Letter of Protest Against the Plan to Close Regional Music Conservatories in Québec

23 September 2014

Mrs. Hélène David
Québec Minister of Culture and Communications

Many professional musicians have sent you open letters this week, and others have expressed their concerns over the radio against the closure of regional music Conservatories. You reacted to them in interviews, but refused to commit yourself to keep them open. Although I’m completely in agreement with Yannick Nézet-Séguin, Karina Gauvin, Marie-Nicole Lemieux and David Jalbert, I wish to remind you of other benefits than those enumerated by our brilliant musicians. Although we’re proud of the fame of artists that have been educated in our conservatories (lists are abundant these days, you already know the names) and also of the educational work of others that teach music, I would like to remind you of another aspect of cultural wealth transmitted by members of this institution.

Not all students of the conservatories become musicians or music teachers, but the education they receive changes their lives and those of others they meet. I’m thinking of my previous fellow students who now work in health care and financial services or in journalism, but I’m sure of having forgotten or lost touch with many of them that would like to join their voices to mine.

Twelve years after my last lesson with Marie Daveluy, my singing teacher at the Conservatory, I cited her words during the oral defense of my doctoral thesis at the University of Western Ontario. Today, at Utrecht Universiteit, my research continues to examine the voice and benefits directly from my Conservatory education. Just as Alain Trudel wrote in his open letter, I also come from a middle-class background: without my education at the Conservatory, I would not have had the same opportunities to study in universities in Québec, Canada, and abroad.

The symphony, opera, chamber music, choral music, recitals of every kind, in short simply music should already be important enough for any government to put an immediate stop to this unconscionable budgetary exercise. As another former student reminded you, if the network of Conservatories has an accumulated deficit, it’s because of decades of cuts in public funding. But if you need further reason to put an end to this media circus, think of all the previous students of the Conservatories, what they might be doing today and how they contribute to the culture and the economy of Québec. I’m writing because I know that the link between my present life and my past studies at the Conservatory is perhaps more explicit, but isn’t any less paradigmatic than that of other students. I therefore encourage them to do the same and to give testimony to the importance of their past musical studies in their present lives. This intimacy with music goes beyond “acquiring” personal or general culture; at the Conservatories, we learned to give of ourselves and, as Gisèle Davignon reminded us, self-discipline.

As my personal testimony to the unknown or lesser known benefits and visibility that the Conservatories offers, I’ve asked past and present colleagues to sign this letter with me. From Australia to Ontario, by way of the Netherlands and Great-Britain, their indignation and incomprehension in the face of these eventual closures are, unfortunately, the fruit of your current policies and directives.

Sincerely,

Jason D’Aoust
Postdoctoral researcher
Comparative Literature, Utrecht University
Montreal Music Conservatory 1996-2002

with:

Lucie Bourassa, professeure, Département des littératures de langue française, Université de Montréal, ancienne élève des Conservatoires de musique de Trois-Rivières et de Montréal
Véronique Lamontagne, traductrice, membre du Choeur de l’OSM et violoniste au sein de l’Ensemble Sinfonia de Montréal, étudiante au Conservatoire de musique de Montréal de 1992 à 2000
Guillaume Bourgault, Ph.D. Polytechnique de Montréal en Analyse environnementale du cycle de vie des produits et services, étudiant au conservatoire 1999-2001, pianiste amateur actif
Geneviève Chacon, candidate au doctorat, Université Laval, ancienne élève du Conservatoire
François Zeitouni, pianiste et organiste, Montréal, Premier Prix, Conservatoire de Montréal 1987-1997
Jean-Claude Picard, Assistant Conductor of the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, Studied at the Montreal Conservatory of Music.
Alexa Raine-Wright, Musician, Schulich School of Music of McGill University

Linda Hutcheon, Professor, English and Comparative Literature, University of Toronto
Dr Paul Watt, Lecturer, Musicology, Monash University, Australia
Dr Adrian Paterson, Director of Graduate Research, English, National University of Ireland
Dr Áine Sheil, Lecturer, Department of Music, The University of York, England

Kiene Brillenburg Wurth, Professor of Literature and Comparative Media, Utrecht University, Netherlands
Barnita Bagchi, Assistant Professor, Comparative Literature, Utrecht University
Birgit Kaiser, Assistant Professor, Comparative Literature, Utrecht University
Susanne Knittel, Assistant Professor, Comparative Literature, Utrecht University
Dr Kári Driscoll, Lecturer, Comparative Literature, Utrecht University
Frank Brandsma, Program co-ordinator, Literary Studies, Utrecht University
Dr Tom Idema, Lecturer, Comparative Literature, Utrecht University
Inge van den Ven, PhD Student, Comparative Literature, Utrecht University
Melinda Vásári, PhD student, Comparative Literature, ELTE, Budapest, Hungary

Allan Pero, Associate Professor, Department of English and Writing Studies, University of Western Ontario (UWO)
Steven Bruhm, Professor, Department of English and Writing Studies, UWO
Joel Faflak, Director, School for Advanced Studies in the Arts and Humanities, UWO
Kamran Ahmed, Doctoral Candidate, UWO
Hart Walker, Doctoral Candidate, York University
Dr Emanuele Leonardi, Post-doctoral Fellow, University of Coimbra, Portugal
Brendan Bruce, PhD Student, York University
Ian McCausland, PhD Student, Humanities, York University
Dr Aarnoud Rommens, Post-doctoral Fellow, Université de Liège, Belgique
Caitlyn Doyle, Doctoral Student, Northwestern University
Owen Glyn-Williams, PhD Student, DePaul University
Kaitlyn Pinder, Doctoral candidate, McGill
Dr Mike Bennett, University of King’s College
Pamela Feo, PhD Student, Musicology, Boston University

Livia Monnet, Professeure, Littérature comparée, Université de Montréal
Eric Savoy, Professeur, Littérature comparée, Université de Montréal
Joyce Boro, Professor, English, Université de Montréal
Taïka Baillargeon, doctorante, UQAM, GREF
Mirella Vadean, PhD, Concordia University
Benoît Faucher, PhD, Université de Montréal