Catching up with AIMES Alumni Andre Smirnov

Andre was the recipient of an AIMES Junior Excellence Award in 2019, proudly sponsored by Precise Homes

You received an AIMES Junior Excellence Award in 2019, what have you been up to since we saw you last?
Since winning my award in 2019, I have been involved in a few concerts over Xmas time, including the Farmers Santa Parade, Polish Society Anniversary Weekend, and several school assemblies. This year (2020) I have taken part in the New Zealand Accordion Champions which were a smaller than usual scale due to COVID-19, and I also won first place in South Pacific 12 and Under Championships. Unfortunately a couple of days prior to that event I was unlucky to break my little finger on my right hand and needed to wear a cast. However as I had been practicing my pieces for a couple of months and was really looking forward to competing so I made a decision to enter that competition and do my best on the day. During the competition my right hand hurt really badly whenever I played, but after my performance, I felt great about it and was really grateful that I didn’t give up on the competition. Hearing that I came in 1st place made me feel very proud of myself for not giving up and inspired me to practice even more in the future, even when I am tired or don’t feel like it.


Your award came with grant funding – how did this help you in your endeavors?

With my funding of $3000, I purchased a TITANO 9 reed new accordion, which I have used in the past year. I was very grateful to receive a new instrument and upon its arrival, I couldn’t stop playing it and practicing all my pieces. My new accordion has been a much better improvement on my last, consisting of more reeds and thus a better and bolder sound that you can hear straight away. I hope to keep using this accordion in the future because it has brought me good luck over the last year!


This year has been a trying time for us all - what did your lockdown bubble look like, was there any parts of lockdown you enjoyed, or any changes made during lockdown that you are going to continue with?

The first lockdown felt strange and unusual, however I was grateful that my music teachers continued reaching me online regularly thus bringing some normality during those strange times. I have often practiced my accordion on the balcony, entertaining the neighbors, and received positive comments from them, especially one of my elderly neighbors who said she loves the sound of the instrument as it reminds her of her childhood. The second lockdown for me was mainly practicing up my pieces for the upcoming Australian Accordion Championships and also beginning to learn some new pieces as well. I didn’t really mind both lockdowns that much since my family and I went on daily walks, bike rides and other activities. In addition, I felt more productive when practicing at home and online learning than being at school or music school. 


You recently competed and won an award, can you tell us about it?

In addition to competing in the New Zealand Accordion Championships I participated in the 2020  Australian International Accordion Championships, and also in the 12 and Under International Open category. This year due to travel restrictions it was held online and 139 competitors from 15 countries took part. This was my first taste of international competitions, so I tried my best and practiced my pieces daily for the upcoming event. Each contestant had to record a video, post it on YouTube and share it with the judges. I ended up receiving a silver certificate for my performance. It was a great experience watching contestants from around the world sharing their skill and passion for music and the accordion. I felt inspired to learn more pieces and improve my playing and performance. I definitely plan to enter more international competitions in the future and hope to meet some of those great performers in person.


Do you have any exciting personal plans on the horizon?

In the future, I hope to travel overseas for accordion championships after the borders open and it is safe to do so. The competition I am most looking forward to is the 2021 Accordion International Championships  (Coupé Mondiale) which will be held in Munich, Germany, in which I intend to compete in the under 15 category. Other than competitions, I also wish to advance in both my accordion and piano skills and hopefully after passing my music teachers degree (in the long run) be able to teach other children the gift of music.


My performance video for Australian International Open Accordion Championships