What is cool?

June 12, 2010 | By | Reply More

Back in 1973, the Mid-America Music Association sponsored its Seventeenth Annual Music Festival at the Omaha Hilton Hotel on August 3-5 (MAMA still exists). I was a 17-year old guitar teacher back then, and I participated in the contest as a “Virtuoso” (I was not really any sort of virtuoso, but there’s nothing like a label to appeal to one’s ego). About six of my students also participated. It all seems so long ago and hazy to me now, but it seemed like a big deal back then.

I do know, however, that in addition to the guitarists, many accordion players participated in their own accordion contests. Hence, in the program that was handed out, one could spot many advertisements geared to accordion players, making it clear that it was “cool” to play the accordion. I didn’t think so–I always thought that kids from the Midwest who liked the accordion were a bit odd. But the ads pushed the opposite message. Here’s a sample (click for enlargement).


I’m in no way impugning the talents of these players.  Many accordion players were extraordinarily talented.   I find this ad interesting in that it made it clear that accordion playing was cool, yet here we are, 35 years later, and I would think that it would be extremely difficult to find music studios that even offer accordion lessons.

Which brings me to this question.  What is obviously an in-thing to do today–what is “cool”–that will be chuckled at 35 years from now?  Will it be that we walk around with iPods plugged into our ears?  Will it be that so many of us were obese?  Will it be that people thought they could consider their online network members to be “friends”?  Will it be that we dress up with corporate logos on our clothing?  Will it be that we worked so hard to get jobs for the money rather than because the work was meaningful?  Will it be the type of music was thought was impressive?  Will it be that the average American watched more than four hours of television? Will it be that the citizens walked around, apathetic to the rampant corruption in their national government?

In what ways will people 35 years from now shake their heads and chuckle at us?


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About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

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