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Accordion player to compete at national festival outside Denver

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A local accordion player is bringing her talent to the national stage.

Josie Beach, 19, will compete this week at the Accordionist & Teacher’s Guild International’s festival outside Denver, where more than 100 players are expected to gather for concerts, workshops, competitions and exhibits.

“I think the top place … gets a cash prize, but I’m really just in it to show off what I’ve learned and meet new people and network,” Beach said.

Beach, the daughter of Dennis and Melanie Beach, will perform solo pieces and take part in an accordion orchestra during the three-day event. The music includes a combination of a waltz featured in the Super Mario Galaxy video game and a Romanian waltz she remembered from her great-grandmother’s music box.

“We didn’t know it at the time, so we rolled it out on Play-Doh and pitched the little things in the music box … and my dad helped me put all the little things in the computer and we played it,” she said. 

Born into a family of musicians, Beach started piano lessons at age four. Practicing the instrument became part of her homeschool lessons in fifth grade but her grandparents didn’t own a piano, so she taught herself how to play her great-grandfather’s accordion.

Beach began performing at talent shows and fundraisers with a 1950s-era instrument she bought at a pawn store and was custom-made for a California music school. She appears at the annual Indiana Fiddlers Gathering in Battle Ground and offers performances through her business, Polka Pop Balloon Stop. She’s also forming a polka band.

When professional accordionist Betty Jo Simon met Beach at a guild festival two years ago, she offered to give her lessons. They meet over FaceTime every two or three weeks.

“She has just blossomed. She’s just taken everything I’ve given her and worked on it and improved,” Simon said from her home near Kansas City, Missouri.

During the school year, Beach schedules lessons around her classes at Purdue University, where she studies natural resources and environmental science.

“I almost treat it like a class,” she said. “I get up in the morning and I practice, practice in the evening and then… fit a FaceTime lesson in my apartment… right after I get off the bus from Calculus II.”

Returning home from the festival, Beach will perform for Upland Brewing Co.’s Summer Concert Series at Fountain Square Plaza in Indianapolis on Aug. 9.

For updates on festival results, visit the Polka Pop Balloon Stop’s Facebook page.

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