When President Joe Bertolino sent out his annual holiday video to the university community in December, it took on a life of its own. In the video, Bertolino performs on his accordion a piece entitled “Flight of the Angels,” sharing that he played the song for his mother shortly before she passed last year. The video was widely shared and viewed on social media, and a story about his expertise on the accordion and his performance for his mother recently appeared in the New Haven Register. His video performance even prompted an invitation from the New Haven Symphony Orchestra to join them in their holiday pops concert.
Bertolino, a former New Jersey accordion champion, began to play at age 10, inspired by his grandfather, who was also an accordionist and every year played holiday favorites on his accordion for the family. Bertolino’s grandfather gave him his first accordion. The instrument he plays in the video was given to him by his father 40 years ago, and, he says, he still treasures it.
As Bertolino picked up the accordion to play for his mother in her final days, her reaction inspired him to revisit his musical roots. “Music proved in the end of my mother’s life to provide a joyful and healing experience for all of us.”
In his video message, Bertolino speaks of the challenges the past year has brought, and he offers his performance as thank you to the university community for working together and staying strong during difficult times. “I am grateful for you all,” he says in the Register article, “and wish you and your loved ones a joyous holiday season.”
Read the New Haven Register article, “Accordion brings unexpected response from dying mother” by Pam McLoughlin, 1/3/22