Bequeathing Your Concertina

A strategy for the future of the Concertina in Australia from Steve Wilson with David Johnson


Many of us who play the concertina today are in our senior years so really it would be prudent, like it or not, to consider our mortality and the fate of our concertinas.  I started playing concertina at the age of 23 and just about everyone I knew who played was youngish, less than thirty.  It was the early days of the folk revival and the percentage of youngish players was high.  These days we don’t have very many young players among us at all.  To say less than twenty Australia wide would not be far off the mark.  Wouldn’t it be fantastic if in the coming years a great many younger ones started playing concertina.
As I see it the two main impediments for young people are firstly the availability/ expense and secondly the repertoire, a misconception that concertinas and the music played with them aren’t cool. 
The legacy strategy outlined is mainly to deal with the availability/ expense limitation by providing either direct bequests to young players or providing guidance for estate executors.
This second impediment is perhaps not so relevant once a kid has the opportunity to start playing around with a concertina and learning it.  They can play whatever sort of music they like and even self teach with enough resources.  Many would probably gravitate toward a trad style.  From my experience the ideal age for a kid to start learning is from 8 to 16 years as they have developed the motor skills and possess enthusiasm and drive.
The strategy then is to invite those who feel senior enough to consider bequeathing their instrument(s) to a young person.  

View video with Steve Wilson explaining the Concertina Legacy Strategy.

Will / Codicil to your Will 

You can include a bequest of a particular concertina to a particular person in your Will or in a Codicil to your Will. (Here is an example form)  A codicil is a document that records changes to an existing will at no further expense. It is kept with your will for your executor.

  • Unless the instrument(s) is/are bequeathed to a specific person or recognised legal entity* the executor is obliged to have them valued and included in the estate wind-up.
      *for example an incorporated organisation
  • Another point to consider is a beneficiary could be considerably older by the time they receive a concertina which would somewhat defeat the aim of getting concertinas into young hands. Que sera, sera.

Letter of Instruction

Alternatively you can indicate your intentions with a Letter of Instruction to your executor(s). (View an example form)(Download Word format form). You can nominate a specific person or recognised legal entity* to whom you wish to leave a concertina. Or you can direct your executor to contact the Selection Panel. This letter should also be kept with your Will to guide your executor(s).  
  *for example an incorporated organisation.

  • It  is advisory only and can be overridden by the executor(s) whose legal responsibilities include the valuation of the estate.
  • You know who your executor(s) is/are and presumably trust his/her/their judgement.
  • It can also include much useful information such as bank accounts, online account logins and passwords, investment details, etc that would make your executor's job easier.

Guiding Your Executor

If you have no particular young person in mind to bequeath your concertina(s) you can direct your executor with a Letter of Instruction and to this website for guidance. The site provides contacts for marrying bequests and young players.
The Register (described below) provides an executor with evidence that there is a substantial group of concertina enthusiasts that are similarly determined to see good instruments go to young talent.

The Selection Panel

The selection panel is a small group of young to middle-age concertina players who have accepted the responsibility of matching benefactors and legatees on behalf of the established concertina community in AustraliaThe panel will remain inactive until contacted by an executor.  To maintain impartiality and fairness a procedure has been developed and documented to guide the panel in their task.  This panel can be contacted by email if a registrant requires more information. 

The Register

The register is simply to show who has undertaken to see to the fate of his/her concertina(s) following the inevitable.  It is primarily set up for those who wish their instrument(s) to go to a young person.

  • It is simply entering your name and ticking which type of plan you have put into place.
  • Please don’t add your name to the register without attending to the documentation first.
  • The point of the register is to get us motivated to pass on our instruments to young people.  
Link to fill in the Registration FormLink to display the Current Register

In Conclusion

We all have a choice about the fate of our concertinas but no choice about our passing.  With increasing frequency our estates will be executed with some concertinas passed on and played, some stored away and some sold but with diminishing demand in Australia many, especially high end instruments, will quite likely go overseas.
However, with determination we can change that course.  In ten or thirty years time, instead of dozens of concertinas stored in cupboards, it’s possible they will be played by a new group of youngish players, ‘The Beneficiaries Mob’.  Support and mentoring is intended via the Concertina Australia website with instructional videos, links to resources and even online meetings. And, of course, support in person, the Saplings group for example.
So dear friends we have a strategy for the future. Some of us will live long enough to see it start to work.  In today’s world the future seems so uncertain.  We oldies may despair but young ones still have hopes and dreams and if there are still concertinas being played the world has to be better for it. 
But if available concertinas aren’t embraced by young ones the concertina in Australia could become an endangered species.
Steve Wilson 2023