The Main Squeeze

Accordionist Nick Ariondo continues his cinematic journey

By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski

Nick Ariondo considers himself lucky. 

Others may say the world-renowned accordionist’s success comes down to talent. 

The Glendale resident, who entertains annually on Bastille Day at Nicole’s, has a resume most musicians would envy. 

“I’m very fortunate,” says Ariondo, who showcases his music on YouTube at nickariondo1.

“I’ve been able to do this most of my life. I do play keyboards, but predominantly, my true virtuosity is with the accordion.”

The accordion, he says, takes tremendous self-discipline. That’s why the instrument is a dying art. 

“Nowadays, people are attached to their computers and phones,” he says. “It’s hard to get a kid to sit in the room and practice. My dad was a plasterer back east. They were artisans. He told me to sit in there and practice every day. He said to be serious about what I wanted to do so I didn’t waste anyone’s time.”

In October, movie fans can hear the fruits of his labor when “Addams Family 2” hits the silver screen. He also lent his sound to the first chapter, “The Addams Family,” which featured music written by Mychael Danna and Jeff Danna. 

“I have some other things lined up, but there are questions marks next to them,” Ariondo says. “With the pandemic, musicians are the last ones working again.”

Longtime music lover

Ariondo was born in Pittsburgh and started private accordion lessons at age 7 under the tutelage of TV personality Mario DiNardo. As fledgling performers, Ariondo and his older brother, Anthony, began playing for church functions, fashion shows and family events in the late 1950s before traveling to the West Coast. 

“In the late ’50s, early ’60s, when we were little kids, my dad made the major move to the West Coast in the 1955 Ford station wagon,” he says with a laugh. “He moved out here for work. This is where I started continuing with all my accordion and music training.”

At age 16, Ariondo won the virtuoso category in the Western States Accordion Festival for his performance of Liszt’s “Rhapsody Espanol.” 

He went on to study at Los Angeles City College, and upon graduation, he was presented the Hugo Davise Composition Award for his “String Quartet No.1.”

Ariondo continued his education at California State University at Los Angeles and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in music in 1976 and, four years later, a Master of Arts degree in composition and performance with special emphasis toward the utilization and integration of the accordion in chamber music settings. 

Ariondo continued performing, composing and arranging while developing a vast repertoire for the years ahead. 

“I became very interested in arranging and composition,” Ariondo says. “I was able to work my way. Everything I perform is my own arrangement and composition. That takes many, many years of experimenting and trying new things. When you’re playing a piece, you learn to rearrange it in your head. 

“It’s nice to be a great performer. There’s that extension of composing that really adds a whole other element. I have more than 200 pieces in my catalog.”

His work in the opera field with director/vocal coach Wendel Phillips led Ariondo into performing and arranging operatic arias and duets directly from the piano scores, accompanying a variety of singers in concert with accordion and small ensembles, a valuable learning experience into the world of operatic literature and understanding the vocal concept of accompaniment.

“I play all these different styles of music,” Ariondo says. “I was lucky enough to come out to California and connect with various (ethnicities) that are out here — Romanians, Russians, Greeks, the French, Jewish and Hungarians.”

Playing a variety of well-known clubs at ages 17 and 18 was a great learning experience for Ariondo.  

Throughout his career, Ariondo has won 25 ASCAP awards and has performed on stage with Placido Domingo. He also did studio session work at Capitol Records with Paul McCartney. 

Ariondo, who has an on-screen cameo in “Bridesmaids,” is a double Grammy Award winner with the Los Angeles Opera Orchestra. 

As a composer/arranger, Ariondo arranged Russian folk songs that appeared in Warren Beatty’s film “Love Affair.” Mychael recruited Ariondo for the Oscar-winning film “Life of Pi.” 

Recently, he contributed to the soundtrack of Disney’s “Luca,” a coming-of-age story about a young boy experiencing a summer filled with gelato, pasta and scooter rides. But there’s a secret: Sea monsters from another world live below the water’s surface. 

“Luca” is the 33rd movie that Ariondo has been credited with musically. Ariondo is modest when he says he doesn’t have to worry about his future. 

“I’m fortunate enough that I don’t have to worry about what’s coming up,” Ariondo says.

“I can pick and choose what I want to take. I don’t have to worry about where my next gig is going to be.”

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