Willoughby Ann Walshe 80th Birthday
by Ulrich Schmülling

On April 20th 2017, US American Willoughby Ann Walshe celebrates her 80th birthday.

She worked professionally as journalist for newspapers and magazines in various sectors of the economy in the USA and Europe. For 25 years, she was editor of the renowned "Made in Germany" magazine.

She was first introduced to accordionists by her translation of the book "Die Kunst des Bajanspiels" by Friedrich Lips into English published by Karthause-Schmülling (Kamen, Germany) under the title "The Art of Bayan Playing & Playing the Accordion Artistically" which has become a bestseller in this field and is now part of the basic accordion literature. Numerous other translations of books, articles and texts of various kinds followed for the publishing company.

For the newspaper Intermusik, which as the world's leading press medium provided information about the world of harmonica instruments and music and was published from 1992 to 2010, she worked for many years as a freelancer visiting and reporting on numerous music festivals, concerts, seminars and competitions of the accordion scene.

Walshe Essential Guide  to  Accordion and Harmonica EventsHer expertise in accordion affairs, which she gathered over many years, led Willoughby Ann Walshe to compile a comprehensive and detailed compendium on accordion events in the world. It appeared in a unique book in English (published by Karthause-Schmülling) under the title "Walshe Essential Guide to Accordion and Harmonica Events": Festivals and Competitions Worldwide and contains countless important details about numerous proceedings.

Although Willoughby Ann Walshe is no longer working as professional journalist or writer and could turn to other activities at her home in Seattle, she regularly travels back and forth between the USA, Canada and Europe.

From 2012 to 2014, she temporarily relocated her place of residence to Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan, to serve as Peace Corps volunteer teaching English in this remote Central Asian country and becoming acquainted with the people and their culture.

She currently lives in France and is studying French at the University of Nantes. For the winter semester this year, she plans to reside in Perpignan and study Spanish at the university.

In addition to highly successful collaboration with the renowned publishing company
Karthause-Schmülling, she enjoys long-standing friendship with the publisher, Prof. Ulrich Schmülling. She regularly visits the publishing house in Kamen (in Westphalia). During her recent visit in April 2017, the following interview with the publisher occurred.

Publisher Prof. Ulrich Schmülling and Willoughby Ann Walshe at the publishing house in Kamen, Germany.


Willoughby, when and how did we get to know each other?

That must have been in 1991 or 1992. At that time I lived part-time in Morgenröthe-Rautenkranz in Saxony. From there, I attended as listener the International Accordion Competition in Klingenthal, where your publishing company had a large sales exhibition. I bought the book "Die Kunst des Bajanspiels" by Friedrich Lips, which had just been translated from Russian and published in the German version. When I took my book home that evening, I could not put it down until I had read it through. I was thrilled to learn it was possible to play fantastic, classical music on the accordion, which until that time I only knew as a folk instrument. Of course, I heard many examples during the competition.

What kind of relationship did you have to the accordion or even music outside your professional career as an economic journalist?

The accordion was already known to me from childhood, but only as an instrument for folk and entertainment music. At the age of five, I had accordion lessons in Southern California, where I grew up. I really wanted to play the piano, but had to be at least six years old to take lessons. Because I did not want to wait, I learned to play accordion.

A year later, I began playing piano along with the accordion - which lasted through high school. However, it was "self-evident" that I could play classical music on the piano and "only" entertainment pieces on the accordion. The music and the arts in general were for me always something special and particularly enriching. That's why I never lost the relationship.

As I know, you also lived in the Frankfurt am Main area. There you worked as editor-in-chief of the economic magazine "Made in Germany." How did you come to Europe anyway? An American, who is drawn to Germany, is rather rare, in contrast to Germans who frequently move to America?

In the first place, America was never the "promised land" for me. I have always looked beyond "the box," because for some developments in the USA I have been very distant and critical - not to mention the current one. My direct ancestors came from Lebanon and Central Europe, and for me other countries, cultures and people have always had a special charm. So it was not at all difficult for me to leave the USA for travel, living and working abroad.

