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Accordions Do Rock 'N' Roll As Well As Lawrence Welk Music
By Rebecca R. Turco, Staff Writer for the Menomonee Falls News, February 1996

For years after the rock and roll revolution took over American music, the accordion carried a reputation as a musical instrument reserved only for wedding polkas and Lawrence Welk fans. "That music trend put a bullet hole through the accordion," Ivo Baldoni, vice president and managing director of A. Baldoni Music Service Inc., said. "The U.S. shelved the accordion for a new generation of instruments."

Recruited to represent an Italian accordion importer in the United States, Ivo's father, Alfonso, relocated his family from Castelfidardo, a small town near Florence known as the country's accordion Mecca, to the Milwaukee area during the early 1960s. Ivo is the fourth generation of Baldonis involved in the accordion business.

After eight years in the United States, Alfonso broke away from his Italian employer to begin his own accordion business. Originally located on Brady Street in downtown Milwaukee, A. Baldoni Music Service moved its headquarters to Timber Creek Plaza, W16432 Appleton Avenue, nearly two years ago.

"We live out here and the commute began taking a toll on us," Ivo said of the family business's decision to move. Besides the long commute, Ivo added that their former downtown location attracted a lot of walk-in traffic curious about Baldoni's unusual product.

Although most merchants welcome interest from passersby, the constant attention only harmed Baldoni's business. "We practically had to hire someone to entertain these people," Ivo explained. "It was time consuming, almost like we were conducting educational seminars."

Over the last 20 years, the Baldoni family has built a prosperous small business empire from Alfonso's grass roots accordion operation. Baldoni accordions still are manufactured in Castelfidardo by Ivo's brother-in-law, then imported and distributed in the U.S.

Despite the long-standing conception that accordions made music only like that heard on the Lawrence Welk Show, the introduction of computer technology during the 1980s helped revolutionize the accordion industry. "Accordions have always had electronics since the 1940s, but computers allowed us to develop distinctive sounds," Ivo explained.

With a high-end instrument in hand, the Baldoni family only needed a means of marketing their product. Heeding an old Italian saying, "If you don't plant a seed today, you won't get a plant tomorrow," the Baldonis had begun making their presence known years before adding computer technology to their accordions.

National trade shows helped the family business establish its name recognition and attract dealers. Although many dealers weren't convinced at first that the expensive accordions were worthwhile instruments to invest in, Baldoni Music Service's repeated presence helped gain national exposure and a handful of feature stories. "We were there with all these big brand names, guitar and trumpet distributors," Ivo said of the trade shows. "We always had the smallest booth, but everyone was attracted to us because they wanted to know what an accordion maker was doing at these conventions."

With computer technology re-popularizing the accordion, Baldoni Music Service has made accordions for major recording artists like Sheryl Crow and Michael Ramos of the BoDeans. Keyboardist Kurt Wollock of the Seger Band and John Magnie of the Subdudes are among Baldoni’s most recent clients.

Although the accordion remained popular in Europe, Africa, South America and some Middle Eastern countries, the U.S. discarded acoustic accordions in favor of bass guitars and keyboards. Now that computer capability has reintroduced the accordion to American society, Ivo is trying to appeal to the younger crowd to ensure the accordion’’s longevity. "We’re trying to get our product into the hands of the youth," he explained. Accordions have regained an all--around healthy image with their reappearance in classical, popular and ethnic music.

Baldoni carries 18 different models, each with a distinctive sound.

Because it takes more than a year to build an accordion, Ivo places quarterly orders with his brother-in-law, who turns out about 1,000 accordions each year. Once Baldoni Music Service receives the hardware, it adds the software, much of which Ivo has developed himself.

Aesthetically speaking, Baldoni also personalizes most accordions to their clients’ tastes. With its main object to keep the customers happy, Baldoni updates software for clients free of charge.
"Our biggest advantage is a satisfied customer," Ivo said.

Having built a name for itself in the industry, Baldoni Music Services now advertises with educational seminars and an informational video.

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