Maddalena Belfiore Celebrity Interview
Celebrity Interviews


The accordion world was saddened to learn of the loss of Maddalena Belfiore, who passed away on Friday, 18 May 2007.

This interview with Maddalena Belfiore was conducted at her home in Kearny, New Jersey on March 26, 2006. It was saved to be published to cooincide with two impressive honors to be bestowed upon her at the forth coming CIA Coupe Mondiale in Alexandria, VA.

Now, after her sad passing, we publish this interview in great respect of her legacy in the accordion world.

    CIA Honorary Membership: At the Confédération Internationale des Accordéonistes (CIA) 117th General Assembly of Delegates held at Nagigia Island, Fiji from January 23-29, 2007, it was unimously approved that Maddalena Belfiore be made the 2nd Honorary CIA Member in recognition of the many decades of support of the organization including serving as a Vice President, acting President, International Delegate, International Jury Member and major donor to the CIA Archives housed in Ikaalinen, Finland.

    Honoree of the Maddalena Belfiore Entertainment Competition for Female Accordionists to be held in conjunction with the 60th Anniversary Coupe Mondiale in Alexandria, VA (Washington DC) on August 15, 2007.


It is impossible to try and understand and acknowledge the impact that Maddalena Belfiore had on the accordion movement during her impressive and varied career in just one short interview, however we hope that this will give you a glimpse into the life of one of America's great accordionists.

In addition, I would like to offer my gratitude and thanks to Linda Soley Reed, President of the American Accordionists Association (AAA) for her kind assistance in making this interview possible.

Sincerely,
Kevin Friedrich - Accordions Worldwide, USA
Tell us a little about the town/city where you were born, and where in the United States is it located?

I was born right here where we are now in Kearny, New Jersey.

(Note: Pronounced "CAR-KNEE", on 14th March 1867, the New Jersey (NJ) Legislature adopted "an act creating the Township of Kearny". The town was named to honor Major General Phil Kearny, Commander of the NJ Forces in the Civil War and the late resident of well-known "Belle Grove", locally called Kearny Castle.)

How did you begin your music study and why did you choose the accordion?

That's an interesting story, because I started music at 5 years old and I had chosen to play the saxophone. How it ended up being that I chose the accordion was, the day I was to start my music lessons, prior to taking me to my first lesson, my father took me to a Vaudeville Show.

It was towards the tail end of the Vaudeville era, and must have been one of the last shows. Who was on stage? ...none other than Charlie Magnante. I was fascinated with him and the accordion, and afterwards I said to my father "the accordion…that is what I want to play!"

On the way home from the show, he stopped at the Sanford Hertz Music Studio in Newark and I had my first lesson. My father bought the accordion and I had my first lesson all at the same time.

Two weeks later I was on stage!

Was your family musical and did your parents play an important part in your early music education?

My family was quite musical. My grandfather was a conductor, my uncle played the clarinet, my sister studied the piano and my mother played the mandolin (which we still have to this day) and (laughing) my father played the doorbell!

I didn't ask to study music, it was just a given… my sister was taking piano lessons, so when I turned 5 years old, it was time for me to do something.

Who was your first accordion teacher?

My first teacher was Sanford Hertz, he was quite well known and operated the Hertz School of Music in Newark, NJ. There were five brothers and the father who all played.

I didn't last there very long, as a family friend played the accordion and when he found out that I was starting my lessons, he told my father about Charlie Nunzio, and that is how I left the Hertz studio and went to Charlie Nunzio.

What are your earliest memories of performing

I played the 'First Waltz'. I think we all played that piece, and I performed this piece two weeks after I started lessons.

During the course of your musical education, is there any teacher or artist (besides Frosini, who will commented on, in the next question) to whom you would like to pay particular tribute, for their inspirational effect on your musical career. Question by Heather Masefield.

I have to say Charlie Nunzio. However, then when Charlie went into the service (Navy) Eugene Ettore took over for him. Gene brought another dimension into my playing which is very interesting. Ettore taught me another style of playing and style of music, whereas Nunzio was a lot like the Frosini style.

