Randy Stein - English Concertina
4 min readMay 12, 2021


It was at one specific lesson with Boris Matueswitch that changed my practice habits. Each week he would assign me a violin etude study as well as specific passages from one or more of the musical pieces he had given me to work on. I knew I did not put as much time into that week’s practice as required. As I played through that weeks study, Boris made a few suggestions and then reassigned that same etude study for the following week’s lesson. Toward the end of our lesson, he turned to me and said “You are becoming a very competent player. If that is good enough for you fine. Otherwise practice a little more this week.”

His words hit me like a brick and had the desired impact.

From a young age when I started studying music, I was organized and diligent in my musical practice habits (school was another story). I have always enjoyed the process of learning and developing my musical abilities. But Boris’ words were a gut punch and become a raison d’etre for me to do more and become better. From then on my practice was obsessively focused.

Through the years my time and focus changed to raising a family and working outside of the variety entertainment business. Practicing for hours a day may have waned a bit. My practice sessions seemed to always fall back on an organized warm-up of scales, arpeggios, an etude study, and then maybe review a piece of music or two. Some days I would sit and just play tunes in my repertoire. That might suffice based on how much time I had. If possible and motivated I might work on and learn a new piece of music. In 2005, I started performing with my good friend and famed accordionist, Rodger French. Adding a guitarist, we started a trio aptly called The Rodger French Trio. I was now practicing and learning for our performances. Over the next 15 years I began expanding not only my solo repertoire but performing with two new additional groups: a traditional acoustic music trio and a gypsy jazz group. My practicing time grew and intensified as each new musical endeavor began to perform more and more.

Then 2020. Everything stalled and then came to a halt. All the time spent working on the music for a performance seemed unnecessary. At first I still would practice as if there would be a next gig. Then I might pick up and randomly play through tune books and set lists. My practice sessions seemed aimless. This lasted a couple months.

It was late April of 2020, with the covid pandemic taking a devastating hold of the world, I picked up my box one day and started to play a popular French tune from the 1940s, J’ai Ta Main by Charles Trenet. I found the old worn piece of sheet music I made my arrangement from a realized I had never played the opening verse, only the refrain. So, I arranged the first part and began playing the tune in whole. I sifted through the piles of folders that contained the sheet music of other previous arrangements. I noticed I had ignored some of more complicated chord structures: a half diminished or a chord with a 9th or a flatted 5th. Probably because at that time, early in my EC career, they may have seemed strange to me. Now some 35–40 years later they made sense. I began reworking many of my previous arrangements.

I was becoming motivated and reinvigorated. I felt a need to get back to basics and practice and study like I did with Boris and Sergei. I decided to reach out to a friend of mine who is a professional fiddle player, for suggestions of violin studies. Soon I was amassing a whole new library of violin etude studies as well as a new collection of solo violin pieces to work on.

Practice area in my music room

One of my students mentioned how hard it was for her to read one of Boris’ handwritten manuscripts I had copied and given to her. I spent one day sifting through the website where we catalogued many of those handwritten transcriptions and arrangements. As I recently had downloaded a musical composition and notation software, I started spending an hour or more a day notating many of those manuscripts as well as several of my own.

My practice sessions once again seem more organized and focused. My love of playing and practicing has returned with a vengeance. I am focusing on new music, new musical theory challenges to the EC, and rediscovering how and what I play and practice. I am once again becoming a very competent player. Now I just need to work a little harder to get better.



Randy Stein - English Concertina

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