Scoop: Main Squeeze

Local musician Rob Witmer plays everything from clarinet to steel drums, but his claim to fame lies

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Local musician Rob Witmer plays everything from clarinet to steel drums, but his claim to fame lies in the art of the accordion. You can catch him rocking his squeezebox skills all over Seattle—playing for a local theater production one night, directing (and joining in on) the music for Seattle’s live cabaret quiz show “You’re on the List” the next, or on stage at Neumos as part of musical septet “Awesome.” In honor of Accordi-O-Rama at Town Hall (2/15, 2 p.m.), featuring accordion players from Argentina to Finland, Witmer explains why the accordion pushes all the right buttons.

Seattle magazine: What drew you to the accordion?
Rob Witmer: I grew up playing the clarinet and a little Hammond organ. An accordion is sort of a cross between a reed instrument and an organ, so maybe that’s why I was drawn to it.

SM: When did you learn how to play?
R.W. I started playing the accordion in 1994, but I was shy about it at first. Some of my friends made fun of me, probably because the Seattle rock scene was in full swing, and the accordion was definitely not hip.

SM: How many accordions do you own?
R.W. I have three accordions made by the Petosa family here in Seattle that I switch between depending on the gig. I probably have four or five more lying around the house in various stages of playability.

What goes on at Accordi-O-Rama?
R.W. The show tries to represent different types of accordion music from around the world, as well as some of the more non-traditional local performers, like me. I think it’s going to be a great show!

SM: Any advice for budding accordion players?
R.W. I think there are a lot of accordions in attics or closets. Bring them out and play them!

SM: Lastly, can you play “Free Bird” on the accordion?
R.W. Yes! Usually it’s some drunk guy in the audience who yells out that request, but since you asked...