat River, MO and take a USO Tour to Germany to play in more small towns - Fulda, Kaiserslautern, Stuttgart, and Ulm. Even his lovely wife, Judy, a Kansas farm girl and former "Snowball Queen" is a "recovering" accordionist. While their son managed to skip the affliction, their three granddaughters may someday "squeeze" an accordion. Even today, Ron is here playing for you instead of sailing on beautiful Stockton Lake. Thanks to the accordion, Ron was the first member of his family to graduate from college earning a UMKC Bachelor of Music Degree in 1971, adding an MA Education (UMKC) in 1975, and an MBA (KU) in 1987.


joyce Joyce Davis (Kansas City, MO) began the study of accordion at a young age and earned her Baccalaureate of Music in Accordion Performance in 1979. After several years of teaching accordion, she began work with the Internal Revenue Service where she continues today. Joyce was a wonderful soloist and brings those same skills to her mastery of the Elektronium or the bass accordion, which she is now playing, but she has played every other part in the orchestra at various times. She has made numerous concert tours with the orchestra in the USA and including those to Australia, New Zealand, and many different countries throughout Europe. Joyce is a gem to have in any ensemble, one who is easy-going and who just comes in, sits down, and plays any part placed before her!

kevin Kevin Friedrich (New York, NY) Kevin recently concluded his Presidency of the Confédération Internationale des Accordéonistes (CIA), IMC-UNESCO, the international accordion organization which serves as the umbrella organization for all national accordion organizations. In recognition of his tremendous dedication to the CIA and the many accomplishment achieved during his terms in office, Kevin has now been named as CIA Ambassador. Kevin continues his work as the USA Manager of Accordions Worldwide, the largest accordion internet site in the world, travelling to accordion festivals throughout the world, and recently worked to create an Accordion Museum in his hometown of Dargaville, New Zealand. He earned his Bachelor of Music Degree in Accordion Performance at UMKC (1984) before spending one year in Paris studying with World Accordion Champion Max Bonnay. Kevin works as a Flight Attendant for Delta Airlines, flying all over the world, but takes advantage of his flexible schedule and liberal travel privileges to support various accordion activities and organizations, including remaining an active alumni member of the UMKC Accordion Orchestra, a group he has participated in over the last 30 years.

Cathy Sommers Tiritoglu (Sunnyvale, CA) first joined the orchestra in 1981 at the ripe age of 10 and played every concert through 1999 as well as performing on the concert tours to England, Scotland and Wales in 1987, Russia, Estonia, Sweden and Denmark in 1989, Germany, Austria, Hungary, Czech Republic and Slovakia in 1997, and to Italy in 1999. In 1999, she also won the ATG Virtuoso Championship and represented the USA in Germany for the Coupe Mondiale. In 2000 she moved out to the San Francisco Bay Area to join the crazy tech world in Silicon Valley working as a user experience designer on websites and mobile apps for the iPhone, iPad and Android. This year marks her 10th wedding anniversary; she and her husband Alp have two gorgeous boys - Aydin, 7, and Aaron, 5. Even after moving, she has managed to pop back every once in a while to join the orchestra on a few spring concerts and several ATG performances. Music continues to be a strong part of her life and she is continuing the genetic string through her boys who are currently enrolled in piano lessons.

sam Samantha Jarquio (Independence, MO) began playing the accordion at age 5. She has studied with Terry Bell and Joan C. Sommers. She represented the USA at the Coupe Mondiale in Norway in 2006, and later in Washington, D.C. in 2007. Samantha is currently pursuing a degree in Landscape Architecture at Kansas State University. She is planning to study abroad in spring of 2012 at Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand. Samantha also plays clarinet and has been featured as a clarinet soloist with the UMKC Community Accordion Orchestra.

