Richard Koski
  • TOiVO leader, button accordion, and vocals

I started out as a trumpet player, went to the U.S. Navy School of Music in 1961, and played in concert and swing dance bands in Washington, D.C., Kodiak, Alaska, and Seattle, Washington. After three years of that, I returned home to the Trumansburg area, and began playing accordion and fiddle with my father who had been playing accordion for local Finnish dances for many years. It seems there were a lot of young fiddlers and banjo pickers moving into the area at that time, and from them I developed an interest in their old-time music. Dad and I joined up with some of them, formed the Finnish-Appalachian Orchestra, and played for a few local Finnish dances. Annie, Harley, Peter Hoover, and some others played with us, and after all those years, Annie, Harley, and I are still playing together with Toivo. In the early eighties, I was living in an old barn in Waterburg, and playing fiddle with the Waterburg Rats. Around that time I made a trip to Louisiana and fell in love with Cajun music. The Tex-Mex music was also interesting to me because of the use of the button accordion and the polkas and waltzes which were similar to the Finnish ones. I learned a lot of that music from Arhoolie Records. During the eighties and nineties, I played piano and accordion in an Ithaca contra and square dance band called the Crumtown Ramblers with Geo Kloppel and Tom Gajewski. I had always played Finnish dance music, and in 2005, as the Finlandia Foundation Performer of the Year, played many solo concerts all over the U.S. I have performed at many national Finnish Festivals, three times at the Kaustinen Folk Music Festival in Finland, and once with my son, Jason, at the Kihaus Music Festival in eastern Finland. Around 2005 I met Jim Reidy at a jam in Trumansburg, and we started playing together, with others eventually joining in. Although many of us have been in other bands and traveling, we are now happy to be playing all of our small time local dances and venues. We’ve only done one tour, and that was to play Finnish dances and festivals in small Finnish-American towns in the woods of Upper Michigan. For the past few years I have been composing dance music influenced by a lifetime of varied musical influences which has become part of the Toivo repertoire. So here we are as Toivo, such a great group of people that I am fortunate to be friends and musical partners with.