It is with great sorrow that we report Don passed away today. He was an extraordinary musician and a gentle man. Please keep his wife JoAnn in your thoughts and prayers.
KCUR rebroadcasted a great piece on Don this morning, you can listen to that interview, along with outtakes, here
Of Slovenian heritage, Don started his musical career at the age of four, playing Slovenian melodies on a button-box accordion bought by his grandfather. He began piano accordion lessons with Alfred Vacca, who trained him thoroughly in the classics. In 1958, Don won the nation’s top accordion honor – first place in the American Accordion Association National Championship contest. Don went on to represent the United States at the world competition in Brussels, Belgium. He attended the Kansas City Conservatory of Music and has degrees in both music theory and music education. Don has appeared on the Lawrence Welk Television show and as soloist with the Kansas City Philharmonic Orchestra. He has also been the Director of the St. John Tamburitzans for more than 35 years. He has the unique distinction of having been inducted into both the Tamburitza Association of American Hall of Fame, for outstanding contributions toward the preservation of Tamburitza music; and the Polka Hall of Fame, awarded at Ironworld, USA, in Chisholm, Minnesota.