On May 18, 2007, Maddalena Belfiore-Greco lost her battle with cancer when she succumbed to the illness, which claimed her life. She drifted off peacefully at home, with her family.
Maddalena Belfiore-Greco Celebrity Interview by Kevin Friedrich.
Born in Kearny, New Jersey, Maddalena began accordion studies as a five-year-old, and went on to become the "Accordion Diva" of the twentieth century in a whirlwind career, which spanned decades and encompassed numerous aspects of the instrument's evolution.
The list of accordion teachers with whom Belfiore studied reads like a Who's Who of the accordion world: Sanford Hertz, Charles Nunzio, Eugene Ettore, Joe Biviano, Andy Arcari and the stellar Pietro Frosini whose protégé she became. While taking lessons with Frosini, Maddalena also studied at Juilliard in New York City, immersing herself in music theory, ear training, piano and conducting courses, while finishing high school so she could become a full time student at Juilliard. At 17, she had her Carnegie Hall recital.
Maddalena's friendship with Theresa Costello of O. Pagani & Bro., led to the venerated publishing firm commission for her to compose three "Bellows Shake" books, describing the specialized technique, which became synonymous with Belfiore's name. She also composed Valse Diane (written for her niece), Pan Polka (in tribute to the Pancordion which she played for more than 50 years) and Cavalier Waltz (Waltz Brilliante). She arranged Shake a Leg Polka, a Frosini composition. Most of this music is still available through Ernest Deffner Publications.
Maddalena concertised everywhere and met all the great accordionists of the period. Eventually, she met TV accordionist Myron Floren who was also a Pancordion artist. Together with Myron, she co-authored and edited the Myron Floren Method, "Let's Play Duets" and the Showstopper Series, all of which were published by Remick Music during the 1960s.
In 1958, she established her own accordion school in her hometown of Kearny and dedicated herself to teaching hundreds of youngsters to play the instrument she loved. This was the hey day of accordion popularity in the US and her students participated in American Accordionists' Association competitions throughout the ensuing years, winning significant numbers of prizes and distinctions. Eventually, Belfiore became an adjunct professor at Fairleigh Dickinson University in New Jersey.
In the midst of her whirlwind life in the music world, Maddalena met and married Mauro Greco, a real estate developer. Mauro accompanied Maddalena to accordion events all over the world and was a dedicated exponent of his wife's career in music. The couple had two sons, Nat and Frank.
Most of her teachers were past presidents of the American Accordionists' Association and it was inevitable that Maddalena would be drawn into this esteemed organization, which was making great strides in popularizing the instrument and advancing its curriculum.
She was elected to the AAA Board of Governors in 1955 and to the office of secretary a decade later. In 1971, she became the organization's first female president, breaking through the glass ceiling, which dictated that top posts were reserved for men. Her accomplishment facilitated other women to follow and in subsequent years, Elsie Bennett (1973), Addie Cere (1982), Faithe Deffner (1985) and Linda Reed (2005) became presidents.
Maddalena herself held the AAA presidency three different times and was contest chair on several occasions. Among her memorable feats, in 1980, she was hoisted up in a cherry picker to conduct a 1000-accordion massed group playing the Tennessee Waltz at an AAA competition in Nashville, resulting in tremendous publicity for the accordion.
In 1985, Belfiore was appointed Executive Secretary of the AAA and she held that post until very recently when illness caused her to relinquish it.
The American Accordionists' Association's national membership in the Confederation Internationale des Accordeonistes (CIA) became the platform for Maddalena to participate in this international organization which conducts the most prestigious annual accordion competition of world-wide scope. In 1974 she was elected vice president of CIA and held that office for 16 years, attending many international events and serving as one of the AAA delegates to the congresses.
She received the CIA Merit Award in 1995 for "outstanding contributions to the international accordion movement" in Avesta, Sweden, for her contribution of numerous documents to the Confederation's archives. In 2007, the Confederation awarded her its second Honorary Membership.
Belfiore was one of those who were instrumental in bringing the 2007 Coupe Mondiale to the US to be held in Alexandria, Virginia from August 13-19, 2007, in celebration of the CIA's 60th anniversary. Picture left of Maddalena with famous artist Viatcheslav Semionov modelling the Coupe Mondiale 2007 caps.
At the same time as the Coupe takes place, the Maddalena Belfiore Entertainment Competition for Female Accordionists is being held on August 15, 2007. The event, sponsored by accordion dignitary Sylvia Prior of California, offers a $5,000 first place prize.
Few people can claim the many honors and achievements that were ordinary events in the life of Maddalena Belfiore-Greco. She leaves a great legacy within the accordion community. She received the International Golden Lady Award (1976); Massachusetts (1977) and Rhode Island (1978) presented her with Outstanding Achievement awards; Nashville, Tennessee honored her with the Golden Record Award for AAA's massed accordionist performance (1980); she was named "Woman of the Year" for New Jersey (1980); and was selected for the panel for US Life and the Family in Washington, DC (1980). Please read the Celebrity Interview about Maddalena as it covers so many interesting facts of her life.
Maddalena was founder and director of the Arcari Foundation, a past president and director of the Accordion Teachers Association of New Jersey, AAA delegate to the National Music Council and a member of the All-Arts Society of New York.
On AAA's recent CD, titled "Extraordinary Performances by Extraordinary Performers," Belfiore plays La Muchacha de Fuego, Valse Diane, Rita Polka and Shake a Leg Polka.
She is survived by her husband, Mauro Greco, her sons, Nat and Frank and their respective wives, Joanne and Maryann, three grandchildren: Christopher, Adrianna and Alex, her sister a Belfiore and niece Diane Venezia.
Maddalena Belfiore-Greco Celebrity Interview by Kevin Friedrich.
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