Czech high schooler masters Italian button accordion to win global contest

Lucie Pudilová, photo: archive ZUŠ Hlinsko

The accordion has played a central role in Czech folk music for centuries, and remains a favourite instrument of many chanson signers here, such as Radůza – who is so well known, she goes by a single name. Among the Czech youth carrying on the instrumental tradition is 14-year-old Lucie Pudilová, who recently won the world’s biggest and most prestigious accordion competition in her age category.

The Trophée Mondial de l’Accordéon celebrated its 70th anniversary in 2020. Due to coronavirus crisis, as with so many cultural events, the platinum jubilee edition was held online. Nonetheless, the competition drew more than 750 hopefuls from across the globe.

Lucie Pudilová, a student from Hlinsko, a small town at the foot of the Bohemian-Moravian Highlands, began playing the piano in pre-school. But she only took up the accordion a few years ago, and the ‘button accordion’ last year.

“The competition across all the categories was huge, bigger than I had imagined. There were fewer in my category though, which was an advantage. We were checking out the competition online but not because I was nervous…

“My teacher and I were really interested to see how others played – their technique and what melodies. I really didn’t expect to win, but on the day that we saw I was among the top three, I thought ‘Wow, it would be awesome if I took first place!’ But I was not expecting it.”

Her success could not have been completely unexpected. At an international course in Dobřany, west Bohemia, last year the famous accordion teacher Frédéric Deschamps – the president of Trophée Mondial de l'Accordéon himself – had heard the young Czech perform and encouraged her to compete.

Lucie began preparing intensively for the competition, working on a repertoire that included elements of jazz, Argentine tango and the French style called musette.

“Well, I have to admit that I was a bit sloppy and not practising all that much at first. But luckily, my teacher cracked down on me, and I realised I had to really practise. I was playing most days (laughs). But then I started playing two hours a day, every day.”

The competition category in which Lucie excelled – Varieté / Jazz / World Music – was loaded with renowned competitors from France, Italy, China, Russia, South Africa and other countries, says her accordion teacher, Markéta Břízová.

“This was the 70th edition of the World Accordion Federation, the ‘CMA’ by its French acronym, which is organised by Frédéric Deschamps together with representatives from across the globe. And these delegates choose candidates from their respective countries and make sure every country sends their best.”

Authors: Brian Kenety , Miroslav Hruban
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