During that time, when I was 8 years old, we moved to California, and naturally the accordion came too. I remember at every little tourist stop we made, I had to practice. That was a definite!

Before we left, we had asked about teachers in the San Francisco area, and they had recommended that I look for Guido Deiro. When we got to San Francisco, we tried to find him, but we couldn't, however we found the Pazolo brothers. They were five brothers who were all professional accordionists.

I studied with Theodore Pazolo, which is another interesting happening. He didn't know what to do with me. He would give me five pieces a week, and I would bring them all back memorized. He was a good player, but in general California didn't have much of the way of anything at that point, so fortunately, we only stayed there a year and came back to Kearny again. My father had found it difficult getting work in California, and so we came back.

Each teacher brought me something. Joe Biviano put me on to Hannon. I faithfully played the Hannon exercise book from beginning to end every day, by memory! Then when I went to Arcari, who was an excellent teacher. To summarize, Frosini was the one that made me an artist, Biviano was the one that told me my shortcomings as far as technique goes, and then Arcari was the one that solved the problems. He really was the one that got me into scales.

As a protégé of the late Pietro Frosini, can you tell us about how you met him and the series of events that led to this long lasting professional relationship.

We left off, that before our quick trip to California, I was in NJ with Eugene Ettore. My mother and father didn't know who Ettore was. To them, he wasn't a big enough name for me to be studying with at the time. However, they knew of Frosini. The same friend who had sent us to Nunzio, was also a friend of Frosini, so he introduced us and that's how I started with Frosini.

I had to audition with him, and from there, our relationship ended up lasting a long time. This all happened right after we came back from California.

Can you tell us about your lessons with him. How often did you study with him, and can you describe a typical lesson.

The lessons were something else!!!

Mostly my sister brought me, and to her credit she carried my accordion on the subways and everything!

When I would go for a lesson, we would wait in his Den. His den was about the same size as where we are today (an average size) and so we would just sit in this den, and wait. We would sometimes wait for hours until Frosini was ready to give me a lesson. When he was ready, he would call me from the second floor saying…. Madalenn - Madalenn (like Mada-lane, Mada-lane) and that meant he was ready for me to go upstairs for the lesson.

We would go through a lot of music and it all had to be by memory. I saw he had the button accordion, and I would keep asking.. "Mr. Frosini.. why can't I play that accordion"… and he would say.. "no no… that's the right one… the one you are playing is the right one for you to play.. so stay with that."

I had to leave here at 5 am in the morning to meet him. One funny story was, that there was a certain place he always wanted to eat. So he said.. "come on.. we are going to have breakfast now." The place was all mirrors and when we went in he slammed right into the mirrors, and he then said "I do that every time I come in here!"

Frosini had a lot of eccentricities. You didn't go for a lesson without bringing him a gift. He expected it. Usually it would be a box of chocolates or a cake or something. The box of candy had to be a box where all the candy was different, and it could not be the box that tells you what is in each piece of candy, because he wouldn't eat it. He had to guess what was in there!

There was a time we went there and we didn't bring anything. He said "you didn't bring me anything?" so he made my sister go out to the bakery that was on the way to his house and get him a Cushman's Cake.

Another thing he was eccentric about was his pencils! He had a grand piano his studio, and he did most of his writing on there. He kept all his pencils lined up on the piano. One day I was coming from Julliard, and I wanted to do my homework and I couldn't find a pencil, so I took one of the pencils from on top of his piano. His wife came out screaming "don't touch... don't touch… Friso's pencils."

He had them all in order, in the way he wanted them to write with. No. 1, No. 2, dark, light, big note head and small note head and so on. He had them exactly as he wanted them. But boy… when she started yelling at me!!!

My lessons went on for quite a few years. He lived in Sunnyside, Long Island, which is where I would have to go for my lessons.
Frosini didn't have that many students and he was very selective about who he took. Joe Riviero was one of his famous students.

