Trudel to raise Western baton

Alain Trudel’s early days as a young musician in a community band would define a career dedicated, in many ways, to young musicians. And it’s that passion for connecting youth to music the maestro hopes to bring to Western.

“I come from a blue-collar neighbourhood in Montreal. We were a very modest family, with just my mother, and we didn’t have any money, really. To be part of something, to have music lessons, was out of the question,” Trudel said. “I was with a bunch of my friends and we were trying to find something to do, like most teenagers.

“And when you don’t find something to do, you find something else.”

Enter the community band, instructed not by professional musicians, but by individuals dedicated to youth and donating their time, talents and guidance.

“They had a love for music and teaching young people to do other things than doing drugs,” he said.

Today, Trudel is a renowned musician and director of Orchestra London, l’Orchestre Symphonique de Laval, the National Broadcast Orchestra and principal guest conductor of the Victoria Symphony Orchestra. This month, Western welcomed him as director of orchestral ensembles in The Don Wright Faculty of Music.

The first concert of his two-year appointment is set for Oct. 17.

“I love mentoring young people,” Trudel said.

After eight years with the Toronto Symphony Youth Orchestra, he was sad to leave. But he embraces the next opportunity to work with young musicians.

“I like the energy they bring. I like to share what I know. I think I get more out of it than they get out of me. So I thought this was a perfect fit. I can continue working with young musicians, mentoring them in the same town I conduct the orchestra.”

Trudel, Western’s new maestro, brings a wealth of expertise as a musician and conductor.

Starting out his career as a trombone soloist, he made his debut at 18 with Charles Dutoit with l’Orchestre Symphonique de Montreal. He has been a guest soloist with leading orchestras on five continents, and was the first Canadian named a Yamaha international artist.

Trudel likewise got a head start in conducting, getting podium time at 15. He credits a high school teacher who saw both interest and potential in him and, periodically, asked him to conduct the school’s orchestra.

“My trombone career took off, and I started conducting more and more and it just snowballed,” Trudel said.

To date, he has conducted with the National Arts Centre Orchestra and Toronto Symphony Orchestra, l’Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal, Gävle Symphony Orchestra (Sweden) and Saint-Petersburg Cappella Symphony Orchestra, among others in the United Kingdom, United States, Japan, Hong Kong and Latin America.

Trudel is the recipient of numerous awards, among them the Virginia Parker, Le grand prix du disque Président de la République de l’Académie Charles Cros (France) and the Heinz Unger Prize for conducting. The Canadian Music Centre has also named him an Ambassador of Canadian Music.

“I have the best job in the world. You have to be a very well-rounded musician to do all kinds of music,” Trudel said.

By comparison, he explained, North America doesn’t have the richest history or collection of music and part of his excitement is being able to embrace all kinds of new tunes.

“Canada and America are teenage countries in classical music,” Trudel said. “We’re elaborating our tradition. You can jump on a train that’s already going, but there’s something interesting in being part of establishing a tradition, and that’s what we are all doing.”