After several years of contra dancing in upstate NY, I taught myself to play button accordion in the mid 1990's as another form of self expression. I liked the way it could be used like a percussive instrument while being very strong on melody. That combination meant that playing the instrument could be an extension of dancing; indeed with some high energy tunes I have a hard

time NOT dancing. I also found that while being a good compliment to the string instruments, the "button box" is capable of piercing ambient street noise, making it perfect for the typically un-amplified outdoor performance.


Like many fellow amateur musicians I started learning tunes by playing in the rear section of the amorphous pick up band at the outdoor summer contra dance series on the Commons in Ithaca, NY. Migrating to the front of Your Friends and Neighbors, I became comfortable with most of the British Isles and American folk tunes typically played at New England contra dances.


In the late 1990's I also joined with fiddler Marty Blodgett to form the four piece Clusterflies, playing Irish and Americana based tunes at dances, socials, weddings, coffee houses, festivals, and the renowned Ithaca Farmers Market.


After moving to Newport, RI in 2002, I sought out similar musical social interactions, and found the very welcoming South County old tyme jam session led by Harry Buffam. In a continuation of my old habit , we soon were playing each Saturday morning in the summer under a tree at the Coastal Growers Market at Casey Farm in Saunderstown. After a season or two, one of the few jam members who continued to show up regularly was Steve "Doc" Wood. With his steel resonator guitar, we found we could be easily heard outdoors without amplification. Thus Farm Dog became the original, de facto house band at the market, until a rotating schedule of bands was instituted in more recent years.


After years of dancing and playing accordion, I still could not sing very easily (at least while playing). This irksome situation turned around after receiving a ukulele from a family member at a recent Christmas. This opened up the entire world of songs I had admired for years, and now enjoy playing at open mics in the Newport area.


The latest project using both the uke, vocals and accordians is with the Stillhouse Strays, doing alt country, indie, folk, and pop songs.



Jon Dember

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