christine Christine Jarquio (Independence, MO) has played the accordion since age 6 and studied with Terry Bell and Joan C. Sommers. In October of 2003, she earned the privilege of representing the United States at the Coupe Mondiale held in Hungary and Slovakia. Christine received her B.S. in Vocal Music Education from the University of Missouri in Columbia (2009). After graduation, she attended Florida State University, pursuing a Master of Music in Voice Performance. This past year she has been living in her hometown and accompanying for Pleasant Lea Middle School (Lee's Summit) and Fort Osage Senior High (Independence). She has a private music studio, teaching voice, piano, and accordion.

karen Karen Scovel Boocock (Wichita, KS) arrived at UMKC in 1977. She writes, "At my first accordion orchestra rehearsal, I couldn't even follow the music, let alone play anything! But I improved. Summer times were fun, with opportunities to sing & dance. I graduated in 1982 with a B.M. In 1984 I moved to OKC and studied voice. I married Andrew Boocock, my voice teacher's brother in 1987 and we settled in southern California for a couple of years, moving to Wichita, KS in 1989. I finally returned to the orchestra a few years ago, which required a lot of practice, but it has been worth it. The quality of music and level of skills demanded I have carried into other facets of music, such as singing solos, directing a Christian singing group, and teaching voice. It has been a real pleasure to work with such a world-class orchestra director as Joan Sommers, and to have the opportunity to perform many of her wonderful arrangements."

amy Amy Hatfield Hayes (Thayer, KS) lives in Thayer, KS with her two children whom she home-schools. She completed her BM in Accordion Performance with a minor in Psychology at UMKC. She has traveled extensively with the orchestra to many competitions and tours abroad. She is a former Paralegal and now fills her time as a proud mother of a son and daughter who keep her quite busy with home-schooling and the multitude of activities that come along. Amy coached and refereed basketball for 16 years and looks forward to coaching basketball again next fall after taking a long break. She lived in TX for 12 years but she and her children are now adapting to the small town life of Thayer (town of 500) raising chickens and gardening with her folks. Amy helps care for her father who had a stroke 2 years ago ad is quite proud of his progress. She always has ongoing projects and enjoys spending time with her extended orchestra family and friends. She plays both piano and chromatic accordion with ease.

bob Bob Eichkorn (Topeka, KS) played accordion as a young student while growing up in Topeka, KS where he continues to live.  Bob, in fact, was enrolled in the very first class of accordion degree students in the Conservatory of Music but was called into US Military service during his first semester of study.  He has retired after 41 years in Document Management Sales and Service, using Microfilm and Imaging Systems for Storage and Retrieval of Vital and Business Records in Northeast Kansas.

mickey Mickey Eichkorn (Topeka, KS) also played accordion as a young student while growing up in Topeka, KS.  Mickey is a retired Registered Nurse who graduated from Stormont-Vail School of Nursing in 1964.  Both Mickey and her husband Bob Eichkorn played in the original Mid-America Accordion Symphony Orchestra in the years 1958-1960 that was based in Kansas City.   They came back to the accordion to play in the accordion orchestra for the celebration of Joan’s 40th year at the Conservatory.  Soon after last year’s concert, and with considerable encouragement, they decided to make the long drive from Topeka every Thursday evening to attend rehearsals of the orchestra and once again enjoy the music of an accordion orchestra.  They have three sons and five grandchildren.

cathysue Cathy Sue Weiss (Kansas City, MO) originally from New York, started playing the accordion when she was 7 years old. She won several competitions, including that of the 1973 NY State Championship. Cathy moved to KC in 1977 to complete her BM degree in Accordion Performance at UMKC. Since that time she has continued to play with the UMKC groups and has traveled worldwide with them. She resides in the Brookside area with her several dogs and cats, all adopted through rescue work. Weekends during the summer are spent on her boat at Stockton Lake. She enjoys cooking and entertaining her friends and treasures the time that she can spend with them. Cathy has played in over 30 Spring Concerts with the UMKC Accordion Orchestra. Currently she is a sales manager for Pitney Bowes. She would like to give a note of thanks to her parents, who are in the audience today: Kay, for making her practice instead of washing dishes after dinner, and Hans, who has one arm longer than the other from carrying the accordion all over the place. They have allowed her to make music a very big part of her life.

