I met Alice Grandon at North Point Nursing Home. She was playing her accordion for the residents there, as she often has done since the facility first opened in 1995 as the Louisburg Care Center. Her performance that day was dynamic and engaging. You could tell just by watching that Grandon plays for the residents and not herself. After playing for awhile in the facility’s dining room, a group of residents surrounded Grandon, to thank her and socialize with her. This clearly is a woman with a musical gift and a magnetic personality.
Alice Grandon has been playing the accordion for 77 years, since the age of 7. She has played in bands and orchestras and at parades and nursing homes and hospitals. She’s played for people of all ages, from children to adults age 100+. She plays for everyone – and it does not take long to see the impact she has made.
Grandon’s musical journey began in 1939 with a tough decision. Her parents had to decide between buying a car for the family or an accordion for Alice. Deciding on the accordion, Grandon’s mother had to hand-carry the heavy case from 101st and Holmes in Kansas City all the way back to 85th Street, just so Alice could start getting to her accordion lessons in Martin City every week.
Young Alice Grandon took accordion lessons for just about a year and a half, renting an accordion for three months at a time so she could progress to a bigger instrument as she grew. After this brief formal music education, Grandon continued to teach herself to play by ear, learning mostly by playing for others and “keeping it going everyday.”
Grandon’s musical forays continued into adulthood with a job at the music store in Paola, where one perk was learning more about music. That job also got her the commissions that allowed her to get her first TV in 1952, not long after getting married and having a baby. Music and life, always intertwined.
Of course, Grandon performed, too. With some other girls, she was in the Prairie Rattler band – a group that performed in an Independence parade of which Harry Truman was also a part. She was the sole female member of the Bushed Bavarians, and she formed her own band, too: Alice’s Accordion Band.
Really, though, wherever an accordion player was needed, Grandon was willing to go. Over the decades, Alice Grandon played her accordion at Children’s Mercy Hospital, at Osawatomie State Hospital, at the Old Blue stadium, at local churches and at many family events, including hay rack rides and her granddaughter’s wedding. She doesn’t plan on stopping anytime soon, either.
After more than seven decades as a musician, Grandon says she can see the effects music has on people of all ages and types. She has learned to read people and what they like to hear. According to Alice Grandon, “people are the education.”
And she plans to keep playing for as long as she can, sharing the joy of music far and wide.
This is part of an occasional series sharing the stories of older musicians. Got a story to share? Contact us. We can’t wait to hear it!