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R.I. musician attempts to break world record playing accordion

Cory Pesaturo played the accordion in a store window for more than 32 hours, in an attempt to set a new world record. Philip Platzer

The first time in his life that Cory Pesaturo felt ready to give up — really quit, throw it down and walk away — was when he trudged up the side of Mount Snow in Vermont in the bitter dead of winter, carrying a heavy sled on his back.

“Multiple times we said, ‘We have to turn around,’ ” Pesaturo said. “But you mentally push through it.”

The second time was last Saturday in an Austrian storefront.

For 32 hours and 14 minutes, Pesaturo worked his fingers and arms to exhaustion as he attempted to set a new world record for the “longest marathon” playing the accordion.


His body ached. His mind was wandering. He worried slightly about how the epic feat might affect his career in the long term. But he powered through.

“My body couldn’t handle what I was doing, but my mind was like, ‘You better keep going,’ ” said Pesaturo, 29, who holds international accordion championships in three categories. “I’m still recovering. . . . It was the hardest thing I have ever done.”

Pesaturo’s attempt is under review by the Guinness Book of World Records. If it’s approved by the organization, the Rhode Island resident will have snatched the musically prestigious title from Anssi Laitinen of Finland, who in 2010 wailed away on the squeeze box for a staggering 31 hours and 25 minutes.

In April, Pesaturo got the idea to try and break the current world record. He was watching a live taping of “Jeopardy!” in California and got to talking to a couple next to him, who said their daughter had set a new record for playing the harp. Something went off in Pesaturo’s head.

“I said, ‘That would be interesting if I could do it, but for the accordion,’ ” he said.

Soon after, Pesaturo contacted the folks at Red Bull, who agreed to sponsor his attempt. The energy drink company flew him to Graz, Austria earlier this month and hired officials to keep tabs on the veteran musician as he spent more than a day playing music in a store window before the public, with few pauses between songs.


According to the rules, Pesaturo could take a 30-second break, while holding the instrument, after each song. The songs all had to last two minutes or longer. He got a five-minute break, when he could remove the accordion, for every 60 minutes that he played.

It might sound like such breaks would make the marathon a bit easier, but just taking an accordion off and setting it down on the ground eats up a minute, Pesaturo said. Factor in a quick stretch, time to splash your face with water, and a trip to the bathroom -- and there’s hardly any time left to take a deep breath.

“All of the sudden you have one minute, and you have to get back on the stage and put the accordion on,” said Pesaturo, a graduate of the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston. “There’s basically no break.”

Pesaturo said he never trained leading up to the event. With 20 years under his belt as an accordion player (his father introduced him to the instrument when he was 9), he felt confident in his abilities. He also wanted to save his energy for the big day, rather than waste it practicing during minimarathons, he said.


That might have been a bad choice. At least twice during his attempt, Pesaturo said his body started to give up on him, and he felt ready to quit.

Around the 16-hour mark, as he moved the instrument in and out, and in and out, the pain in his lower arms and hands was “incredible,” he said.

“It was my body saying, ‘You must stop doing what you’re doing, or you’re going to injure yourself for life,’ ” he said.

Later, around the 23-hour mark, those notions resurfaced. But he thought of Boston, the record-setting title, and the people back home as he kept going, playing a mix of pop tunes and national anthems.

One other thought also kept him motivated: the New England Patriots’ 2017 Super Bowl win.

“Do you think people thought Tom Brady could win at 28 to 3 in the third quarter? Probably not,” he said. “But he did.”

And with that, Pesaturo kept playing.

Steve Annear can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @steveannear.