Jeff Lisenby (Nashville, TN) grew up in Kansas City, MO and earned degrees at UMKC. He was conductor/keyboardist/accordionist for: RING OF FIRE on Broadway, He was keyboardist for: Tennessee Repertory Theatre's GREASE, A CHORUS LINE, and FIDDLER ON THE ROOF, performed with the touring shows of :WICKED, JERSEY BOYS, LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE, CHICAGO, ANNIE GET YOUR GUN, and CITY OF ANGELS. As a freelance musician, he has toured with the: Mills Brothers, Boots Randolph, and Brenda Lee, and has accompanied: Luciano Pavarotti, Lee Greenwood, Donna Summer, Tricia Yearwood, and Mel Tormé, among many others. He was twice bronze-medalist in the international classical accordion championships (Coupe Mondiale), and silver medalist in the entertainment division. Besides being a music instructor at Belmont University in Nashville, TN since 1993, Jeff is also blessed to play on numerous recordings, and is the musical director for several of Oceania cruise line's productions shows, which provides many opportunities for travel all over the world.

Amy Jo Sawyer (O'Fallon, IL) has performed with the UMKC Orchestra on four international tours. She wrote original compositions for the orchestra's performances including "Latin Impressions" (Russia/Baltic), "Opus 5-6-4" (Australia/New Zealand), and "Carnival" (Italy). She has known Joan since they were both contestants in the Coupe Mondiale held in Switzerland in 1956. Amy Jo has performed with the St. Louis Symphony, presented concerts in the US and abroad, and has distinguished herself as a composer for the accordion. Joan asked her to write a new composition for the 50th Anniversary Concert of the UMKC Accordion Orchestra. "Recuerdos" (Memories) is the new original piece for orchestra dedicate to Joan and the many wonderful years she has conducted the UMKC Accordion Orchestra.

Sherry Carroll (Independence, MO) has played with the orchestra for almost 20 years and has traveled internationally with the group. She is a Registered Nurse at Children's Mercy Hospital, loves spending time with her husband Brad and two active teenage girls, Shannon and Molly. She loves to travel, spend time at the lake, and is an active member of her church.

Ed Blasco (Lenexa, KS) has been involved in music all of his life. He spent 30 years in all phases of the piano and organ business as salesman, teacher, manager, store owner, concert artist and executive with Yamaha. He also has consulted for the Yamaha and Roland Corporations. Out of the music industry for twelve years, Ed is currently Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of George King Bio-Medical, Inc. Ed recorded an album about 5 years ago tiled "Finally" on the Roland Atelier home organ. He is playing a Roland Digital Accordion today. Both he and his wife, Kathy, performed with The Accordionaires during its USO Tour of Germany in 1969.

Mary Ann Covone (Western Springs, IL) a suburb of Chicago, with her 15 year old daughter, Anne Marie. She graduated from UMKC in 1981 with a BM degree in Accordion Performance. After teaching and performing in the Chicago area for ten years, Mary Ann attended The John Marshall Law School where she graduated cum laude in 1991. She currently practices law full time in the Chicago area focusing on personal injury litigation, probate, guardianship and estate planning and litigation. In the fall, while continuing to practice law, Mary Ann plans to enroll at Loyola University in Chicago to pursue a Masters Degree in Pastoral Studies. Obtaining that degree will be the initial step to beginning a third (and final?) career in Ministry in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago.

Donna Dee Ray (Ormond Beach, FL) formerly Donna Dee Anderson, studied with Joan Cochran Sommers from the age of six. While in high school, she was concertmaster for the Accordion Symphony at the UMKC Conservatory of Music. Donna was the MO State Accordion Champion twice. At age 17 she won first place in the American Accordionists Association (AAA) Virtuoso Division. The following year she began a five-year stint touring with The Fred Waring Pennsylvanians playing Cordovox in the orchestra. It was there that she met her husband Dennis Ray, a singer with the group. Donna Dee and Dennis performed as a musical duo for many years and also as a family act with their three children. When their children grew up, Donna Dee became an elementary school music teacher enabling her to continue the joy of teaching music to children. She also directs extra-curricular Chorus, Chime Choir and Percussion ensembles at her school. Donna has been a presenter, clinician, and guest conductor for county and state music festivals throughout Florida. Through a rigorous multi-evaluation process, Donna earned the distinction of National Board Certification the first that it was open to Music Teachers in 2002.

