The social world of the accordion. Interview with Frederic Deschamps

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Deschamps HonerFrederic Deschamps begins the study of the accordion at the 11 years age. After a few years of traditional repertory, it directs its musical studies towards a repertory baroque, traditional and contemporary then jazz, thus exploiting various the facets of its instrument. 
Since 1993, Frederic Deschamps becomes member of the Jury of the international contest of the C.M.A (World Confederation of the Accordion – World Trophy) then of the C.I.A (International Confederation of the accordionists – World Cup), as well as Internationaux contests of Klingenthal (Germany) and Castelfidardo (Italy).

He currently holds the post of President of the Musical Committee of the CIA and in 2005 was elected president of the World Trophy CMA. That same year he opened “V.I.P. Accordions World Show”, an annual event that takes place in Pontarlier (France) and selects the best accordionists of Variete around the world.

He teaches in master-class in many countries around the world aimed at the dissemination of new teaching techniques (China, USA, Europe, South Africa, etc.).

I could see that you are very active on the internet. What is the “Deschamps Channel”?

For me, Facebook is the easiest way to monitor the progress of my students. If you spend much time on Facebook, for example, means that do not dedicate enough time to the study of the accordion. For this is a good way to monitor their activity. It is also a very useful means to respond to technical problems, problems related to trade repositories, to the organization. I also use Facebook to advertise any business, to communicate to my students and to everyone else. The “Deschamps Channel” was born in 2011. Antonio Spaccarotella was the first to talk about the live stream during the selections for the FIFA World Cup trophy in Pineto organized by Renzo Ruggeri. One night in a bar Spaccarotella asked me if I knew the live stream and made me listen to a South American group that was playing live in that moment. I immediately thought it could be a wonderful thing for the CMA and that we should send all categories live in internet, because all parents, teachers, all students, but also the whole world could see what you do during the world trophy. When you live is live! You can also see the jury, as well as all the performances of the candidates, and you can not simply criticize without knowing.

In addition, the live streaming is also very important for the promotion of the accordion, because it can happen to see some candidates that do not play well and this can lead young people to participate, because they understand that it is an accessible space. Evidently, the first ten are at a great level, but there are also some candidates with a perfectible background, then this can help motivate guys.

It is also wonderful for the evolution of the repertoire, because everyone has access to all the new compositions. For example, in Italy, as in France, in conservatory are still playing the Sonata n. 2 of Zolotarev. With all due respect to this work, there are also works by more recent composers such as Sonata n. 3 of Semionov – I saw that there is also an article about it in Strumenti&Musica.

The live stream is born for all these reasons and also for the promotion of all the members of the jury, who are in the CMA. The first thing I did was the “CMA Channel” and I organized a series of live seminars. This aspect was very interesting, that is to show people how to make an international competition and how people all over the world come together and work every day. In this way you can follow the evolution, the exercises, the repertoire of the musicians who perform during the lessons and then you know the songs that are played during the final. It is a bit like a reality show. As I said, the channel was called “CMA Channel”, but some people have criticized me, accused me of using the CMA to advertise me and my activities. In fact it was just the opposite. However, I founded the “Deschamps Channel” and in this way I’m free to do the things I want. Later we did the CIA – the Coupe Mondiale – live stream and all major festivals such as the Festival “Accordion Plus” organized by Alexander Poeluev.

An important element of live TV is that people communicate in chat. It is not just to follow live things, but also to express your point of view and connect with others who are, perhaps, the other side of the world.

New technologies such as Internet and social applications may also be used in teaching? If yes, and if you’ve had experience of this use, with what results?

