Q. Tell us a little about the place (town/city) where you were born in July 1952? Where in France is it located?
A. I was born in the Beaujolais region (not far from Lyon) and currently live there. This region is very well known for the wine.
Q. You started learning the accordion at 9 years of age. Was the accordion the first instrument you learnt?
A. Yes. Later I added the trombone to my studies.
Q. Why did you choose the accordion?
A. The accordion was and still is a very magical experience for me......the whole mechanism of opening and closing the bellow...squeezing out music. I'm certain that most children are drawn to the accordion for this same reason. Watching an accordion being played is a fascinating experience.
Q. What part did you parents play in your early music education?
A. My father played light music.....divertisement. I wouldn't say he was a well known player....but he played very well. My mother definately encouraged me to play.
Q. Tell us about your first accordion teachers?
A. Tino Ottogalli... naturally originating from Italy! He was my only teacher. I started playing at age 9 and Tino taught me until I turned 18 years old.
Q. Any humorous memories of your early music education?
A. Yes! As a youngster I did not always practice as much as I should have. During these lessons Tino introduced me to BOXING as an alternative to the accordion! (Tino had a strong "right hook"!) We later became good friends, especially after I started practicing harder!
Q. You were studying at the Lyon Conservatory from 1966 to 1971. Did this study include an accordion course? If so, tell us about your accordion tutors and studies?
A. I studied the trombone at the Conservatory. My accordion lessons were private studies. You know...the accordion was not accepted for study in Conservatory at that time, as it currently is, in France.
Q. What were your qualifications at the end of that study?
A. I received a certificate of completion. My studies were: harmony, solfeggio, and trombone.
Q. What type of music were you playing at that time?
A. I had a strong upbringing of classic musette......compositions by Andre Astier, Joss Baselli (Joe Basile), Marcel Azzola, Joe Rossi. I also played some pieces by Chaikin and Zolotaryov. These were original compositions. It was also common to played classical transcriptions like Bach, Albinoni etc!
Q. In 1969 you won the Pinder O.R.T.F Trophy in Paris. Tell us the full name of that trophy, what it means, and about that event? Type of music you performed?
A. For repertoire ..see above answer. The O.R.T.F. was the national French Television and Radio sponsored competition. Looking back at that period in my life it is hard to believe some of my accomplishments with the traditional accordion. That particular year that I won.......second prize was awarded to the well known classical player/composer: Jean Pacalet! Ironically, today I don't play classical accordion but Jean has maintained a fine career in that genre.
Q. Were you competing a lot at that time?
A. Yes, every year.
Q. In 1971 you won the Coupe du President de la République at Puy en Veley. Please tell us about that competition?
A. This was sponsored by UNAF (Union Nationale Accordeonistes Française) The president of the jury was Astier! This was the most serious competition of the day (in France) for accordionists. In this particular competition Max Bonnay won second prize.
Q. How important do you feel that competition successes were for your career?
A. I am very happy with these small victories! I would like to say that the competitions served as an excellent training for public performance and technical development.
Q. What did you do musically after you completed your studies at the Lyon Conservatory?
A. At age 20 I stopped music! This was a very difficult period for young accordionists in France. Disco music was the craze of the day and the accordion did not have a voice in this genre. One sad story that led me to retiring at age 20: I was performing in the South of France (Cote Azur) for the important celebration of Fete National 14 July in front of thousands of spectators.
I selected the piece made famous by the popular singer Jacques Brel titled "Vesoul". (This was a well known piece and is still today!) The young audience was not there to listen to the accordion. It was not considered cool enough for them. During my performance.....the crowd began chanting for me to stop playing! The negative whistling and noise played a strong role in my early retirement from the accordion.
Q. From 1981 to 1990 you were a music and computer teacher. Were you still active with your accordion at that time?
Q. Is there any person to whom you would like to pay particular tribute, for their inspirational effect on your musical career and life.
A. Claude Cavagnolo, Roland Romanelli, Art Van Damme, Peter Soave, Paul Bocuse, Charles De Gaulle, Michel Legrand, Elton John, Astor Piazzolla, Joe Pass.
Q. What year was your first tour outside France? How many countries have you toured to now?
A. I returned to the accordion in 1992 and since then I constantly tour North America, East and Western Europe, China and Africa.
Q. How did you first become involved with the Cavagnolo accordion ?
A. When I was 9 years old my grand father bought me a Cavagnolo accordion. It is the only brand I have ever played. There are many excellent accordion brands on the market but I have always preferred the Cavagnolo! Thanks to the invention of the MIDI language in the early eighties I was re-introduced to the accordion. Cavagnolo was the first company to make chromatic master keyboards in 1983.
Q. In recent years you have worked closely with the Cavagnolo accordion company both as a demonstrator and also helping develop new models.
A. With the Cavagnolo Team I have worked on the Odyssee Accordion. This is the intrument I play. It is a MIDI reedless/wireless accordion with complete dynamic and bellow expression.