At that time, no one was afraid to travel. As young as we were, we had no fear of traveling. At first I would take my accordion, but later on I didn't. He let my try one that was at his house, and I could use it, so I would just borrow this for my lessons.

An interesting thing about Frosini is that he liked to sew! He sewed the Raccoon hats (Davy Crockett hats). There he was with his needle sewing the tail on the back of the hat and we would just laugh looking at this stuff. He also had a little dog that was very cute. His wife was part of the Danish Opera Company, as she was Danish. After they married however, she really didn't sing any more.

I studied with him from about 10 years old through college. He prepared me for my Carnegie Hall Recital. He was pretty sharp. A couple of times we had him over to the house. His wife would insist that his accordion would come along with him. She wouldn't ask him to play right way, but soon, she would say… "Frous… Frous… are you gonna play?" … the Belfiores are waiting for you to play.. and he would say.. "No no.. not yet…" so she would get him on the side.. And give him a little 'medication' and he pepped up and he then put the accordion on, and he would start playing, and it was just absolutely amazing. He played Operas, he played Polka's, he played all kinds of music! His memory was phenomenal! In fact, we had him over the house a number of times.

He had us over to his house too. He also had a summer place out on the Island, near Quiage, and he had his little fishing boat. He loved to go out on his fishing boat! That was one of his things, so a couple of times, he took my father with him.
After a couple of years, when Frosini was with the John Gambling show he wanted me to be a part of it, so he had me go down to the Radio Station and all we did was sit there. Everyone was very polite and all, but John Gambling wouldn't talk to me. He was pretty definite about what he wanted, and I wasn't part of it! Some times I would meet Frosini at the Radio Station and we would go to his house from there.

John Bradley Gambling - (9 April 1897 - 21 November 1974) was the first of three generations of host (John B, John A and John R) of the WOR Radio in New York City. The John Gambling Show "Rambling with Gambling" hosted by John B ran from 1925 - 1959, and later continued by his son and grandson, lasted over the course of 75 years (1925-2000).

Frosini wrote a wealth of repertoire for the accordion. Did he share these ideas with you and were you privy to the compositions as they were being written.

Not really. Some of his arrangements were just coming out when I was with him. The La Traviata arrangement came out while I was with him and the Mendelssohn Concerto was another one that came out then.

There were at least 15 pieces that came out while I was there. There were not necessarily originals, mostly transcriptions.

How long did it take him to write some of his pieces. For example, Hot Points, Jolly Caballerro.

I'm not sure, but my guess is that he just churned them out. He did several copies of each piece. He would do them quickly, and then revise them in the next manuscript.

Below is a sample from the original manuscript of Jolly Caballero - October 1933.

What other teachers have influenced you?

There were several: Nunzio, Ettore, Jacques Welt. He was from Long Island. I was preparing for a concert at the Town Hall, and he coached me for that one. The other teachers were all from Julliard. I studied piano with Zargurnig and Arthur Ferrante, (born 7 September 1921, New York City) was my Theory Teacher, and I'm very proud of that. I also studied conducting while at Julliard.

Ferrante and Teicher (Born Louis Teicher, 24 August 1924, Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania) became one of the best-selling instrumental easy listening groups of the 1960s. Beginning with classical piano repertoire, due to audience demand, they eventually turned completely to popular piano works, and they had immediate hits with their renditions of "Exodus" and the theme from "The Apartment," and over 10 Top 100 hits in the next 13 years. They continued to record a steady stream of 4 albums a year for United Artists until 1979, when they formed their own label, Avante Garde. They often played to packed concert houses, appearing up to 100 times a year at their peak. Although they retired from performing in 1989, they remain close friends and have settled near each other in the Sarasota, Florida area.

In all, I spent six years at Julliard where I studied general music including Music Theory, Ear Training, Piano and Conducting. I was with Frosini at the same time taking accordion lessons. I started Julliard while at High School at age of 13. I went during summers and on Saturdays and then when I graduated from High School, I went as a regular student.

