Those familiar with the Kiwanis Club of Carbonear’s annual music festival probably know the top prizes at the annual event —the Rose Bowls — usually go to singers or young musicians mastering an instrument commonly associated with classical music. The violin or piano would be an expected choice.
But how about the accordion?
Shana Brown, a 13-year-old accordionist from Whiteway, proved there’s magic in her fingers, claiming the 2019 Junior Rose Bowl. According to long-time organizers for the event – 2019 marked the 49th edition of the festival — it’s believed this is the first instance in its history that an accordion player won a Rose Bowl. Runners up for the award were singer Chelsea Hyde and pianist Daniel Drake.
Newfoundland and Labrador is of course known for having plenty of talented accordion players specializing in traditional folk music, though they’re more often receiving recognition in these parts at bars and summer festivals.
“It certainly did feel different competing against a vocalist and piano player, but I didn’t really feel at a disadvantage,” said Shana, a Grade 8 student at Crescent Collegiate. “We all kind of started with a clean slate in the second round of the competition.”
Shana has played the accordion since she was seven, initially learning her way around the instrument on her own before going to online videos with one of Newfoundland’s best players, Mark Hiscock from the group Shanneyganock. These days, Shana is doing lessons through mobile video chats with David Munnelly, an Irish accordionist. It was Munnelly in particular who opened Shana up to the possibility of playing classical music on the accordion – she learned a Bach piece for the Rose Bowl competition, among others.
“When I mentioned the competition to him, he helped me pick out the pieces,” she said.
She was awarded the Junior Rose Bowl Tuesday, April 9, at the first of three Grand Concerts (full awards results from the festival will be published in the April 24 edition of The Compass).
“First, when they announced my name, I was kind of surprised, to be honest,” she said. “It felt good, because it feels like your hard work pays off, and you feel successful.”
She’s been practising her songs for the festival daily since before Christmas. Shana knew if she intended to give the Junior Rose Bowl a shot, she’d be up against some strong competition.
“Really, more or less, it’s just the discipline to practise,” she said. “I’d always pick up my accordion and practise every time I walked past it, so it was just kind of natural for me. But it did take a nice bit of work to get the songs as good as I could possibly get them for the competition.”
With the Kiwanis festival behind her, Shana can return her musical attention to her ongoing collaboration with older brother, Dillon, a fiddle player. The pair have played together under the name Shillon for a number of years and perform in public regularly.
For Shana, music serves as an instant stress reliever.
“If I happen to have a bad day every now and then, I just play my accordion and it just calms me down. I just don’t have to worry about it. I feel really relaxed and like I’m at home when I play it.”