I have been a student of John Custie for five years and I can honestly say that he is a terrific teacher. I have “noodled” on the guitar for over 40 years and have come to acquire a great deal of misconceptions and bad habits. John takes the time to note errors, and offers exercises and remedies for them. He also supplies feedback and positive reinforcement. He has great patience especially when I have lost mine. Through the accordion and for the first time in my life, I feel that I am actually learning Music. John is a “natural” teacher and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend him.
I study the piano with John Custie. Let me tell you, this guy knows his stuff. He is patient, understanding, knowledgeable, and never raises his voice when I make an error and there are a fair amount as I learn. He creates analogies based on my interests and finds ways to apply them to my learning music. Crazy as this sounds, they always make sense and help me learn. Not only is he a gifted musician, he is also a gifted teacher.
Only a very few ever achieve a level so polished that they set new standards of excellence. John Custie is such an individual….He is a musician’s musician. In technical ability, on a scale of one to ten, he definitely is somewhere between nine and ten. He is one of the select few who stands out as “the best of the best."
Joe Petosa – petosa accordions
I’m an adult accordion student for the second time in my life (the first time I was a kid.) John Custie is a real find. As somebody with many years of experience teaching all grades and subjects, but especially teaching high school math, chemistry, physics and AP Computer Science to homebound youngsters, I have nothing but admiration for John Custie’s teaching ability. I came to him with some bad habits and with his guidance and patience we are removing them one by one and I am learning more than I ever learned before about this instrument and how to play it properly. His very practical suggestions, tricks and techniques have taken me far.
When I was looking for an accordion teacher, I insisted that the teacher be somebody who performs on that instrument. Often that isn’t the case, but I’ve heard John perform several times. On one occasion he spent a couple of hours with his small combo at a library, demonstrating that accordions can be used to play just about any kind of music. On another, he performed in a restaurant with a jazz guitarist. John performs many kinds of music, but I think jazz is his favorite, and it shows. He is about as inventive a jazz musician as any I’ve ever heard and I’ve listened to many. He’s also very familiar with Eastern European folk music, which is great for me because I’m also a klezmer fan. I bring him klezmer sheet music and he helps me adapt it to the accordion and then helps me learn to play it. John has also demonstrated his abilities as an arranger, a music copyist, and a composer.
I travel an hour each way to take lessons from John. I doubt very much that I’d ever do that for any other accordion teacher.
John Custie proved in his performance on February 3rd 2013 that the proverbial “Squeeze box” has been part of the evolution of music ever since it arrived in America. And it continues to resonate with the creative scene today. Under John’s fingers the accordion became a one-man-band, building a non-verbal call and response. The audience did respond, singing along as he performed Neil Diamond, the Beatles and Stevie Wonder. Latin love songs, the mesmerising lull of his Jazz improvisations, the jovial spirit of a Polka, electronic age of techno beats, his music is a vehicle for exploring the soul of a people. John Custie is clearly the enchanter of the evening.
Then something unexpected. The hip-hop performance of “Our Day Will Come” was authentic and flowed! John’s accordion accomplished something culturally transcendental that night. It moved the accordion from relic to reactionary, from antiquated to front and center in the creative process again. With an experience like this, the next generation will be incorporating the accordion into their music scene for decades to come.
Times Beacon Record Newspaper
Article by Sara Piali
One of America’s most brilliant accordionists has done the impossible. John Custie has crafted a new approach to the polka. Without losing the traditional polka feeling, Custie has created all kinds of interesting twists and turns in this sensational polka album.
Angelo Di Pippo
voted “World’s Best Jazz Accordionist” of 1995 by Keyboard Magazine
I studied accordion in my youth. My dream of becoming a musician fizzled when our family moved and my accordion ended up resting in the closet for many years. Decades later my dream was rekindled. As a second language teacher, using my accordion served to motivate and involve students in the learning process, but I knew I was in trouble. Everyone loved the accordion, but my fingers couldn’t navigate the keyboards properly. My skills were pitiful. I needed an instructor.
Becoming a student again after being an educator for so long was daunting. After contacting a local instructor and taking one lesson, I was disheartened. He couldn’t play the accordion but wanted to buy mine! At a concert I made inquiries and was given a list of names. By the time I exhausted the list, I wasn’t interviewing, I was interrogating!
The last name was John Custie who took my feisty demands with ease. His passion for music was evident. When he played I was in awe of his level of expertise, performing everything I asked for: Jazz, Beatles, Santana, Motown, Hip Hop. Finally, I found someone for instruction.
John is sensitive to my learning style, figures out my reasoning process, looks for what is causing the problem, then gives me the tools needed to resolve the issue. I love the fact that he can repeat the same information in a variety of ways until I finally get it. He reminds me that he too had the same struggles and frustrations learning, which is comforting. He knows when to shift focus, is always reassuring, and knows just when to offer comic relief. Three years and counting he has exhibited all the qualities of an exceptional teacher. Traveling over an hour each week for a lesson is well worth the trip. I highly recommend John Custie as an instructor. John’s teaching can be defined by Benjamin Franklin’s words, “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.”
Teacher of English to Speakers of Other Languages
Earlier this week, my wife and I heard about an ‘Evening of Jazz’ featuring an accordionist and a guitarist. We thought it might be worth a listen (along with dinner, of course). What a surprise! A very pleasant surprise. It was an evening of jazz and so much more. The music included jazz, easy listening, pop, swing and rock. There was literally something for everyone in the audience, not loud but tasteful.
Although the variety of music was refreshing, that’s not what made the night distinctive. It was the creativity of the renditions compiled by the two performers – Accordionist John Custie, and Guitarist Peter Campo. They had beauty and mystique, but the duo added a hint of playful romanticism as well in their arrangements and improvisations.
These guys are really good. Talk about synergy. Wow! We never would have believed it! You never know what you’re going to get, until you take your seat and the music starts.