Liz Finch (Studio City, CA) Originally from Gladstone, MO, Liz lives in Los Angeles, CA where she has enjoyed a career as a music copyist and orchestrator for composers such as John Williams, Hans Zimmer, and Johnny Mandel, to name a few. She holds a Bachelor of Music degree from UMKC and a Masters of Arts in Music Theory and Composition from the University of Wyoming. Liz has made many memorable concert tours with the UMKC accordionists throughout the world over a long period of time. In fact, both she and her sister, Mary, traveled on the concert tours to Russia/Scandinavia and to Australia/New Zealand. Mary studied accordion, too, as a young girl.

Jackie Doyel (Shawnee, KS) while a student at UMKC, played in the orchestra from 1988 - 1991. She has participated during various years since then. After graduation, she got married and worked as a producer and announcer at a Kansas City radio station. She and her husband lived in China for two years, studying Chinese at the university in Shanghai. They then moved to Washington, D.C., where she continued to work in the radio business as a political talk show host, producer and reporter for a nationwide radio network. They moved back to KC several years later and their children were born here: Nathan, Lauren, Rebekah, and Lydia - whom they adopted from China. Now she stays busy with all of their activities, being the coordinator for an American Heritage Girls scout troop, volunteering, starting a jewelry business, and running marathons and triathlons. (You must ask her why she and her husband went to live in China!)

Michele Boddicker Scheffler (Ashland, OR) grew up in a musical home with her mother, Arlene Boddicker, who was a very well-known teacher of accordion in Cedar Rapids, IA. Her father, Gerald, served as the manager of their extremely successful music school and Michele most assuredly learned many of their secrets. She came to UMKC to study and toured with the Accordionaires as well as the UMKC Accordion Orchestra to many competitions and concert tours throughout the world. She now teaches in the Northwest where she and her husband have resided for several years. Michele, like her mother and father - who both served as Presidents of the ATG - likes to work with the ATG in making its projects successful. She also performs with various musical groups in her region of Ashland.

Phillip Hodges (Independence, MO) started playing the accordion at the age of 6 with Terry Bell at United Teachers of Music. In high school he began playing in the UMKC orchestra. Phillip earned his B.B. degree at William Jewell College in Liberty, MO in music, mathematics and secondary education. Currently, he is teaching math at Fort Osage High School in Independence, MO. He and his wife have a 5 year old daughter who keeps them busy with soccer practice and games. Phillip also plays percussion as well as the accordion.

Suzanne Boucard (Overland Park, KS) says her life is filled with many rich musical experiences. After her 1969 USO Tour with the Accordionaires as their vocalist, music continued to be a major part of her life. She studied Voice Performance at the UMKC Conservatory of Music and Dance with Dr. Paul Sommers. Her professional musical performances include opera, musical theatre, solo and ensemble recitals, and other various types of stage performances. Additional music experience includes private vocal coaching, piano instruction, and directing musical productions. She has also served as an adjudicator for vocal competitions. It was an honor for her to have been selected as the first vocal coach for the Fine Arts Options Program in the Kansas City School District. This program was a prelude to the Magnet School Program for the Performing Arts in Kansas City. Today, Suzanne is the president of an executive recruiting firm she and her husband, Henri, founded 25 years ago. She is the mother of three and the proud grandmother of six. Suzanne continues to sing, compose music, and maintain her support of young musicians and the Performing Arts.

