The International Accordion Festival (IAF), an annual event that takes place in San Antonio, celebrates the musical heritage of the accordion. The IAF began in 2001 and is also a 501-C-3 nonprofit organization whose mission includes the objectives to “preserve and present the accordion music traditions of ethnic, regional and national cultures worldwide and to educate audiences about the many related free-reed instruments central to these musics.”
The free festival, has generally occurred on a weekend in mid-October in San Antonio’s La Villita district and has featured prominent solo accordionists and musical ensembles from throughout Texas and the world at venues that have included Maverick Plaza, Bolivar Hall, and the Arneson River Theatre. The performances reflect a broad spectrum of genres from conjunto, Cajun, zydeco, Czech, German, and western swing to Brazilian and Irish music. In addition to lively shows, the festival offers informational workshops that teach the fundamentals of the instrument and explore its diverse cultural roots. The annual event also has accordion jams and open mic sessions.
Sponsors of the festival have included the Texas Commission on the Arts, Budweiser, local public radio station KPAC, H-E-B, the National Endowment for the Arts, and others. All profits are reinvested into the festival. Musical participants have included Flaco Jiménez, Mingo Saldivar, Joel Guzman, Renato Borghetti Quartet, Riders in the Sky, Piñata Protest, Socalled, Sunny Sauceda, Geno Delafose & French Rockin’ Boogie, Mark Halata & Texavia, and many others. In 2011 Pat Jasper, a cofounder of IAF, served as the festival artistic director.
The festival took a one-year hiatus in 2012 due to loss of sponsors, bad weather, and leadership transitions, but it returned in 2013 with Catherine Ragland as artistic director. In 2015 the festival was a one-day event in September and featured acts such as the Alamo Angels Accordion Orchestra, Conjunto Cats, Mahala, the Flying Balalaika Brothers, and many others. By that year the International Accordion Festival had presented 169 ensembles that represented forty distinct styles from all over the world.