The first social application that I used was Skype, which is really like television. The first lesson I did on Skype goes back five or six years ago (I had never seen or heard of someone else who had done this thing). One day Augustinas Racauskasun, an accordionist from Lithuania – where, in Kaunas, there will be the CMA 2014 – I had met in Spoleto, contacted me on Skype and later came to France to attend a workshop. Once back at home, in Lithuania, participated in the selections for the TV show “Lithuania got talent”. He played Vivaldi and was taken. Later I again contacted on Skype and told me: “I have only one piece, I played it for the first test and now I have nothing to present to the next selection”. I sent him another piece, he read it, but always on Skype he told me that he could not understand it. So I took the accordion and I did some demonstration. Once finished, I realized I made the first accordion lesson on Skype. There are some students who cannot directly following seminars, but they can do it from their computer. I then spread this news on internet and I started doing lessons on “Deschamps Channel”. One day I was giving a lesson on the Sonata n. 1 of Semionov Kolovski with Aleksandar, Kolovski, a Macedonian student. During the lesson called me Semionov – that was following us on the web tv – to tell me that he had noticed some error on the score and to suggest, live, necessary corrections.

All of this is gorgeous and without limits. I also organized and carried out any issues with the composers. For example Cristina Rosi, who lives in Monaco, was working on a new piece of Gorka Hermosa. Even in that case I’d Hermosa on Skype who listened to Rosi: I translated the tips of Hermosa and explained to Rosi how to translate technically and play the idea of ​​Gorka Hermosa.

The only drawback I see is that it has become a little too easy, young people do not want to move, and I find myself with too many lessons to do online. I have many students in the house, and they, of course, take precedence, and I can not devote so much time to the students online. For this I am a bit slowing down.

On your channel also promote master-class of various types. What is it and how do you play?

I was in Germany to do a master-class at the Conservatory of Hohner Trosingen, from 9.00 to 12.00 and from 15.00 onwards. From 13:00 to 15:00 I had a master-class with the Gnessin Academy, in Russia, organized by Alexander Selivanov. Then Selivanov, via Facebook, projected my image on the wall and shared of the students computers, so that everyone could see it. It is a master in all respects, though I’m not physically there.

I also did it with the Conservatory of Vilnius. At that time I had over a hundred people. My image was projected on a wall and the student was in front of the webcam. I could of course intervene and correct executions, as well as give tips on style. Then I let some students who were at my house give examples and demonstrations.

I also use web TV before competitions, to do the “prep contests”. It’s a bit dangerous because if any member of the jury listening can already get an idea, but the student does well, because on internet there is a large public following and candidates get used to the pressure and is easier for them performance in front of people.

During your career you’ve also made ​​some television programs on the accordion. Can you talk about that experience?

For a year I had a weekly program just for me. This transmission was composed of four or five different parts. The first housed a young guy Jerome Richard, or Eric Bouvelle – that is the new French musette generation of accordionists – who a lot of people like. Once there was an “old”, a prominent and well-known artist, big names that sounded just a piece but that were interviewed. This was also interesting because young people could find out the details of his career and experiences. Then the program included a didactic part, in which a student – I did not know – played a little thing and I did a short master-class in ten minutes, to help those who followed us to avoid mistakes and early flaws (at least every week it faced a new issue). Then I presented the site accordion.com, and every week a new artist or a disc.

This program is aired for about a year. I also worked with Paolo Limiti, I came to Milan to play live on Rai due once a month. And in France attending a transmission similar to Pascal Sevran, who helped in the planning and selection of accordionists. These experiences have greatly helped me to structure the “Deschamps Channel”, because I have acquired the habit of speaking in public and in front of the cameras, to make sure the image and sound.

Tell us about your work as a producer?

I started working for Honer France in 1993, when I won the World Trophy. My work has begun to attract students not only French students, but also Serbs as Petar Maric, Macedonians as Aleksandar Kolovski. These young people – such as Sergey Lobkov – really admired the way many of French and Italians played the variété and turned to me to learn this and not the classic. They discovered the special techniques of the genre, but they also realized that these are valid for the accordion in general. I am not specialized in variété, people think but it is not: I have done all the international competitions in “classic”. Then the musicians who have come to me to learn variété also play the classic with my technique and all those who have won international competitions and have won both “classic” and “variété”. All this to say: I am agent? I would say yes, because I travel around the world for Honer, from China to South America, Russia, Europe.

Obviously I have no more time to play. I had two options, or continue my career as a musician, or devote my time to students. You can not do well the two things together. Or you work for yourself or work for others. After doing a lot of laps in the world, I decided to “give” rather than continue playing. So I am agent for these young people, even if I do it for free, because I do not take money from concerts they do.