Benjamin Shellhaas received his B.M. from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (2005), where he studied percussion performance with Anthony Falcone and Al Rometo, and received his M.M. from the University of Kansas-Lawrence (2008), where he studied percussion performance with Kevin Bobo, Cody Loucks, Christopher McLaurin, and Dr Julius Zilinskas. Other areas of training include the Duff Timpani Master Class (2009), Leigh Stevens Intensive Marimba Seminar (2002), and the Seattle Drum School of Music (2000, 2001). Shellhaas held a Graduate Teaching Assistantship in the Jazz Department at the University of Kansas and was Assistant Drumline Instructor for the Marching Jayhawks. He has performed with a wide range of ensembles and artists such as the Turtle Island String Quartet, University of Kansas Faculty Chamber Ensemble, Monday Night Big Band, Lincoln Municipal Band, Kevin Bobo, Chris Merz, and with Gordon Stout on the 2007 Kansas/Missouri Percussive Arts Society Day of Percussion. The orchestral groups he has performed with include the Kansas City Civic Symphony, Hastings Symphony, and Kansas City Symphony where he performed on both drumset and concert percussion. Shellhaas is currently a substitute and extra musician for the Lincoln Symphony. Shellhaas is currently serving as Lecturer of Music at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln as the director of the percussion section for the “Pride of All Nebraska” Cornhusker Marching Band and is an adjunct percussion instructor at the University of Concordia in Seward, Nebraska. Shellhaas has been teaching privately since 1995

Evan Maslak from Kansas City is currently a freshman percussion performance major. At UMKC he has played with the 3:30 Jazz Combo, the Percussion Ensemble, and the Wind Symphony. In addition, he teaches 10 students at the Keith Larson Percussion Studios in Olathe. This will be his first time performing with our UMKC accordion groups, although Keith and Brenda Larson, owners of the studio where he teaches, have played with the UMKC Accordion Orchestra both here and on tour.

brian Brian Steever is a jazz drummer from Jefferson City, MO and has just completed his sophomore year in the jazz performance program at UMKC, studying with Bobby Watson, Brandon Draper, and Gerald Spaits. Kansas City has been treating him well as he has been able to play around town with several local legends including Bobby Watson, Mark Lowrey, David Basse, Megan Birdsall, Clint Ashlock, Pat Conway, and Hermon Mehari in a trio called Tri-Dimensional, to name a few. He has also had the opportunity to study classical percussion with Dr. James Snell and Dr. Nick Petrella. Keep your ears open and catch him playing around town. Brian played with the Accordion Orchestra last year, too, on its Annual Concert.

Additional Musicians participating on the 50th Anniversary Concert
Former orchestra member Alumni accordionists joining the full orchestra on the final two pieces performed by the UMKC Accordion Orchestra:

Sheilah McDowell (Nixa, MO)
Judy Barrow (Leawood, KS)
Jan Miller (Kansas City, MO)
Pam Lisenby (Nashville, TN)
Nancy Ferguson (Kansas City, MO)
Patty Rosey (Ottawa, KS)
Lou Le Brun (Springfield, MO)
Sharon Fox (Springfield, MO)
Fr. Daniel Petsche, OSB (Conception, MO)
Charla Manica (Olathe, KS)
Larry Manica (Olathe, KS)
Melanie Mays (Monticello, FL)
Juha Silfverberg (Overland Park, KS)
Mark Weston (Glencoe, IL)
Additional assisting choir members on the final piece:
Suzanne Boucard (Overland Park, KS)
Victoria Jarquio (Independence, MO)
Nancy Officer (Kansas City, MO)
Whitney Foster (Kansas City, MO)
Kathy Blasco (Lenexa, KS)
Destynee Rivera (Independence, MO)
Samala Smith (Independence, MO)
Molly Carroll (Independence, MO)
Shannon Carroll (Independence, MO)

Joan C. Sommers, Director
UMKC Community Accordion Orchestra
2312 West 71 Terrace, Prairie Village, KS 66208-3322 USA

Phone: (913) 722-5625 or E-Mail: