In the context of Youth Month, OSM Assistant Conductor Thomas Le Duc-Moreau looks back on how music has shaped his life’s journey. At only 26 years of age, he is one of the OSM’s privileged contacts with children; he leads Youth Matinees and gives conducting workshops in schools, among other activities. But his musical calling did not occur simply by chance: music has inhabited Thomas since childhood! He looks back on his memories, forward to the future, and discusses the benefits of music in human development. What follows is the record of our exchange with Thomas Le Duc-Moreau.
1. What is the most striking memory of your apprenticeship as a young musician?
Undoubtedly, the five years I spent at Le Plateau elementary school in Montreal, a school with a concentration in music. We played music there almost two hours each day, always in a group situation. For five years, music became for me a community experience rooted in teamwork. I was absolutely passionate about it! I still remember the songs I learned in 2nd grade when I was 7 years old. From then on, I always found pleasure in music and in sharing with others, as well as in the willingness of members of a group to surpass themselves to achieve great and beautiful things!
2. Music allows you to travel, they say… You were able to experience this quite literally when you were younger, first in France with the Joseph-François-Perreault school and then in China with the Orchestre symphonique des jeunes de Montréal. What did these trips bring you, not only as a musician but also as an individual?
When I was at Joseph-François-Perrault school, I had the opportunity to complete 3 tours in France, each lasting over 3 weeks … and almost all of them were supported by the school’s music program foundation! The first one lasted 23 days, and I was 13 years old at the time. It was quite a long time away from my family, and I developed a great sense of responsibility there, as I had to take care of my suitcase, my passport, in addition to discovering the cuisine of the many French families who welcomed me! When one is 13, one doesn’t necessarily appreciate everything one is given to eat… The result was that I was no longer difficult with food after this trip!
When you go on tour as a musician, it usually allows you to avoid the usual hassle of everyday life and just live in the moment. Also, we perform many concerts of the same repertoire, which allows us to deepen our interpretation of the works. At Joseph-François-Perrault, we played the last concert of the tour practically without our scores, because we had become so familiar with the pieces!
3. Today, you are giving back by offering, at the age of 26, workshops for children and young musicians. Can you tell us about the workshop you have given as part of the OSMose project?
The OSMose project aims to give music and dance workshops to young persons with autism spectrum disorder. As part of this project, I have designed a conducting workshop for young participants. The aim is to show these young people the basics of conducting and to make them understand the notion of tempo. It was a great pleasure for me to meet the young students at Saint-Etienne school, and I am very much looking forward to seeing them again and continuing the project with them!
4. You also had the chance to conduct an entire orchestra of young musicians when you were on tour with the OSM in Chile. That must have been quite a challenge! Can you tell us how it went?
I absolutely loved taking part in this workshop! We played a movement from Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for Strings, which is one of the most beautiful works for string orchestra ever written. Before the rehearsal, I was already very excited about conducting this piece. From the very first bars, I was absolutely bowled over by the high musical level of the young people, and especially by the quality of their sound. We worked on building up the musical phrases of the piece, so that the discourse and the emotions are clearer. Unfortunately, we only had 30 minutes for the rehearsal, which was far too short to really accomplish what we could have done together.
5. At the OSM, your role with youth is important. Can you remind us of some of your duties towards young people as Assistant Conductor?
Part of my role as Assistant Conductor of the OSM is to take part in many mediation activities with young people in schools. I really enjoy this activity with respect to conducting, because it allows young people to learn about the conductor’s gestures and to gain a different perspective on the conductor the next time they come to a concert. The kids have a lot of fun participating in this activity, and it’s always rewarding for me to be able to communicate my passion for conducting. Also, I conduct all the OSM youth concerts, which are a great introduction to the symphony orchestra’s musical universe. I personally attended many OSM youth concerts as a child, because my primary school was invited to them.
6. In view of your background, what is the moral of the story? Do you think it is important for young people to be exposed to classical music?
One of the most important things is to realize that we can create beautiful things collectively! I believe that by making music at school, with their friends and their class, young people develop a sense of community and responsibility that will guide them throughout their lives.
7. In these particular times, why is music still fundamental, essential, especially for the younger set?
In this period of uncertainty, music can act as one’s life companion, inspiring us emotionally or recalling memories. Music allows us to find ourselves when we feel lost and is a wonderful source of comfort and recollection, much like a personal confidant.
Visit the OSM Youth Page to learn more on the youth-oriented initiatives of the 2020–2021 season.