Accordion History of Cherie Hilton Patterson & Rob Patterson

At age seven Cherie was first introduced to the accordion. Like many others a man came to their house and tested her to see if she had aptitude for music. Of course, she was a “musical genius.”

Cherie is sure everyone who got tested had the same result, but her parents believed it.

She started taking a six-week course with a rented 12 bass accordion. Cherie’s friend that lived across the street had also taken the same course. Cherie discovered that her father had an accordion from when he had played in his youth, so she started lessons on his old accordion. Cherie’s first teacher was a student, from the Larry Pino Conservatory, by the name of Anthony. And soon she switched to Yvonne Arndt’s schedule. Then eventually in a few more years became a student of Larry Pino.

At age nine, Cherie was progressing well and it was time for a bigger accordion. She joined the junior symphony and went to her first AFNA competition in California. There she met Rob for the first time. He was her age but was in the senior symphony. He was playing a full-size accordion and when she went to hear him, he played a song that was ten pages long! She was impressed. At that time her longest song was
2 pages, and didn’t even have eighth notes. Cherie realized she had some practicing and catching up to do.

By thirteen the Accordion players that influenced her the most were Garry Garff and Mindy Taylor. They were in the senior symphony, and she listened to them compete each year. They always did well in the competitions and they won many awards. When she got into the senior symphony, they were the ones that taught her how to practice more effectively as she prepared for competitions. She had also heard about players like Evann Dahl and Steve Mori, but they had already left the studio by the time she was there. At competitions she became acquainted with other accordion players like Peter Soave and Glen Hirami. Glen was also Cherie’s age and often won the categories that they competed in.

Cherie hates to admit it, but her principal focus was winning competitions and trying to catch up to better players. At first, she worked to catch up to Rob. It took her several years, but by the time she was sixteen, they were playing duets together and competing in the same categories. Then she set her sights on catching up to Glen Hirami. She really wanted to beat him. It took her until she was twenty-one before she won the top category in AFNA and beat Glen to do it.

When Cherie first started playing, she tried to practice 30 minutes a day. She devised various schemes for getting out of practicing. For example, she recorded herself on a tape recorder, then she would rewind that and play it repeatedly, while she read a book. Every summer, she would increase her practice time to prepare for competitions. After joining the junior symphony her practice time increased to an hour on Saturdays, but mostly it increased because she was rehearsing with the group and doing her parts in breakout groups. When she was a teenager, there were some years that she practiced all day long while preparing for the bigger competitions. One year, she practiced so much that her fingers developed calluses that broke and bled on her keyboard during a performance one year.

Cherie: When Cherie was fifteen, she started teaching accordion lessons. She turned sixteen soon after and continued teaching lessons until she was 26 years old. She directed the Junior symphony for a couple of years too. As far as accomplishments, she won many competitions and lost many too. It took her years to realize that the real benefit was how she progressed by preparing for each competition. She never perfected songs for her weekly lessons like she did for performing in front of an audience or for competition.

Cherie had the opportunity to play in productions of “Fiddler on the Roof” and for a “Hart to Hart” movie.

Accordion was her top priority, but she did well in school also. She completed a bachelor’s degree and later a master’s degree.

Rob and Cherie started playing duets together when they were about 14 years old. They were undefeated as a duet team. She also played duets with his sister Kim. Cherie thinks Larry Pino’s students always did well in duet competitions because they were evenly matched. The players they went up against seemed to have one strong player and one weaker player. They also played parts together in the symphonies. They learned to listen to each other and to match how the other person played. After Rob and Cherie were married, they continued to perform whenever they were asked. Cherie thought playing the accordion would be part of her entire life, but she is no longer able to lift or hold her instrument, so she hasn’t played for the last five years. She currently loves listening to others play and she so appreciates the friendships she has found through the clubs and working at the accordion convention In Las Vegas.


Both of Rob’s parents play the accordion. In fact, they met each other through their participation with the Larry Pino Conservatory, which is also how Rob met Cherie!

Rob started to play just before his sixth birthday, and he initially drove his parents crazy with how often he was practicing. That soon wore off!

He moved through the progressive levels at the studio, and eventually entered the Junior Symphony, followed by the Senior Symphony and then Senior Ensemble. Rob said:

"The accordion was a large part of my life, and Thursdays were sacred – that was the night that the accordion orchestras met for rehearsal at Larry’s studio in Holladay."

Growing up, Rob’s parents would drop him off at his grandparents, who lived nearby, while they both went to work at the studio on Thursday evenings. When he was old enough to be in the orchestra, they would spend the evening at the studio.

Rob told me that there were several people that he looked at as role models in the orchestra while he was growing up, although he couldn’t remember all of their names anymore. Among those were advanced players like Yvonne Arndt, Garry & Mindy Garff, the Dahl sisters Evan & Annette, and Steve Mori. Rob also really enjoyed listening to Paul, especially with his electronic music, and he always wished that his dad would get him an Elkavox, but that never happened! Ironically, Cherie’s dad did buy her one, but she didn’t really want it. To this day, Cherie remains an accordion “purist”!

It was the accordion that fostered Rob’s love for classical music. In the Senior Symphony, they would always do a Symphonic work as they prepared for accordion competition at AFNA or AAA. He remembers initially finding it quite boring – especially since the part he received as a junior member of the Symphony had a lot of rests, but he still remembers one night, while sitting in rehearsal, just being in awe of the interaction of all the parts going on around him. If he remembers correctly, they were doing the 4
th movement of Beethoven’s 5th symphony that year.

Rob taught himself to play the piano in his teen years, based on his many years of accordion lessons. The most difficult part, as one might imagine, was getting his left hand to play the keyboard, and then, the next difficult thing was getting an even touch, as touch really matters much more on the piano than on the accordion. A little more than 14 years ago, he was asked to learn the organ at church, and has been one of two or three organists in his congregation playing for Sacrament services every other week since then. He found that as an accordionist, playing the organ seemed more natural with touch not mattering at all, but it took him a little while to get comfortable playing the pedals with his feet!

He was excited when he was finally able to buy a Concerto. He had found the Concerto just through web searches, and reconnected with Paul once he realized who was making the instrument! He has also had the opportunity to be a small part of the development team for the newest model (DA300), and enjoys bringing his programming and musical skills together. He plays mostly for himself, but does participate in a band at work, and he has the opportunity every now and then to play at family events, especially on Christmas Eve while the kids sing and dance around the tree waiting for Santa to arrive!