Study Accordion with Henry

Publicity photo (October 2004)

Henry understands the accordion and knows how to help others understand and master the instrument. Not only piano-accordion students benefit from his teaching expertise, also button-box students, especially those who are learning from Henry’s best-seller three-volume series, How to Play Diatonic Button Accordion, published by Santorella Publications.

For advanced students, Henry is not simply an accordion teacher; he is a personal trainer for accordionists. Just as a serious athlete or bodybuilder needs a coach who will demand the best, a serious student of the accordion who wants to improve needs a qualified and capable teacher who can lead the way by example. Doktorski is accepting a limited number of serious students who are interested in studying accordion technique and interpretive musicianship with a professional concert accordionist. Stradella and Free-Bass left-hand systems; piano-accordion and button-box all accepted.

Henry specializes in classical or semi-classical works, but will also guide students who wish to play jazz, standards, and folk music with correct stylistic interpretation. Weekly lessons can be either 30 minutes or 60 minutes in length and are conducted by SKYPE, FaceTime, speakerphone, or, of course, by a personal visit to his Riverside County studio. Call or text Henry at 951-435-9209 or send an e-mail to


I am delighted and honored to have the opportunity to study with Henry Doktorski. I saw him play and teach at an accordion festival, and thought how great it would be if I could study with him. Maybe I could leap from the lower depths of accordion playing to starry heights or at least to a respectable reliable intermediate level. For the past several months I have been taking lessons by telephone with Henry and it has been a wonderful experience:

    • He is both a virtuoso player and a virtuoso teacher, a quite rare combination.

    • He is very encouraging, explains and explicates concepts fully, patiently and clearly.

    • He is challenging and encouraging, enabling you to do things that you did not think were possible—at least not for a very long time.

    • He is tremendously creative, able to think on the spot and out of the box (what a terrible mixing of idioms—but boy is it true).

    • He provides ideas and solutions to problems that I have never thought of and quietly introduces music history, theory, techniques, performance, etc., into the lesson.

    • His standards and expectations are very high and he somehow makes it possible for you to achieve more than you thought possible.

    • He is very down to earth and practical, enjoys all kinds of music and is without snobbery or pretension of any kind.

I commend him as a fine lovely person and recommend him to anyone at any level who wants to study the accordion.

Toby Harke
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

I am 73 years old; I studied and taught accordion during the 1950s and 1960s. I decided a few months ago that it might be fun to perform a recital for my 75th birthday. I listened to myself on tape and was not pleased with my performance. I realized I need professional help—and so looked around for a teacher whose performances pleased me.

There were no teachers close to home, but I thought of Henry Doktorski, as I had purchased several of his CDs, and attended two of his live performances. I was impressed in several ways:

    • with his musicality (musical sensitivity or talent),

    • his “approach to music.” By that I mean, his approach to a particular piece of music—especially his phrasing. His phrasing is unique and pleasant and sounds deceptively easy,

    • his professional background in piano, organ, and other instruments, and his large and small ensemble experiences,

    • his graduate school music educational background—which is very important to me,

    • his critique. If a prospective student reads his reviews of performances and/or recordings—you know you are going to get an honest critique,

    • his seriousness, and his sense of humor.

So I began studying with Henry by telephone. Speaker phone lessons are convenient for both teacher and student: no travel, no distractions, disruptions, privacy. Hey, you can even take a lesson in your “jammies!”

As to the “improvement in my playing” since taking lessons with Henry, I can say that he brought to my attention aspects of my playing that I never heard and wouldn’t have heard on my own—situations that needed immediate attention—i.e., unison passages of right and left hand in which the two hands were not perfectly together. I never would have heard that on my own. Also, the cutting off of notes prematurely. Prematurely getting to the next note, phrase, or measure. Getting to the next note, phrase, or measure too late. Tempo problems. Bellows reversing problems, etc.

I also discovered that Henry has the patience of Job! And that is a testimonial!

Joan Gilyeat Moyer
Indianapolis, Indiana

I began taking accordion lessons when I was five years old and finally quit when I was fifteen. My parents made me take lessons and I had to play at family gatherings. I was not interested in music and I hated to play for relatives. I didn’t want to sit in the house and practice accordion when all my friends were playing outside. I was very happy when I finally quit the accordion at age fifteen! Forty-seven years passed; I finished high school, got a job, got married and raised a family. Then my kids grew up and moved out, and I retired. I spent a lot of time fishing.

About five years ago my wife started taking piano lessons, and I really enjoyed listening to her play. I began to think, “This sounds like a lot of fun. Maybe I could play an instrument also at this point in my life.” So I unearthed my old accordion from the closet and dusted it off.

But I soon discovered I needed a teacher. I decided right away that I did not want to take lessons from an ordinary accordion teacher, someone who might have taken lessons from another ordinary accordion teacher. I wanted someone who was a highly-trained and educated musician, someone with conservatory training.

During my search for an accordion teacher, I found Henry Doktorski. He seemed to be just what I was looking for—someone with advanced degrees in music; someone who understands the symphony orchestra, who has played with symphony orchestras, and knows how to play the accordion like an orchestra. So I began taking weekly lessons with Henry. My lessons last for 45 minutes. Today (November 6, 2006) I had my 24th lesson with him.

During my lessons with Henry, the music comes alive. He is teaching me to play much more than just the notes; he is teaching me how to play with passion and emotion. His willingness to share his musical knowledge makes my lessons meaningful and productive. I look forward to every lesson with him and practice session at home.

Now I practice several hours a day; and my abilities have increased much more than I could have imagined. Now I actually look forward to and enjoy playing for family gatherings! I play simply for the joy of music. And my brother-in-law (who plays the guitar) and I have great jam sessions! We have so much fun playing together. I see myself playing the accordion for the rest of my life.

Henry is a world-class musician and teacher. I highly recommend him to anyone serious about accordion study.

David Mastropietro
Ellwood City, Pennsylvania

At the age of 50 I decided that I wanted to try and learn to play the two-row diatonic accordion (button box). I bought a used G and C two-row accordion and a teach-yourself book with accompanying CD. I thought I was progressing okay until the tunes required me to use more left-hand bass accompaniment. I could not separate the movements of my right and left hands. I was stuck.

Then I sought the help of Henry Doktorski. I met with Henry and he understood my problem. Henry also noticed some bad fingering habits that I had acquired. Henry suggested that I start over again with a lesson book that he wrote for the beginning button box student: How To Play Diatonic Button Accordion. I did start over again with Henry as my teacher. It took me about six months to progress though Henry’s book. With Henry’s expertize and patience, I was able to learn to move my left hand independently and improve my fingering for better playing. I am now enjoy learning new tunes from other books.

Jack Wainio
Wellington, Ohio