Friendly conversations, feet stomping as students rush to class and the loud engines of the UB Stampede: students have grown accustomed to all these sounds on campus. But a new, unfamiliar tune has joined them, one that brings a unique melody to students’ ears.
The source of that sound, Joe Perry, is known around campus as “the accordion guy.” Perry, a sophomore chemical engineering student who can be seen on UB Reddit and students’ Snapchat stories lugging around his 10-15 lb. instrument, brings his passion for the accordion playing right to UB. Perry’s accordion journey started a couple of years ago at a garage sale his ex-girlfriend was working at. She mentioned there was a concertina — an instrument similar to an accordion but smaller and hexagon-shaped for sale. .
“I was like, that has to be mine,” he said. “Something in me just snapped that day and I was like yeah, I guess this is me now.”.
Perry already had some experience with playing the piano, so he jumped at the opportunity to learn a new instrument. Unsure of what to do next, he joined an accordion Discord server for some guidance. The members of the group were helpful and guided him in his early days of playing the instrument. Perry bought most of his accordions second-hand and fixed them with help from professional repairers in the Discord.
With Perry’s newfound accordion knowledge, he began to play.
“Honestly, I just like it. It’s just a nice instrument,” he said, “You can do solo pieces. You don’t need to be in an orchestra to make a nice noise.”
Perry has also been singing for most of his life. He grew up with his four siblings singing during car rides, and he remembers them becoming quite good. He is now a member of his church choir, but has yet to sing while playing his accordion since he is still a beginner.
Perry doesn’t have any particular reason for playing around campus.
“I could, so I did,” he said.
Once he realized that no one seemed particularly upset or bothered by his music, he simply continued to play. That was until he encountered a professor in a lecture hall at the Natural Sciences Complex. The professor told Perry not to play indoors, but Perry took the criticism with grace and said it was a valid concern.
“That wasn’t really a bad experience, that was more of a learning moment I guess,” he said.
Despite this mishap, he continues to play around campus. Perry hopes that his accordion playing brings a fun presence to campus. He says accordions are “peculiar, odd and mystical,” since it is such a niche instrument.
“I think it provides a similar feeling to seeing bigfoot,” he explained. “It’s weird, most people have not seen an accordion in real life, let alone heard one [being] played.”
Perry believes he provides “decent music” to campus and loves the thrill of being spotted on campus. He looks forward to when people see him and say, “That’s the accordion guy!”
He can’t say with absolute certainty that everybody on campus loves his music, but he feels that his uncommon instrument seems to generally have a “positive perception.”
Since Perry doesn’t have a lot of time to practice his accordion while juggling his classes, he says he usually practices while walking between classes on campus. He’s also a commuter, which gives him ample time to play on campus throughout the day.
His go-to place to play is what he calls “the Knox hole,” the staircases in front of Knox Hall that lead to a small, dark space with slivers of light. Students can peer through the gate on the top to see Perry play. He also doesn’t mind playing in the spotlight, sometimes playing in front of or in the Student Union.
With Perry and his melodies garnering a lot of attention on campus, students have taken to the UB Reddit, YikYak and Snapchat to share their experiences seeing him play. He smiles at the mention of this and explains how he never found it to be weird.
“I mean I’m not the most socially aware but I do know that people are going to talk about it. I knew that coming into this… I don’t mind,” he said. “I’m an oddity. If you see bigfoot, you take a picture. If you see the accordion guy, you take a picture.”
Perry also wanted to address rumors about him going around on Reddit. One Reddit user commented, “My favorite accordion guy moment was when he absolutely eviscerated a goose with his instrument.” With a look of confusion and some laughter, Perry explained this never happened.
“I’ve never assaulted a goose with an accordion. I wouldn’t want to do that. I could damage the instrument, hurt the goose,” he said.
Regardless of the rumors, Perry has had some great experiences with fellow students while playing the accordion. A moment that stands out to him the most was when someone walked up to him, gave him $5, and told him they love what he does.
“That was very nice,” Perry said. “Sometimes I feel bad about taking that because I don’t want to take people’s money for this, I’m just doing this for fun.”
Perry’s fondest moments are when people crowd around “the Knox hole” to hear him play. Those are the moments when he realizes people are actually enjoying his music.
Reminiscing on his performances throughout campus, he smiled and showed his gratitude to the students and staff at UB:
“You’ve all been a lovely audience.”
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