How did you wind up down here playing in a Cajun band?
I retired from IBM back in 2010 and I was living in Maine at the time. And since I was raised on the bayous of South Louisiana, I was raised around Cajun music. I had a long discussion with myself and decided that I want to come back home to Louisiana and learn how to play the Cajun fiddle. I guess what prompted me to want to learn how to play the Cajun fiddle was when BeauSoleil was playing in Portland, Maine and I got to see them. So when I move back to Louisiana in May 2012, I contacted Mitch Reed, who offered to teach me how to play fiddle. So, here I am.
You play in a bunch of bands. How did you get pulled in so many directions?
I don’t think I would call it being pulled in many directions. I view this as therapy. I gave up music altogether back in 1978 and after 34 years, I decided to pick it up again. My father was a musician, my grandfather was a musician, my father’s brothers were all musicians, but I learned very quickly that music would be a hobby, not a career. I graduated from music in 1976 with an undergraduate degree and have a performance degree in clarinet from the Conservatory of Music in Salzburg, Austria and Zurich, Switzerland. For me music is fun. So, therefore, whenever a band needs a fiddle player to sit in with them, I’m happy to do so, if I can. I enjoy learning and playing with all different types and styles of musicians
What instruments do you play?
I started playing piano when I was 5 years old, with my mother sitting next to me at the piano singing old Italian songs that my father used to play and that she wanted me to learn how to play on the piano. My major instrument was the clarinet. But having a degree in music, I had to learn the basics of all of them. But I learned that you could only master one instrument at the time and I chose the clarinet. Now I only play the fiddle, but once in a while I’ll pick up the bass and try my hand at it. But, I’m of the opinion that we should pick a horse and ride it.
What was your earliest exposure to Cajun music and music in general?
I was born and raised in Baton Rouge but when I was a youngster my family moved to Houma in grade school and that’s where I lived until I graduated from college in 1976. Being raised in Houma, there was tons of Cajun music all over the area. However, the Cajun music in that part of Louisiana is very different than the Cajun music here in Acadiana. I would say that the music around Houma was more swamp pop, and the Cajun music of Acadiana is more traditional Cajun music. Keep in mind, Houma is closer to New Orleans so therefore you’re going to have more of a jazz and blues feel to the music.
Other than the ones you play with, what is your favorite local band? Why?
That’s a very hard question to answer. I would say my favorite type of Cajun music is one that is very traditional, employs old traditional techniques and is un-synthesized and modernized. I enjoy listening to Ray Abshire and his band, T’Monde and Kristy Guillory and Anya Burgess’ duo album.
So, what bands do you specifically play with?
I play exclusively with the Cajun Stompers. I do sit in from time to time with many other bands — Rachel Wilson & Cajun Express. I have sat in with La Recolte when their fiddle player was not available and many others. Being retired, I do enjoy listening to many of the young people play and advance in music. As I mentioned earlier, my first job was teaching music back in the late ’70s, so I enjoy watching young people blossom in music.