Saturday, January 7, 2017

Anne Romagnoli: "First Lady of Accordions" Taught Music to Hundreds

By Tim Hadac
Managing Editor
Southwest Chicago Post

Anne Romagnoli (nee Piatanesi), a former Gage Park resident, music teacher, businesswoman and nationally acclaimed authority on accordion manufacture and repair, died Friday, Jan. 6 at age 90.

Mrs. Romagnoli was the longtime owner of the Italo-
A photo of Mrs. Romagnoli posted on the Italo-American Facebook page.
American Accordion Manufacturing Company, widely known as the Midwest’s premier new and used accordion company. Many considered her to be the Chicago area’s First Lady of Accordions.

The company has been located in Oak Lawn at 5510 W. 95th St. since 1996, when it moved from its longtime home in Gage Park, at 3137 W. 51st St. It was founded in the early 1900s in the city’s Little Italy neighborhood and purchased by Mrs. Romagnoli’s father and uncles in 1915.

Mrs. Romagnoli and her husband, Giuseppe “Joe” Romagnoli--known as the last man in America who could build an accordion from scratch—owned the business from the early 1950s until his death in 1994.

She also was owner of the Republic Music School of Chicago, which for years was headquarters at 59th and Kedzie in Chicago, across the street from the Colony Theatre. At the school, Mrs. Romagnoli taught accordion to hundreds of students, young and old.

In the 1950s, before guitar bands like the Beatles would later cause accordion music to plummet in popularity among the young, Italo-American employed as many as 100 people. Today, it has a few staffers.

The company no longer manufactures accordions, but imports new models from Castelfidardo, Italy, the world capital of accordion manufacturing, where the Romagnoli family has its roots.

The company repairs different types of accordions, concertinas and related instruments, mostly for musicians playing in Mexican, Italian, Polish and German-style bands.
A talented musician who played by ear, Mrs. Romagnoli was known to play the accordion at weddings and other family celebrations.

“She could play anything, and not just the Italian favorites. She could play any song you wanted,” said her daughter Rosanne. “My mother was a real character, no doubt. She loved life and definitely had her own way of doing things.”
Italo-American will remain open for business in Oak Lawn, Rosanne Romagnoli said.

In addition to her daughter, Rosanne, Mrs. Romagnoli is survived by her daughter, Joanne (Miguel) Hernandez; grandchildren, John (Deanna) Rolence, Jason (Marlene) Rolence, Nikki Hernandez and Joel Hernandez; and great-grandchildren, John, Kayleigh, Hayden and Meadow Rolence. She was the dear friend of many.

Hayden Rolence, 12, earned a bit of national fame in 2016 when he was the voice of Nemo in Pixar’s “Finding Dory” animated film.

Visitation and services are set for 3 to 9 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 11 at Thompson & Kuenster Funeral Home, 5570 W. 95th St., Oak Lawn. Interment will be private.

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