From Julliard I went to Columbia University and from there I went to the Manhattan School of Music, so I really did the circuit. Most of my musical training was at Julliard, and I went to Columbia because I needed credit for Italian and English studies and my non-music credits.

During your career, you performed extensively as a soloist and in groups. Tell us a little about these times and where your concert tours took you.

A lot of the solo concerts were for local clubs, music clubs and women's clubs all throughout the state, and some in PA. I would do at least two a month. While I was in high school, I also had to play the USO camps. I'd play the farewell parties for the soldiers going off to war and the local school gym. Later on, I did a number of shows for the Italian Prisoners of War. I did at least 20 shows for them. It was very interesting.

I also did a Carnegie Hall Recital at age 17, which was very exciting.

Describe your most "unusual" or "humorous" performance situation/s?

Playing for the Italian prisoners of war was of course a bit unusual. However, at my young age, it didn't make any difference to me.

My most humorous moment was during a concert with Myron Floren. He was giving a concert here in Raritan, NJ. It was at the local High School and we all went including my sister, Faithe and Ernest Deffner, Frances Margolis… a whole bunch of us.

As normal, Mauro (Maddalena's husband) would always ask me to go on stage to play and play a duo with Myron. I didn't have my accordion with me, so we asked to borrow someone's accordion. Very begrudgingly they agreed… but believe me, they weren't happy! Gramathow High School, was a brand new 8 million dollar School that they had just completed.

Myron came out and introduced me, and I came out of the wings and didn't know there was a step there… and I tripped down the steps! An eight million dollar school and there was a step to get out of the wings onto the stage!

So I got myself up and Myron didn't even come to help me... as he was laughing his head off. I had this borrowed accordion on at the same time, and so the owner was having a fit! After the performance was over, I went out into the audience again and my sister started yelling at me… 'boy… you are clumsy!!'

No-one even asked if I got hurt.. they were all just laughing!!!

Maddalena Belfiore at a glance:

First stage performance at age five.
Commenced studies at Julliard at age 13.
Debut concert at Carnegie Hall, New York at age 17.
Protégé of Pietro Frosini.
Appeared in concerts throughout the United States, Canada and Europe.
Featured performer on Radio and Television.
Second place winner of the Arthur Godfrey Talent Show.
Performed with the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra (Henry Lewis, Conductor).
Composer of accordion method books and technical books on bellows shake.
Adjudicator for national and international music competitions.
Adjunct professor at Fairleigh Dickinson University, New Jersey.
Founder member and director of the Arcari Foundation, Philadelphia.
Founder, past President and Director of the ATA of NJ.
Past President of American Accordionists' Association (AAA).
Board of Director American Accordionists' Association (AAA).
Vice President of Confédération Internationale des Accordéonistes (CIA) 16 yrs.
Acting President of Confédération Internationale des Accordéonistes (CIA).
Merit Award Recipient of CIA for Outstanding Contributions to International Accordion Movement.
2nd Honorary Member of Confédération Internationale des Accordéonistes (CIA).
Member of All Arts Society of New York.
Initiated A.T.A. of NJ Accordion Orchestra.
Recipient of the International Golden Lady Award.
Woman of the Year Award - State of New Jersey.
International Who's Who in Music.
Marquis Who's Who.
Honoree of Maddalena Belfiore International Competition for Female Accordionists.
Accordion Teachers Association of NJ Hall of Fame Recipient.

You have also written many methods for the accordion including those dealing with Bellow Shakes. How many books did your write in all, and are they still available today?

I have written three Bellow Shakes Books, and then there is the Mryon Floren method, which is five books and the Technique Books. For solos, there is Valse Diane, (Eugene Ettore later did an orchestration), the Pan Polka (Eugene later did an arrangement of that one too) and Valse Cavalier. Most are available from Ernest Deffner Music. I worked with Myron on the accordion method book, we collaborated on those. In testing the books out, I used in with my students, to see if what we were writing for the students was acceptable.

