Musician adds accordion to arsenal
Resident Will Comer picked up the piano when he moved to Wilton nine years ago. Seven years later, he started learning the accordion, and at present, the now multi-instrumentalist is preparing to play live in his first-ever accordion recital.
On Jan. 31 at 1 p.m. at Vasi’s Restaurant & Bar in Waterbury, Comer, a 17-year-old Wilton High School senior, will be featured by the Connecticut Accordion Association, performing some of his favorite entries in the Great American Songbook, to an audience of association members and guests.
But how does one get good enough to play live in two years’ time? And what makes a pianist of seven years decide to aggressively learn an instrument like the accordion?
A jazz and classical player with plans to pursue a musical career, Comer wasn’t always an impassioned music-lover, as many enthusiasts claim to have been from birth. In fact, he “hated it” at first, before making what can only be described as a true 180.
“I hated music,” Comer admitted. “I started at a very young age. My mother, like any parent who truly cares, pushed me to develop some sort of artistic skill. It wasn’t until three or four years ago that I really started loving what I now do.”
“Three or four years ago” was when he discovered Vince Guaraldi and Tony Bennett. “I was hit with the bug,” Comer said. The high school freshman began to listen as much as possible, and to try his hand at instruments other than the piano.
One day after Comer had come around, his mother, the same woman who had pressed him to learn the piano in the first place, came home with an accordion for him to try. It had been given to her by someone who no longer needed it.
“I played around with it and liked it,” said Comer, who was at that time bored by the instruments he could pick up and play without significant effort or practice. “My mother and I went together to a music shop and bought a decent accordion, and the seller there put me in touch with Sandy.”
Sandy Zera of Fairfield would become Comer’s accordion instructor, and he has taken lessons under her tutelage ever since.
Comer already “liked” the accordion — its natural, anthropomorphic feeling of respiration, its crisp, mellow tone, its quick attack and release, and its unprecedented power — but it wasn’t until Zera took him to see the instrument played well by live musicians that he “fell in love.”
“She brought me to these concerts,” Comer said. “There’s so few of them left who play, but I saw some legitimate accordion masters in action — they were playing like wizards.”
Inspired by what he saw, Comer “got to work” for real. Having previously played the piano for seven years, “I was able to reach a certain level of ability,” he said, “but I owe everything to Sandy — this is an instrument that I could not have taught myself how to play.”
On Jan. 31, Comer will be joined on stage by Wilton bassist Tristan Clark, who in addition to accompaniment for the performance will provide vocals. Comer and Clark are both members of Black Tie Affair, a jazz quartet comprised of Wilton High School students.
“Expect a lot of jazz and some really old standards that predate Miles Davis, that you know and love but want to see played with a little modern personality,” Comer said, “songs like Oklahoma, Camelot and Over the Rainbow.”
About Will Comer
Will Comer is a four-year member of Wilton High School’s marching band, jazz ensemble, and chorus. He will play the school’s upcoming improv comedy show on Jan. 28, improvising background music for the improvised sketches and scenes.
In addition to his work with Black Tie Affair, Comer plays two gigs a week on average as a solo artist at restaurants, bars and cocktail parties. He is paid to play at Portofino’s Italian restaurant in Wilton every Thursday night.
The Connecticut Accordion Association is dedicated to the promotion of the accordion through all music genres and all variations of accordion instruments. Comer has been a member of the association for two years. He joined it with the help of Zera shortly after becoming her pupil.
Vasi’s Restaurant & Bar is at 1700 Watertown Avenue, Waterbury. Registration for Comer’s concert is due by Jan. 29. The cover is $10, $5 for members of the Connecticut Accordion Association.
Register at 203-272-1202 or CTAccordion.com.