Q. Would you comment on the relative advantages and disadvantages and the particular uses of a) reed accordions. b) MIDI and reed accordions c) MIDI only accordions?
A. Naturally, the reed accordion is very traditional and will always be here but the new reedless MIDI accordions offer new possibilities. Just the weight factor alone (the new reedless accordions weigh 4-7 kilos) is an outstanding advantage which is appreciated by accordionists of all ages.
Q. In the future, where do you see these types of accordion that you have helped develop, fitting into the overall accordion scene? What do you see will be their evolution, especially the Odyssee type?
A. The popularity and development of the Odyssee will continue. Many innovations in this sector of the accordion market that we introduced in recent years have become standard features that other manufacturers now produce. (Since 1963, Cavagnolo is the only accordion company in France that maintains an in-house research laboratory).
There is a great demand which creates healthy competition which in turn brings along rapid innovation. From the Cordovox type intruments to the MIDI to the numerous accordion and bandoneon samples to the reedless to the reedless/wireless.....the future will bring many more surprises to the accordion!
Q. Tell us a little about your personal instrument? Are there any unique features?
A. No! It is a "traditional" Odyssee. I do have flashing lights....but that is not so unique!
Q. Do you teach the accordion at all?
A. In recent years I have collaborated with progressive teachers and artists like Jacques Mornet (famous French teacher), Jean Marc Fabiano (Marseille Conservatory), Serge Duschene (Canadian artist) and of course Peter Soave, my friend! I give master classes and seminars with these people.
I am currently organizing a seminar for August 2000 to take place in the Swiss Alps. This will be open to accordionists of all ages and genres of music. We will spend 5 days in a magnificent natural setting.....making music together!
Q. Have you tried to develop your own personal style?
A. This is a difficult question! I play a popular instrument and I play popular music!
My music is easy to understand. I try to be myself in my interpretations but I am influenced by what I hear and feel from not only other artists but life in general.
Q. You had a number of promotional products with your name on them?
A. I have posters and post cards for my fans. I enjoy autographing them after concerts.
Q. How many performances do you estimate to have made during your career?
A. In a typical year I may perform 70 concerts.
Q. List some of the most interesting and important venues you have performed at?
.A. Chicago, Texas, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Montreal, Geneva (I was hired by the famous cigar maker: Zino Davidoff) China (I performed a solo concert for 20,000 people!), Senegal etc...
Q. You have been pictured playing the accordion in a number of very unusual places such as on a mountain, a camel etc. Tell us about how those situations came about?
A. Sometimes I let my hair down and do crazy things. In 1997 I decided to celebrate my 45th birthday by climbing the most difficult mountain in the Swiss Alps with my accordion.
( Editor - acoustic? I'm sure no-one wanted to carry an amplifier up the mountain!!!).
This mountain is called La Dent Blanche (Mount WhiteTooth ----The Queen of The Alps) 4357meters. The journey lasted 3 days and I was assisted by 3 professional guides. International television filmed me.
Upon arrival at the top of this mountain I performed my composition, La Dent Blanche, for Swiss radio. The performance was captured via cellular telephone which belonged to one of the guides. The conditions were extremely dangerous and cold -20°! (Editor - lucky his fingers even moved!!! - this is probably both the coldest and highest performance of the accordion in history)
Q. Describe your most humorous or unusual performance situation?
A. One of my favorite experiences was performing while riding a camel in the desert (Mauritanie) on New Years Eve of 1998. The trip from my house in Beaujolais to this desert takes 12 days...... by car!
(Editor - We have slow cars in New Zealand too!!)
Q. When did you record your first LP, CD or cassette?
A. My first recording was made in 1970. It is currently out of print. Recently I have made several new CDs. They are listed and can be purchased by visiting my web site www.accordeon.com/noton
You can use credit cards or send a cheque for several CD's that are available.
Q. What musical advice do you have for aspiring young accordionists wanting to make a career with the accordion?
A. My advice is to keep an open mind to all styles of music and an appreciation for the finer things in life.
Q. On your address is "Villa Sonatina". Is there a story behind that name?
A. I live in a very natural and simple environment. Villa Sonatina is my house and home studio.
Q. What other interests and hobbies besides music do you have?
A. Love......Gastronomie. I maintain an underground wine cellar for my family and friends with a few thousand bottles of fine wine. I am very fortunate to live in a region that specializes in haute cuisine and wine making. Many of my finest friends are Chefs de Cuisine and famous winemakers. You can visit my favorite restaurant www.chaponfin.com
Q. What non accordion music do you most like to listen to?
.A. I like all music, although "some" contemporary accordion music is not my favorite!
Q. What is your more immediate career objectives and where do you want your career to go from here?
A. I wish to bring more harmony to fellow accordionists and artists. As for my career....I wish to continue making people happy through my music.