Works and Publications by Maddalena Belfiore:

"First Steps in Bellows Shake" by Maddalena Belfiore, published by O. Pagani & Bro. 1954
"12 Bellows Shake Solos" by Maddalena Belfiore, published by O. Pagani & Bro.
"Valse Diane" by Maddalena Belfiore published by O. Pagani & Bro.
"Pan Polka" Solo by Maddalena Belfiore, published by O. Pagani & Bro.
"Pan Polka" Duet by Maddalena Belfiore, published by O. Pagani & Bro.
"Cavalier Waltz" (Valse Brillante) by Maddalena Belfiore

"Shake a Leg" by Frosini, arranged by Maddalena Belfiore

Scherzo in Bb Minor (dedicated to my Father) by Maddalena Belfiore (unpublished)
Day Shift (Novelty) by Maddalena Belfiore (unpublished)

(Note: Maddalena's husband Mauro tells that after they looked at a beautiful boat to purchase named the Cavalier, Maddalena got home and immediately wrote the Cavalier Waltz, which she did in about 1 1/2 weeks.)

What was your fascination with the Bellow Shake?

It wasn't something that was a fascination to me, it was just something that came very easily to me. I guess I took it for granted - just do it how I do it.. ok! There was nothing really fascinating.

I enjoyed doing the bellow shake enormously, and I know there is definate techinque in doing it. I was doing bellow shake before I started with Frosini. I worked on it with him, but I was already doing this before I began with him.
Autographed picture by pro-basketball player/accordionist Tony Lovelli

Your students went onto compete very successfully in various competitions. Did you yourself compete in competitions as a young person?

During my years with Nunzio, I competed in many competitions. Nuznio put all of his students in the contests. Don't forget he was a founder of AAA and supported the contests very strongly. For my first contest, I think I was about 8 years old, and I won 2nd place playing Dance of the Hours. The early AAA contests were very good. They were very big!

How long have you been teaching, and who were some of your more outstanding students?

I have been teaching all my life. I have had many wonderful students. One interesting one was Paul Lukouswki, an Archbishop in New Jersey. When he became Archbishop, he used the picutre of himself with his accordion. A wonderful guy!!

We came back in contact with him after all these years, when my son was having his son Alex baptized. They had to go to the church in their area where there was a get together for all the new parents and Lukouski saw his name Greco there. He said to Frank.. "I used to know the Grecos.. in fact, my accordion teacher is married to a Greco." Frank was beside himself, so they started chatting and my son found out that he had been one of my students. He had studied for a long time!
I have another Greg Naddick, who has a big studio down in south Jersey. He was with the army band and everything.

Terri Conti represented the USA in the International competitions, and in fact, won the 2nd prize in the CIA International Junior Tape Recording Competition. Later after she joined the Church of God, she entered a world competition that they have which included all instruments. The competition was held in Passadena, CA, and since she always traveled with her accordion, she signed up to be part of it, and she won 2nd prize against all the other instrumentalists. In fact, Sylvia Prior was there and was flabbergasted at how well she did.
The walls of Maddalena's studio are lined with press clippings, pictures, trophies, accordion figurines, paintings and momentos of many years of world travel.
Two beautiful paintings at Maddalena's studio

The walls of Maddalena's studio are lined with press clippings, pictures, trophies,
accordion figurines, paintings and momentos of many years of world travel.

Two beautiful paintings at Maddalena's studio

Have you made any recordings and if so, when did you record your first LP, CD or cassette?

Pagani made and sold a set of 78 RPM recordings Valse Diane, Rita Polka, and a bellow shake piece. I did another series of recordings that I don't have a copy of, as they were sent to South America. I know that they were played over there, but I don't have a copy. I have copies of the other ones that Pagani made.

You have done so many performances, but do you have any memorable highlights that you would like to share with us?

