Alec Sweazy is a 2004 graduate of McNally Smith College of Music in St. Paul, MN, where he earned a diploma in the Professional Musicians Course – Keyboard. Performing on piano and accordion, his repertoire includes classical, jazz, pop, and contemporary, as well as spontaneous, original compositions.
Alec, who has Williams syndrome, made his passion for music known very early in his life. At only 10 ½ weeks of age he began jubilantly singing long, clear “oo” sounds (as in “moon”) upon hearing a specific piano piece. Incredibly, he was also matching the pitches perfectly. Before he could walk he would work his way up to reach the piano keys. He delighted in locating octaves, playing them together over and over. Typically highly distractible, certain sounds would keep him engaged for several minutes, especially if he could make them himself. By the age of 6 Alec was attending group lessons on keyboard and learning to sing in solfege (do, re, mi). At the age of 9 Alec attended the first weeklong summer music camp for Williams syndrome at Belvoir Terrace in Lenox, Massachusetts, which became an annual event for ten years. Shortly after that first year at music camp, Alec started private piano lessons with Joanne Minnetti; and at the age of 12, he started private accordion lessons with Larry Malmberg. Although reading music was an obstacle for him in the early years, Alec progressed rapidly by relying on his fine ear and amazing memory. He could play a piece after hearing it only once or twice and could then effortlessly transpose it into any key. It wasn’t until much later that he would be reading music readily. Alec enjoyed singing in the Minnetonka Acappella Children’s Choir for two years and in the school choir throughout junior and senior high school. He also participated in the Prelude Program at MacPhail Center for Music in Minneapolis for three years.
Alec has been the recipient of numerous awards and scholarships, including a five-time Central Region winner of the National Federation of Music Clubs’ Joyce Walsh Scholarship (1999 – 2003), Lili Claire Foundation’s “Music of the Heart Scholarship” (2001), and first place winner in the Magnante Solo category of American Accordionists’ Association Championship and Festival (2002). Alec was named the senior division winner of the 2009 Young Soloists Competition (performing on piano) from VSA Minnesota – The State Organization on Arts and Disability. He was awarded two first place trophies at the 2009 Accordionists and Teachers Guild, international festival and competition in Bloomington, MN, and was also chosen for a 2009 Career Advancement grant for accordion from the Jerome Foundation of St. Paul, that helped him to purchase his Roland FR-7 V-Accordion. In October 2011 Alec, along with 13 other recipients of VSA Minnesota’s Project Grants for Artists, was showcased in the month long exhibit “Putting Creativity to Work” at the Hennepin Gallery in downtown Minneapolis.
Alec has performed extensively, including solos at Orchestra Hall, the Minneapolis Hilton Hotel, Nordstrom at the Mall of America, and Hopkins Center for the Arts. Major performances include the Williams Syndrome Association National Convention held in Bloomington, Minnesota (1998), the ARRM Conference in St. Paul (2003), VSA Minnesota’s Cabaret & Silent Auction (2004), the Minnesota Brass, Inc. Spring Showcase (2005), and the Wisconsin Supported Employment Annual Conference in Sheboygan, Wisconsin (2005). Kicking off a high school marching band state championship, Alec sang the national anthem at the HHH Metrodome in Minneapolis (2007). Since 2008 Alec has performed an annual solo recital on piano and accordion, featuring his newest studies. Alec sang baritone with the Apollo Male Chorus (AMC) of Minneapolis for ten years. AMC performs, records, tours, and often takes part in music workshops, adjudication and festivals. In July 2005, Alec attended a nine-day, international festival and competition in Newfoundland with AMC. In February 2012 AMC sponsored the Northstar Male Choral Festival that featured several local high school choirs and Cantus, one of the premier men’s vocal ensembles in the United States. In January 2014 Alec and the AMC enjoyed four days in New York City and sang at Carnegie Hall as the core chorus in the Martin Luther King concert that featured Randall Thompson’s “Testament of Freedom” and Mark Hayes’ “The Gettysburg Address.”
Alec has been featured in several documentaries that aired on television in England, France, the Netherlands, Japan, and Canada. He has also appeared on 60 Minutes, Nightline, and 60 Minutes II, and was featured twice in 2003 on the Twin Cities’ Kare-11 Extra. In February 2005 Alec was named KFAI (Minneapolis / St. Paul) Radio’s “Artist of the Month” for its Disabled and Proud program, and gave a 30-minute live interview and accordion performance.
Alec studied accordion for twelve years with Larry Malmberg and two years with Jill Lynch, and continues to study piano with Joanne Minnetti. He performs on piano and accordion in churches, retirement and memory care facilities, at conferences, and for private and public events. As an Ambassador for VSA Minnesota – The State Organization on Arts and Disability, Alec performs in Minnesota schools throughout the school year. When Alec is not involved in music he enjoys strength training, swimming, traveling, hawk and eagle watching, drawing, amusement park rides, and playing with his miniature poodle, Buda.