In fact, my first visit to Europe was in 1959. It was my honeymoon that brought me here to France, Germany, Italy and Switzerland.

The fact that I would remain many years later for a long time in Germany had its beginning when the German-Canadian media entrepreneur Armin Löscher asked me to produce with him a completely new magazine, in Germany, but in English. That was in 1984. I had been working as a journalist for the “Word Processing World” magazine in New York City since 1976 and realized it was time for a change.

So I followed Armin Löscher to Germany and built with him the magazine "Made in Germany" with headquarters in Dreieich near Frankfurt. It appeared only in English, was distributed in over 200 countries and soon became very successful. It introduced to business people in foreign countries around the world to high-tech products and economic proficiency from Germany.

For more than 25 years, it was, so to speak, a shingle for German companies and German first-class products and unique on the international market. Of course, I had to learn the German language as well, because that was absolutely necessary for dealing with German companies. I already had first contact with the language at my high school in California and then attended intensive language courses in Germany. The German language gave me great pleasure.

In 2009, Armin Löscher stopped publishing the magazine for health reasons. Even though I was already 72 years old, I was not ready for retirement. Since then I have continued working as translator turning German business and technical documents into their English equivalents. It is a work that I can do anywhere in the world on my computer with connection to the Internet.

Back to your visit to Klingenthal and your encounter with the Lips book or the revelation for you that you can also play classical music on the accordion. What was the impact?

Whether you believe it or not, already after the first reading of the book by Friedrich Lips, I was convinced that I would translate this important and remarkable book into English! When you actually proposed the project to me a few years later, there was no question - I had expected it, so to speak.

I always knew that a translation of this book would be very demanding. When I got to know you and your publishing company better and realized what high demands you put on everything you do, I knew I had come to the right place.

While I was still in Klingenthal, it was clear to me that I wanted to learn the how to play the bayan, that is the Russian button accordion, as soon as possible. When I returned from Klingenthal to Frankfurt, I looked for a teacher and actually found a suitable man in native German-Russian Waldemar Heldt who lived in Aschaffenburg.

His first reaction that I was “too old” (while in the mid-50s) did not frighten me. Soon I showed him how eager I was. With his help, we had a "real" button accordion made for me in Castelfidardo. It was a wonderful experience for me to play classical music on the accordion, and to learn bit by bit the playing techniques, interpretive possibilities and numerous subtleties, of which Friedrich Lips wrote in his book.

Naturally, it was only in the context of my possibilities, which are, of course, very modest compared with those of professional musicians.

Because of my professional activity I was very busy. But every free minute I was involved with the bayan or accordion. For a long time, I played actively in accordion orchestras in the Frankfurt area. I lived and loved this kind of music and making music, and I was well prepared for translating the book.

I had neither expected nor forsaw the fact, that after this initial collaboration, a quite comprehensive activity would follow with your publishing house and also your newspaper Intermusik and thus, still a much more intensive employment with accordion music and the international accordion music specialist scene. It was always fun for me and greatly enriched and sustained my life.

Thank you, Willoughby, for the interview – and your longtime friendship.

Some of the very different, successful publications that have been produced by Willoughby Ann Walshe at the publishing house Karthause-Schmülling in around 25 years of co-operation and still exist as bestsellers on the market.

Prof. Ulrich Schmülling: "With her work and translations, Willoughby Ann, unlike the authors of the books and texts, was never in the spotlight and hardly the direct focus of readers and the public. However, without Willoughby, the titles would never have been known to the English-speaking readership! Thus, she has contributed to the success of the publications and authors to a very decisive extent. Particularly in the case of major and important, difficult works, the work of a translator deserves to be valued in the same way as the author.

For our publishing house, Willoughby Ann Walshe belongs to the silent treasures, to the jewels in the back room, who are always there when one needs them and on whom one can always rely."

At the moment, Willoughby is working on translating the latest book by Friedrich Lips, which will be published by
Karthause-Schmülling: "Die Kunst der Bearbeitung klassischer Musik für Akkordeon” – in English “The Art of Arranging Classical Music for Accordion," which will be released this year.