I did a Première performance with the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Henry Lewis in Philadelphia. I have the recording of that.

In 1939 we played at the Worlds Fair in New York with the Nunzio Accordion Orchestra. We used to play in parades and on floats such as on the Columbus Day parade in New York City. That was a big one!

I also performed in Castelfidardo, Italy. There was a concert being presented, and Rinaldo Taboldi was on it. The Crucinelli's had mentioned that I was going to be in Italy, so I was invited to play on the concert, and I got a standing ovation for my performance of La Traviata . I played PanCordion, which was built by Crucinelli family.

Most of the programs I played were of the Frosini Overtures and the Novelties. The Novelties were great, as they served as an exercise. They took the place of doing a lot of exercise practice.

You have had the joy of experiencing an exciting era of accordion in the USA. Are there any accordion stars that you got to know during your accordion career that you would like to mention.
Of course, there was Frosini. There was also John Owens. I did a lot of traveling around the United States doing concerts, and also a lot of studio work. At that time the studios were all featuring the big name artists, so I got to meet all of them, including Magnante and others. I also knew many of them through the American Accordionists Association (AAA).

Not all of the meetings with famous personalities have been so great however. When I was pregnant with my son, I had big concert and at the same time, Mogens Ellegaard from Denmark was going to around doing concerts. In the end, I couldn't do my concert because of my condition and since Mogens was here, I asked him to be a guest artist in my place.

After the show we invited him to come to the house and I didn't think anything of it. We ordered some Pizza and that was it. It was the American way, a completely 'off the cuff' type of thing. Then, a few years later I was in Denmark and I met Mogens again, He came up to me and said "this is the lady that made me to eat in her kitchen". I'll never forget that! I said to him "well, when we invite someone, that is how we do it, and at the time with my condition, I couldn't do more.

How many performances do you estimate to have made during your career?

Just thousands… these included several a month, solo, concert.

In addition to your outstanding performance, composing and teaching skills, you have also been quite active in several other areas including the organizations. Can you tell us a little bit about your involvement with the the AAA and when this began.

The AAA has been a very important part of my life. I was a student member in the early 1950's because Charlie Nunzio was a founding member. Frosini was very involved as well, so that put me right in there too! If they weren't I wouldn't have known about it.

I was elected to the AAA Board of Governors in 1955. The ones who came in with me, were Marcelo Rivoero and Carmen Carozza. Tony Etorre was a little later. During the 60's I was elected Secretary and to other positions of office, and then in 1970 I was elected President. I was re-elected president twice since then.

It's also very interesting that I was the first women president of the AAA. This made all the newspapers. At this time in 1970 it was still not that common that women were getting involved in national organizations of this scope.

During my Presidency, I managed to do govern over several of the contests, including the one in Nashville, where we had an orchestra of 1,000 accordionists play. Then we had another big contest in Hershey PA, and one in Boston in 1984. (Maddalena is pictured above at the AAA sponsored concert of renowned Russian artist and teacher Friedrich Lips from Moscow. Left to right: AAA Board members Faithe Deffner, Kevin Friedrich, guest Friedrich Lips, Maddalena Belfiore, Carmelo Pino, Linda Soley Reed and Mary Tokarski.)

During your career, you have also been extremely active on the International scene. You are by far the longest serving Confédération Internationale des Accordéonistes (CIA) officer from the United States which included 16 years as a Vice President. When did you first attend a CIA event.

The first one was in 1957 in Saarbrucken, Germany, and in fact, I wound up judging it. I don't think they were too happy! At that time, they didn't want a women judging.

We had Ronny Sweetz as our contestant and in fact, he actually won the Coupe Mondiale. After this I started going more often, and then when I became President of the AAA I would attend every year. I became Vice President of the CIA In 1974, and remained in that position for 16 years. It was very interesting to become involved with a group like the CIA that was dealing with international issues, and therefore was different from the American group. (Maddalena is pictured above with the giant accordion at the 1990 Coupe Mondiale held in Trossingen, Germany.)

