At the age of three, James Rand picked up his first accordion, and he’s been hooked ever since. He’s performed in cities around the world, from his hometown of Detroit, Michigan to Florence, Italy – and he’s loved every minute of it.
“Music opened up a whole new world to me,” said James, who began a 40-year career with Parke-Davis, (now Pfizer) in 1966. “But it’s a humbling discipline because there’s always something new to learn. In many ways, it’s similar to my career at Parke-Davis and Pfizer.”
Time at Parke-Davis
He started in the receiving department and that was followed by an assignment in the general pharmacy and biological department, where he produced cough syrup. That was followed by an assignment as an order processor in the Detroit sales office.
In 1978 he began what would become his favorite job at Parke-Davis: a processor in the flu department. James operated equipment enabling the production of mass quantities of a special series of vaccines. “Working with doctors and others to bring those vaccines to millions of people was one of the most enjoyable times in my career,” said James.
James retired in 2006, after spending his last 28 years working in the flu department. “I’m proud to have worked for a company like Parke-Davis,” said James. “It was great to be a part of a company that provides medicines to people around the world.”
All About the Accordion
Since retiring, James has shifted his focus to all-things-accordion.
“I’m really enjoying retirement,” he said. “I’m busy almost every day of the week with my music, and it really makes the time fly.”
Beside playing the accordion, James is a member and board director of the Michigan Accordion Society, which organizes music events, runs raffles, and promotes the love of the accordion to increase membership. “We have about 300 members now, and have attracted a lot of expert talent,” said James. “Professional jazz accordionist Tony Dannon recently joined, and that was very exciting.”
Not only does he play, he repairs accordions. James opened up The Bella Accordion Company, LTD, in 2006, an accordion repair shop. “The accordion is actually a very complicated instrument, and can take some time to repair” said James. He repairs three a month.
In 2007 James and his wife, Rosemary traveled to Italy for the first time. They went on a group tour and James had a surprise waiting for him – a chance to play the accordion. Across from a monastery and in a well-known Italian restaurant, James was offered the opportunity to perform for the crowd by way of his tour guide.
“I’ve wanted to play in Italy all of my life but never thought I would have the chance, “said James. That was a great moment for me and it fulfilled one of my dreams. It was absolutely magnificent.”
That was one of many venues James has played in. He has played all over Detroit and continues to play for weddings, banquets, private parties, and other events. “I enjoy the public; they are like my family,” said James.
He writes his own music and also covers other artist’s songs. In 2006, James produced a CD titled, Bella Rose, which is sold locally in Detroit and features local professional musicians. He also recently cut a track to celebrate the Shelby Music Societies’ 10 year anniversary. The Shelby Music Society is a local music networking organization.
“Everything I learned was a stepping stone to become a better musician. You can only strive to become a great musician. It’s something you work really hard for,” said James.
“I can do what I’ve always wanted to do with my life and that’s play my music.”