Why the Francophonie?
If music crosses borders, is apolitical and has its own terminology and unique jargon understood by specialists, it needs nothing but hearing to make its way to its listeners. So why create an orchestra of the Francophonie?
French Throughout the World
There are 275 million francophones around the world. French is the fifth most spoken language, the second most learned language and a de facto third language of business. Through its historical legacy, French is also the official language of most international organizations. These figures bear witness to the vitality of French still today. Within the French-speaking world, there are no fewer than 800 universities, more than 150 mayors of major cities and a specialized television network (TV5 monde) broadcast all over the globe. A network of 63 States and governments share the French language, as well as a Charter of the Francophonie.
As a direct reflection of its values, the Orchestre de la francophonie (OF) has been a symbolic place where classical music and the French language come together for one season, every summer, for almost 20 years now. Created for the IV Jeux de la Francophonie, held in Ottawa-Hull, some would call it a summer music camp, a mini-orchestra, an orchestral academy or a summer campus. Whatever it may be on paper, in reality it is a place for sharing knowledge, where education, and the love of music and the French language align with the philosophy of francophone communities around the world through its mission: to promote the French language as well as cultural and linguistic diversity; to promote peace, democracy and human rights; to support education, training, higher education and research; and to develop cooperation for sustainable development and solidarity.
The OF prepares young musicians who have graduated from respected institutions to play a leading role in the most prestigious orchestras, here and abroad.
Since its inception in 2001, the OF has regularly updated and expanded its educational field, committed as it is to ensuring that its training remains in line with the needs and requirements of its time and of orchestras throughout the world. It has, all the while, carefully respected the educational needs of its students at a sensitive time in their life when they move away from academic life and into a professional orchestra.
The Life of a Musician
For one summer, musicians of the OF, carefully selected following “digital” auditions held the previous winter, experience the reality of professional orchestral musicians, under the care of Jean-Philippe Tremblay, founding artistic director and the very soul of the orchestra. Here, musicians have a front-row seat to the life that awaits them: high-speed rehearsals to learn a score, indoor concerts, outdoor concerts, studio recordings, short trips, TV recordings, preparation for their role as citizens beyond their professional career and much more. Young musicians who participate in the educational and orchestral internship with the OF have an opportunity to use this experience as an effective and prestigious stepping-stone to a professional orchestral career while enjoying the unique cultural diversity of a francophone environment. They will embark on a journey that Jean-Philippe Tremblay enthusiastically calls “the orchestra of the future.” The conductor considers that music has the power to play a major role in society, as an effective tool for social cohesion.
Three core objectives of the OF: Learn, Innovate and Share
- Learn: by providing the brightest young musicians with diverse tools, both musical and extramusical, to prepare for a fulfilling and high-level professional career.
- Innovate: by reinventing the concert format, by performing in unusual settings, using daring new approaches and varying forms, and finally, by combining artistic disciplines that may potentially enhance one another.
- Share: by promoting the social commitment and community involvement of the OF and its musicians, by seeking new mutually beneficial partnerships, by producing and releasing high quality recordings, and finally by encouraging sharing, open-mindedness and tolerance.
Jean-Philippe Tremblay, Artistic Director
Jean-Philippe Tremblay has developed an impressive international career. In recent seasons, he has led prestigious European ensembles in London, Paris, Dresden, Rotterdam, Vienna and Prague and made a remarkably successful conducting debut with the Philharmonique de la Radio Flamande and the Orchestre National de France. In America, Tremblay has been a guest conductor of symphony orchestras in Montréal, Québec, London, Winnipeg and Edmonton, as well as with the National Arts Centre Orchestra in Ottawa, the Orchestre Métropolitain de Montréal, the Washington National Symphony Orchestra, the Philharmonic Orchestra of the Americas, the Youth Orchestra of the Americas and the Manhattan School of Music Orchestra. He is currently musical director and principal conductor of the Orchestre de la francophonie, which he founded in 2001 and conducted hundreds of times in Canada and 14 times in China. Jean-Philippe Tremblay studied viola, composition and conducting at the Conservatoire de musique du Québec in Chicoutimi, the Université de Montréal School of music, the Pierre Monteux School, the Tanglewood Music Center and the Royal Academy of Music in London. He is the recipient of numerous prestigious awards, including the Musician’s Prize at the Dimitri Mitropoulos International Competition for Conductors in Greece, the Rose Roitman Award, the Joyce Conger Award for the Arts and the National Arts Centre Hommage Award. His recordings with the OF garnered many awards and mentions, including critical acclaim from prestigious publications such as Gramophone and Diapason.
The Conductor’s Vision
Jean-Philippe Tremblay’s passion for music is well established. The 30‑something conductor who travels the world year-round to perform with numerous orchestras is also the founder of the Orchestre de la francophonie and the soul of this academic proposal from its very first day, in 2001. Almost 20 years ago, only a short while after graduating from university, the young musician and conductor realized that somewhere between the conservatory and a seat among symphonic ensembles, future musicians needed to develop know‑how and soft skills that would allow them to confidently pursue a classical music career. This realization made Tremblay eager to share his knowledge and experience by providing the most talented young performers with tools – both musical and extra-musical – they would need to build a high-level professional career. To this end, Jean-Philippe Tremblay has since spared no effort to make the best resources available to his students. Aware that in-depth knowledge is essential to becoming an accomplished classical musician, Tremblay still believes in the importance of developing innovation skills. With daring new approaches, unusual venues, varying forms or a combination of artistic disciplines, the conductor and artistic director introduces his students to the orchestra of the future by offering them new and amazing avenues to explore.
Although the educational plan is strongly focused on learning and innovation, the concept of sharing has not been overlooked. By fostering social commitment and community involvement among his students, Jean-Philippe Tremblay hopes to promote values that he espouses and considers essential to the life of all classical musicians: sharing, openness and tolerance among human beings.
A summer orchestral internship in the French-speaking world with tremendous benefits
Every year, musicians of the OF are selected through auditions. Successful candidates receive exceptional training free of charge, as well as a scholarship and partially paid travel and living expenses. They also participate in mock auditions, orchestral excerpt classes and sectional or group rehearsals with seasoned professionals. In addition, the OF offers musicians contemporary music workshops, French courses, workshops on occupational injury prevention and various courses in career management and music psychology. A hectic schedule indeed, but hugely rewarding, in the presence of highly reputable professors and masters.
Orchestre de la francophonie: the school of … orchestra life!
Every year, the Orchestra provides its musicians with a rare opportunity to participate in work sessions with renowned composers, soloists and conductors. It also trains them in efficient and timely musical preparation, to get them ready for the daily reality of large professional ensembles. In contrast with music schools that commonly allow their orchestras several days to prepare for a concert, the OF focuses on very few days of preparation, as is often the case with professional orchestras. Nothing is spared when it comes to providing these young virtuosos with an experience that is realistic in every respect. The OF is basically an eight-week apprenticeship in real orchestral life for young people from 18 to 30 years of age who wish to develop valuable tools.
The OF: an upward trajectory
Over a period of nearly 20 years, the OF has contributed to training 1,300 future professional musicians, performed more than 300 concerts in Canada and more than 15 in Asia, played works by more than 150 composers from all eras, commissioned more than 40 compositions from young creators and recorded nearly 10 albums. Whether in Canada, the United States, Denmark, Brazil, Japan, Norway, France, Portugal or England, OF alumni have taken their place among the finest orchestras in the world, a source of enormous pride for the creator of the Orchestre de la francophonie!