Can you talk about your book “New Technical Approach”?

I came to be a musician – the image of the accordion was old and I did not like it – when I heard the world Coupe in Switzerland in 1989 and Mika Väyrynen won that edition. Then after the first year I left the university and started studying accordion. But I was late on everything – I did not know the repertoire, as well as basses – then I had to find solutions for me and I spent a lot of time observing and opening the accordion to understand how it worked, how it was made. So I invented the exercises for me, while following some lessons in piano, singing and starting to get some international competition. I finished third and I continued. I returned to Nice to finish my studies at the conservatory, where, however, there were harpsichord, piano, organ, lute lessons. But what interested me was obviously the accordion. I tried to understand how other people were working on their instruments and did the same to me, I developed a series of exercises and I released a book.

The exercises are based on the fact that to play the accordion does not have to move your fingers but the body. If you only move your finger you are likely to weaken them, because they are in an awkward position and when you pull on the very bellows, with the suction valve keys become much harder. Your fingers should be in a particular position to be strong enough to not have problems when you pull more or less on the bellows. So the body directs your fingers and you should not ever have a voltage with the elbow. When you have to go to the bottom or top of the keyboard you have to change the setting of the accordion rising to the left to pick up the keyboard. All positions and also the energy coming from the neck, where there are the nerves that help you to have a fast movement on the ends of the body. Then there are the eyebrows, to help you play more legato. So many things that have never been written in a book, along with many progressive exercises that allow you to improve and to work by accepting your faults.

In traditional books using movements of the fingers and number of fingers. In fact, the morphology of the two hands is very different. That’s why my book is totally different from the others: there is no music in this book, because you can use it on whatever you want and play on all the exercises. The only limit is the time that you have to work.

What are the projects you’re working on at the moment?

I spent the whole summer to prepare my students around the world (Mongolia, Korea, China, South America, etc..) who live in my house from March to October. I have new students every year and is always a new challenge. I am organizing international seminars for 2015, 2016, and 2017 will be held in China, but also in new destinations, such as Mexico, Brazil, Chile, Argentina, in order to create new schools. The best of these countries are in Europe to learn the techniques and after I help them to create a school in their country. After established a relationship between the Coupe Mondiale and these musicians, who represent their “emerging” countries, with regard to the accordion, playing popular accordion, but at a little higher level: variété, classic basses. Using my relationships also to help open schools in conservatories.

Then work in the field of web tv to develop communication with the accordion. For example, I go to the Coupe Mondiale and the World Trophy with web tv to let the world know young people and also to give the right motivation to young people, that finally after seeing the lessons contact me on Facebook or Skype, and come to school.

I’m also a fan of horse riding and this helps me every day to understand and do not lose the relationship between teacher and student, to avoid the errors committed by the students. Using what I learned in my work with horses. For example, a horse is muscles, tendons and reflexes. Then when he has difficulties and needs to jump higher, it takes a lot more adrenaline to have more energy and will lower the trajectory. To break this reflection must intervene reflection, that is, when he gets in front of the obstacle stops, go right, then left again, until he understands that his new reflex is to wait for information. This is an example that works a lot with accordionist, who, before performing a technically difficult piece is full of adrenaline – that is a reflection – and goes much faster. Go fast before a technically difficult part is not logical but it is animal. You can not control. You need an outside person to give the necessary advice.

Similarly, with the horse to turn right or left is enough to look in either direction, because it changes the center of gravity and the horse perceives it. The same applies to the accordion: I have to assume the right balance before and after just a little movement to change the position of the keyboard or the bellows, it helps you make the most of a growing without pulling on the bellows. This means that no efforts muscles of the left arm, so the tendons are free and you can easily play with the fingers of the left. All this, moreover, also reflected on your right hand and play better with this hand just sit moving a little left.

This is my leitmotiv and I’m working a lot at the moment.

Autore: Daniele Cestellini

Daniele Cestellini ha scritto 752 articoli.

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