93-Year-Old Accordionist Keeps On Playing

Most people know someone who lived into their 90's and stayed in relatively good health, but how many people can still play an instrument like a pro at that age?

The accordion is no small instrument. It's bulky, heavy, and requires a great deal of dexterity in the fingers. But 93-year-old Joe Zasa is still pulling out his Super Continental and playing with the agility of a 20 year old.

He doesn't see well enough to read sheet music anymore, but after playing for nearly 8 decades, the songs are muscle memory.

"I know so many tunes, my repertoire is so broad, I don't really need to read," explains Zasa.

Growing up Italian in Newark, New Jersey, Zasa wanted to play guitar, but his father- a skilled mandolin player- had other plans.

"I started to advance in guitar and he says, 'no no no... I need someone to play the melody.'"

The rest is history.

"Once I got into it, I loved it," remembers Zasa. "It's the most versatile you can get."

Out of high school, Zasa played accordion professionally, running in the same circles as a young singer named Frank.

"Sinatra was singing with a trio at a place called Rustic Cabin, Zasa recalls. "He was a very nice guy."

While Sinatra went on to musical stardom, the musician packed up his accordion and headed south for college.

"I decided to go to the University of Alabama because of the reasonable cost, good climate, and so on. I never regretted it. It was a great place," he says.
"Here I am with guys like George Wallace and some of these other guys that went on to become senators in Alabama. They learned from me, i learned from them. They didn't know what pizza was, and i didn't know what turnip greens and grits were!"

Through military service in Japan, a long career in electrical engineering, and life at home, Zasa's love of music has kept everything in sync, especially for his kids.

"It's always made family celebrations special because dad was there with the music," explains his daughter, Donna Paulk.

Pressing buttons, striking keys, and expanding bellows combine for a sound can only be described as signature Joe.


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