Randy Stein - English Concertina
5 min readMay 31, 2021

I always loved record stores. Since my early teens I would spend hours thumbing through bins of new and old collections of just about everything. I never left those places without purchasing one or more LPs. I also loved musical instrument stores though I usually never left with a tuba or drum kit. There is something incredibly appealing and visually and audibly satisfying being in a music store. It feeds every one of my senses including smell. There is a smell to a row of violins and guitars. I could never get enough.

Much has been written about the music stores on 48th Street back in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s: Manny’s, Sam Ash’s, Colony Records, Rudy’s and so on. There were also dozens of smaller locations for repair and specialty sales on various second and upper floor establishments as well. I would haunt these places at least once a week. It was not unusual to catch one of the musical greats, current or becoming, buying sticks, strings, cymbals or just sitting around playing on one of the myriads of instruments hanging on the wall. One was never disappointed to hear one or many trying out the newest Strat or Gibson.

When I would go into these stores I sometimes asked if they had any English Concertinas. Sam Ash carried a couple of cheap Chinese diatonic versions. The salesperson never made a distinction of the chromatic English to the Anglo diatonic system. Usually though I would get a curt “no” and be summarily dismissed. So, I would usually hang around looking at the amazing array of guitars, drums, woodwinds and brass instruments, and usually a collection of electronics for amplification and sound. It was a personal gratification even if I did not play any of these instruments. The EC took enough of my time.

The exception was Alex’s Musical Instruments that specialized in Accordions and Accordion Repair. The window was replete with various musical instruments and more than its share of accordions and a small red plastic concertina. Alex Carozza was a weathered expert in all things musical but especially the accordion. I first went in there out of curiosity and was approached by Alex from the back of the store. He did not ask, “can I help you”. That was not his style. Instead, I was looked over, he noticed me holding my case containing my EC, and asked, “what do you want?” The question like that made one answer differently. I could not just say yes or no or just looking. I had to respond with an explanation of why I would be in his store. I asked if he had any English Concertinas. I was surprised when he said yes.

He told me of the three or four he had in the back. I asked what they were and requested to see one of them. He brought out two boxlike cases, one with a leather covering and the other wood, and set them on the counter in between us. Right then entered a man and his son with an accordion in a leather case so he excused himself and went over to them. I am sure keeping one eye on me. I set down my instrument and backpack next to me and opened one and then the other case. One contained a newer light wooden model EC. Inexpensive and good maybe for a beginner. The other contained a beautiful vintage metal ended EC. I took it out and gently held it. I put my hands on each side, sliding my thumbs into the thumb straps, my pinky finger in the metal holder and the other fingers gently on the buttons. The straps were too wide for me, so I went and sat on a folding chair and placed the instrument on my knee for better balance and handling and began to play a mazurka called Tra Veglia E Sonno. When I was finished I felt Alex and the two other people watching me. I stopped playing and apologized for bothering them and began to put the instrument away. Alex insisted I play another tune. I played another Italian waltz and a French ballad before someone else entered the store. At which point Alex asked if I was interested in discussing the instrument. As I had no money at the time I said not at this time but asked if he did concertina repair and tuning. He did and I said I would return.

A month or so later I brought my EC in for him to look at. It had a persistent buzz that I could not find. He opened and showed me what the cause was, fixed it, charged me, and then said I should come around now and then. Which I did. Sometimes I would receive a call from him whenever he had another EC available for sale I had not seen. In all the years going there I only found one instrument I wanted to buy from him. We haggled on the price for two weeks but never could agree to where I felt I could afford or was worth the debt it would cause.

I regret not buying it to this day.

All those wonderful music stores on W 48th Street are long gone. The musical instrument store with a cacophony of instruments is primarily replaced with big box stores. Record and sheet music stores are relics of the past. Most concertinas and accordions are available for sale at just a handful of places in the US and UK and by a few dozen private sellers around the world. Sales are primarily conducted online. Knowledgeable repair people are few and far between. Good luck getting your instrument professionally repaired like Alex used to do.

I recently ventured into one of those music box stores to purchase a new microphone cable. No one approached me so I wandered around. There was an enormous room for Stereo, TV and Home Entertainment Units. Another room just for sound equipment. I found a small area with a few bins of books of compilations of various musical genres. I eventually made my way back to the large room where rows of guitars, mandolins, and few violins and other assorted string instruments were lined on the walls and on stands on the floor. This is where several young people were congregated around a few instruments. They looked up at me when I entered but went immediately back to playing and talking.

I took a deep breathe. It still had a hint of guitar smell.



Randy Stein - English Concertina

Randy Stein is a classically trained musician and recording artist who plays and performs internationally on the English Concertina. Website: