Mary & Frank Tokarski Musical Arts Fund

Est. 2018 by Mary Tokarski.

Mary Tokarski
Mary Tokarski performing a solo concert in Albany, NY. Photo courtesy of the Tokarski family.

It was the promise of an ice cream cone that nudged Mary Tokarski toward the accordion and an acclaimed performing and teaching career that would take her around the world and influence the lives of thousands of students.

When Mary was six and her sister, Julie, was five, their half-brother – who ran a music studio – asked if they’d like to learn to play the accordion. Julie said yes. When Julie played well, she’d receive a few coins and stop for an ice cream cone on the way home.

"So, I said `hmmmm’,” recalls Tokarski with a smile in her voice. She picked up the accordion at seven and thus launched her career. She began performing locally and went on to perform across China, Europe, and New Zealand, as a soloist and with symphony orchestras, ensembles, and string quartets.

Mary and Frank Tokarksi
Mary and Frank Tokarksi. Photographer: Juliette Photography

By 12, she was also helping teach fellow students; by 19, she had 150 students at her brother’s studios. Her late husband, Frank, encouraged her to open the Tokarski Music Studio in North Haven where she taught for 30 years while continuing to perform.

Mary continues to teach (online at the moment) and can’t wait to get back out performing. “With the accordion, every ounce of music comes from your heart, your entire body,” she says. “The music envelops you.”

In 2018, she established the Mary & Frank Tokarski Musical Arts Fund at The Community Foundation so that young people can “experience the enrichment and the joy that comes from making music.” The Fund bears her husband’s name to honor the endless support he had for her music career. North Haven High School students, American Accordionists’ Association (AAA) festival participants and students of AAA members can apply for a scholarship or for funds to attend music conferences or competitions, “whatever they feel is going to improve their musical quality and skills.”