This was an interesting and exciting time for the CIA. At a time before e-mail, you spent much time corresponding with international dignitaries from around the world, conducting the business of the CIA. Do you have any memories from this time that you would like to share?

I always think an interesting one was Lech Puchnowski. He was always very important in the CIA. We would often lock horns, but we were not enemies. We both had one goal and that was to improve the competition of the CIA. Another interesting fascinating personality from that time was Yuri Kolobokov. He was extremely interesting too. He was always with his little camera, and he was quite the player. He was during the early 70's, at the time when there were always the KGB around.

(Here CIA Vice President Maddalena Belfiore is pictured with CIA President Dr. Karl Albrecht Majer in October, 1977 during the General Assembly meeting in Eindhoven, Netherlands.)

We worked hard to try and bring things to a head at our meetings. Everyone was quite strong, and so we either tried to bring things to a vote or matters would be shelved. At that time, they were not used to a women being so strong.

We would go to both the winter and summer CIA congresses. There was so much correspondence and it required so much diplomacy.

What are your views on an organization such as the Confédération Internationale des Accordéonistes (CIA) and the importance it plays in the international music scene.


I think it is very important to have an organization such as the CIA. They set the criteria and goals for the competitions. As an organization I think the CIA is doing very fine work. I think they have a very dedicated president! I think the CIA has come a very long way.

I believe that the various CIA member countries should continue their work commissioning new works for the accordion, as it enables us to see what is happening with the accordion in the various parts of the world. This will continually expand our accordion library. Maybe even a prize could be offered as an incentive for more works. (Maddalena is pictured in Castelo Branco, Portugal at the 58th Coupe Mondiale in October 2005, with composer of the 2007 Coupe Mondiale Test Piece Dr. Karen Fremar).

You have seen the CIA Coupe Mondiale develop over many years. What are you views on the current competitions?.

Sometimes I'm not always in agreement with the selection of the (Coupe Mondiale) Test Pieces. I would like to see them choose a more melodic type of test piece rather than the very avante garde pieces that they have sometimes. On the home front, I think it's very hard for our American students to cope with some of these new works.

If there is one thing I would comment on, it would be the program content. I would like to see more variety in the programs in all sections. With the entertainment category, I really like this a lot, but the problem is that the word 'entertainment' varies so much across the various countries. What is entertainment in the US isn't necessarily the same in Europe. This is something that we are trying to address by offering suggestions as to the possible styles of music.

(Here Maddalena is pictured with renowned composer, teacher and perfromer Viatcheslav Semionov (CIA Music Committee Member) from Moscow wearing promotional hats advertising the 2007 CIA Coupe Mondiale in the United States.)

The CIA Coupe Mondiale the way it is today is quite ambitious having so many categories and various requirements. However, as far as the program goes, its pretty common today with the Tchaikowsky and other big International competitions, as they all require pretty lengthy programs as well, so we are on a par in that respect.

We are looking forward to the Coupe Mondiale in Washington, DC in 2007. We will work together and get it going.

(Picuted are members of the AAA organizing committee for the 2007 Coupe Mondiale in Alexandria, VA (Washington DC) - Carmelo Pino, Linda Soley Reed, AAA Guest Peter Soave, Maddalena Belfiore and Faithe Deffner.)


As a result of your long time association with the Confédération Internationale des Accordéonistes (CIA) and the contacts you made, you had personally collected documents pertaining to the history of the organization ranging from 1953 to today. Your generous donation of this collection to the CIA enabled them to get the CIA Archive project off the ground. How important is it to preserve these documents and the history of the organization?

I think its very important, after all what is history? It is documents! Without them, it's just a bunch of hearsay. Here we are fortunate enough to be able to look up things and see when and where they were said, and so I think it's very important.

