Accordion Dreams: A Journey into Cajun and Creole Music is author Blair Kilpatrick's memoir of her life-changing passion for Louisiana French music - and her unlikely obsession with the accordion.
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Blair Kilpatrick

author Blair KilpatrickCalifornia has become my home. But I still feel like a child of the Midwest.

I was born in Cleveland, the oldest child of a Scottish immigrant father and a Slovenian-American mother. When I was in my teens, we moved to a suburb of Chicago, the city where I would spend much of my adult life.

I graduated from the University of Chicago, where I met and married Steve Tabak, a fellow student. I went on to earn a Ph.D. in clinical and personality psychology from Duke University. I have worked as a psychologist ever since-as a university professor, program administrator, clinical supervisor, and psychotherapist.

After graduate school, Steve and I settled down in Chicago, where our sons Alec and Nate were born. My life changed when I took a fateful birthday trip to New Orleans, and I developed an unexpected passion for the Cajun accordion.

In 1997, my family and I moved to the San Francisco Bay Area. After a few years of immersion in the local Cajun-Creole music scene, I decided to put together a band of my own-starting with my fiddler-husband. Sauce Piquante has been performing since 1999. We have released one recording, with a second on the way.

Blair and Steve
Blair and Steve, with Sauce Piquante at Ashkenaz in Berkeley

Today, I divide my time between music and writing. I also maintain a private practice in psychotherapy. Not surprisingly, I have a special interest in life transitions, women's issues, and creativity.

  Sauce Piquante
Sauce Piquante

How I Came to Write Accordion Dreams

I never set out to write a book.

I already had enough to do, trying to balance my unlikely new passion for Cajun-Creole music with the demands I faced as a psychologist, wife and mother. Writing was an early dream, one I'd left behind. Or so I thought. But then it slipped back into my life, just like the memories of my half-forgotten schoolgirl French.

Moving from Chicago to the San Francisco Bay Area helped trigger the need to write. Writing seems to be in the air here, just like the tangy but unsettling scent of eucalyptus I'll always associate with my first weeks in Berkeley.

I started out writing letters and e-mails to friends, and then moved on to reviews and short personal essays. I found a creative writing class. I felt driven to communicate my passion for the unique music and culture of south Louisiana--and for the vital music community I had discovered in Northern California. I wanted to touch readers in the same way this journey had transformed me.

Gradually, I began to realize my story was also about something broader and more personal: midlife awakening, opening up to passion and change, taking risks at every stage of life. Listening to your dreams-no matter how improbable they might be.

Still, I hesitated at the thought of writing a book, even when other people began to push me in that direction. Then Danny Poullard died. He was a renowned Creole accordionist, the guiding spirit of the San Francisco Bay Area's Cajun-zydeco music scene. He was my friend and mentor.

So that's when I knew for certain. I had to write a book--to remember Danny, and to give something back to a community that had offered so much to me.

And if I can inspire readers to honor their own dreams--well, so much the better!

~Blair Kilpatrick