Spotlight on Frank Marocco
If you're listening to Frank Marocco play accordion and your mouth starts to water, you are not experiencing a bout of synesthesia, you're probably just having flashbacks to Disney Pixar's award-winning film, Ratatouille . But that's not the only place you’ve heard Frank Marocco before. It seems if anyone in Hollywood is in need of an accordionist, Marocco is the go-to guy. You may know his music from other popular films, such as Pirates Of The Caribbean - At World's End, Something's Gotta Give, and Matchstick Men.
Marocco was born just outside of Chicago in Waukegan, Illinois on January, 2 1931. Frank was a precocious child, beginning to play the accordion at just seven years old. His parents enrolled him in a six-week beginner's class, but he was taught for nine years by George Stefani, his first teacher, who established a love for classical music in Marocco, and then encouraged him to experiment with other genres. Taking his teacher's advice, Marocco experimented with the piano and clarinet, and went on to explore music theory, harmony and composition. He later studied under the well-known classical accordion teacher, Andy Rizzo.
This expansive education and development of Marocco's gift proved to be worth the labor, when in 1948 Marocco, just seventeen years old, won first prize at the Chicago Musicland Festival. With this honor, he was given the opportunity to play Chopin's Fantasie Impromptu with the Chicago Pops Orchestra. It was then that he realized that the accordion was something he could make a career out of.
Marocco carried his talent and education with him throughout his life, and by the 1950s he had formed a trio that performed at diverse locations in the Midwest. It was through touring there that he met his wife, Anne, in Indiana. The couple moved to Los Angeles, where Marocco formed a new band, playing regularly in places like Las Vegas and Palm Springs. It was in Los Angeles that Marocco got the best of his opportunities, working in Hollywood and being offered deals from major television and movie producers.
In the 1960s, Frank Marocco released a solo album on the famous jazz record label Verve. He later collaborated with Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys and is featured on the famous Pet Sounds album. Marocco has also performed alongside other big names, such as Bob Hope, on a USO tour to several countries in Asia and the Pacific Islands.
To encourage other accordionists, Marocco hosts the annual Frank Marocco Accordion Event, in Mesa, Arizona. Every January, this music camp brings together fifty accordionists from the US and Canada to craft a performance together after three days of instruction and rehearsal, with a little recreational fun in between.
Marocco's music is popular because it's so versatile. Because of his teachers' instructions to explore other genres, Marocco learned to love and exemplify diverse styles in his music-- from jazz, to classical, to Latin. Marocco has turned the accordion into something audiences can snap their fingers to at the jazz club, and salsa-dance to at a party. He has shown that the accordion can have an upbeat, catchy sound; and that it can ably provide the background music for both a fun, romantic comedy and a thrilling action/adventure movie. Frank Marocco is an inspiration to anyone who loves the accordion but fears that it's too esoteric an instrument to make a career out of playing.However, making a career out of the accordion isn't what's important, according to Marocco: "Although I've made a comfortable living, my primary goal has never been to make a lot of money. It has been to be the best I could possibly be. This takes integrity, hard work, and dedication. You must have respect for what you do."