Today with modern communication methods such as e-mail and instant messenger, I think someone has to be appointed to make hard copies of all those documents. I've thought of this many times, not only with the CIA, but also the AAA and ATG, as we are losing many many documents. We push 'delete' and that is the end of it. Most of the correspondence would be with the officers of the organizations, so they should be obtainable and therefore should be printed and preserved for historical purposes as a Word document for example.

Pictured in 1995 at the CIA Coupe Mondiale in Avesta, Sweden are CIA President at that time Ove Hahn (Sweden), Maddalena Belfiore (USA) and General Secretary at that time Prof. Walter Maurer (Austria). Maddalena was presented with the CIA Merit Award in recognition of her outstanding contributions to the International Accordion Movement. The award was unamiously approved at the General Assembly in Munster, France in 1994, and presented in 1995.


What non accordion music do you most like to listen to?

I really love Latin music and the Symphony. If I really answer you, as to what music I enjoy the most, it is the music that I am playing at the time. I enjoy it all. If it's good, it is good!

What other interests and hobbies besides music do you have?

I used to play golf.. and I love needlepoint.. you can see I have some hanging on the wall. I also love boating.

What do you regard as your greatest achievement?

I am most proud of the work done with the national competitions, where I was able to benefit a tremendous amount of people. With one competition, I flew down to Nashville with Lana Gore. We met with her uncle who worked with one of the TV stations, and had invited us down there. The three of us looked everything over, and we coordinated the entire thing and made the contest together. That was a joint effort.













We also had a Public Relations guy, who was very very good and came into it as well. He managed to coordinate the big publicity and the event where I conducted 1,000 accordionists playing the Tennessee State Song the "Tennessee Waltz" from a Cherry Picker.

It was in 1980, because I remember when I was in Australia later that year after the Coupe Mondiale in Auckland, New Zealand and Elsie Brandman from the Australian Society of Accordionists said that she had seen me on television in Australia, conducting this massive Festival Orchestra in Nashville. It had been broadcast around the world by the ABC News affiliate.



The "Tennessee Waltz" was written by Redd Stewart with Pee Wee King in 1948. (King & Stewart decided to write the song after hearing Bill Monroe's Kentucky Waltz on the radio. Stewart emptied a matchbox and tore it open to write down the song.) In 1951 Patti Page took "The Tennessee Waltz" to No.1 on the Pop chart, which also became a Top 3 Country hit. It went on to sell over 6 million copies. In 1965 the "Tennessee Waltz" was officially proclaimed by Governor Frank Clement as the Tennessee Sate Song.

Both Redd Stewart (May 27, 1923 - August 2, 2003) and Pee Wee King (February 18, 1914 - March 7, 2000) attended the unique AAA Mass Accordion Orchestra performance of their No. 1 Hit, conducted by Maddalena Belfiore.

What are your thoughts regarding competitions?

Competitions are good, as they give students the incentive to practice. It shouldn't be about putting all the emphasis on winning or losing, but by going into a competition they learn music! They have to learn their one, two or three pieces. It provides a helpful purpose to the lessons… to play their music and to play it well.

There are some students who have a very difficult time performing, but you should never underplay that student, as no matter how poor they may do in the competition in regards to their placing, they have set a goal for themselves. Maybe they just learnt the piece, maybe they just memorized it.. or maybe they didn't, but the competition goal definitely served a purpose, and that is what I think is so important… that ultimately it did serve a purpose!

What musical advice do you have for aspiring accordionists?

Listen to your teacher, and very important - practice! You have to have goals. Also, what happens today (different from when I studied) is that no one has a chance to play any place. I used to play at all these Clubs and Organizations, and that doesn't happen so much any more I feel. I don't get calls at the studio like I used to asking for performers. It does happen of course, but not like it used to. Now if they get anyone, they get a group of entertainers.. rather than a student soloist.

Maybe the teachers could help do more to promote it. We used to play any place we could. It was all part of the teaching and learning process. Kids going out to play publicly is probably the best lesson they could ever learn!
Students learn from competitions also, but to have a 'goal' of learning to play something and playing it well, that's what is important... to have that goal!
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