go021419accordion-001

Just try to stop Paul Ramunni from playing the accordion for you if you stop by.

When Paul Ramunni was 10 and living on Long Island, his parents wanted him to learn to play the accordion, even then considered something of an antiquated instrument.

“I said ‘Mom, anything but that,’ ” the Salisbury retiree recalls. “From 10 to about 17, I played the accordion and played in an accordion band. When I was going to Fairfield University, that thing went in the closet and that was the end of it. I liked doing it, but there was a lot of pressure.”

It wasn’t until 2008, while Ramunni was on vacation in Vermont with his wife, that the accordion, also affectionately known as a squeezebox, came back into his life. “I woke up on a Wednesday morning and sat on the edge of the bed. I said, ‘I’ve got to play the accordion again.’ ”

Two towns over in Vermont, he found a shop with accordions. “On the floor, there were about 14 or 15 little concertinas, and they were old looking, rusty and parts were falling off,” Ramunni says. “He said he just got them in from a serious collector. They came from Nazi prison camps. It clicked. It made me wonder what else is there about these accordions.”

Ramunni became fascinated with not just the antique look of the instruments, but the stories connected to them. “I started collecting and picking up these stories from people about who played it, where they played it,” he says. “They took them into war zones and into hospitals. It’s not the equipment. It’s what people felt. They wanted to make things better for other people, so they played them a song. They played music. I collected a lot of stories about them.”

AccordionMuseum-WurlitzerCanaan, CT (2).jpg

Paul Ramunni is the creator and owner of the New England Accordion Connection & Museum Co. in North Canaan.

Ramunni’s collection began to bloom through word of mouth. Once you start, it’s hard to stop, he says. Thus began the New England Accordion Connection & Museum Co., now located in the Canaan Union Depot in North Canaan. A large portion of the collection came from a bulk purchase from a Cleveland museum that was closing. His museum contains more than 400 accordions. “A guy came in here two weeks ago, he stood in the doorway, and he couldn’t believe the 400 accordions in one room,” Ramunni says.

But as much pride as he takes in the physical instruments, he more so likes sharing stories with visitors — and playing music for them. “It’s a room full of memories,” Ramunni says. “They’re thick, you can feel it, you can remember when you were a kid that somebody was playing an accordion somewhere. It brings back memories. I get people, when they hear them they start crying. It triggers a memory from a family member. All of a sudden those people are in the room with us. It’s tangible.”

When he recently played for an older couple, they started dancing. “They got done dancing and she turned and came back to me and said that’s the first time he’s danced with me in 30 years,” Ramunni says. “There was something in the music that brought him back. It was sweet, really sweet.”

New England Accordion Museum-Owner Paul Ramunni 1.jpg

The New England Accordion Connection & Museum Co. in North Canaan.

Ramunni played a digital accordion at that moment, which is one of his favorite pieces. Aside from the typical sounds an accordion can create, the digital nature of it can also add trumpet and trombone sounds. He also loves to show off his self-playing Tanzbar accordion. “People wanted music so bad back then … so they made these things almost like the music box,” Ramunni says. “People go crazy when they see this. It’s an amazing piece of equipment.”

Ramunni is setting up another room in the museum to display even more of his collection, which also includes various memorabilia and sheet music.

A retired accountant who also taught the subject at the University of Connecticut, Ramunni is excited about what he’s doing in retirement. “I look forward to coming to work every day,” Ramunni says. “Somebody else comes in and tells me a story. It’s about making people happy. We’ve got to get back to doing that. It’s something I needed, quite frankly. Doing tax returns for people, you don’t get the, ‘Oh gee, I can’t wait to come in and do my taxes.’ Now I’m doing something that people are happy with. It’s a whole new refreshing feeling for me.”


New England Accordion Connection & Museum Co.

Canaan Railroad Station, 75 Main St., North Canaan

Hours: Open weekends, and by appointment weekdays by calling 860-833-1374 or emailing ramunni@comcast.net

Free admission

neacmc.com

This article appears in the December 2021 issue of Connecticut MagazineYou can subscribe to Connecticut Magazine here, or find the current issue on sale hereSign up for our newsletter to get our latest and greatest content delivered right to your inbox. Have a question or comment? Email editor@connecticutmag.com. And follow us on Facebook and Instagram @connecticutmagazine and Twitter @connecticutmag.