An interview with Jean-Eric SOUCY

1) In general, what do you think that masterclasses have to offer to a young musician?

It’s a unique opportunity to be intensely in contact with other musicians, opinions, backgrounds, in a close environment dedicated to music and only music, with no distraction. Often, one gets the feeling that those 10 days were like 2, but the effects on the long term are like studying for many months in a standard context at a standard school.

2) In your opinion, what do you think makes it special about attending the masterclass at MAAKSS ?

It´s still on a human scale. Meaning that every participant has easy access to a lot of opportunities: to play in front of colleagues, play with them, listen to them, and have close contact with highly qualified professional musicians. In a very special setting, being on an island of great beauty.

3) What should students expect to learn during your 10 day masterclass, and what do you wish to transmit them?

Both music and technique are the two central topics. Technique is a support, a means, to express our ideas about a music work. That’s why it is so important to develop a solid technique. But you can only learn technique efficiently if you know what your aim is musically speaking. It makes practicing a lot more fun!

4) In which academies or conservatories have you taught in your career?

It’s a long list…
I was a teacher for many years at “Le Conservatoire de musique du Québec” during my time as a solo-violist with the Orchestre symphonique de Québec (1986–1991).
I was also teacher in the “Musikhochschule Karlsruhe”, from 1996 to 2003. After that, I chosed to concentrate on my solo, chamber music and orchestra carreer, and to be honest, have some more time for my family life…
But I love teaching, so on a less regular basis, I visit schools and other venues for Masterclasses since 1986 until now. Most of them, many years in a row: in Belgium(Accademie in Brugge), France (Haute Ecole de Musique Strasbourg), Brazil (UERJ Rio de Janeiro), Canada (SOAP in British Columbia, Toronto in the Glenn-Gould Music School, Domaine Forget, the Orford Academy), Switzerland (Basel), Austria (Viola Symposium Feldkirch), Australia (Melbourne, Brisbane, and Adelaide universities as well as Sydney’s conservatorium), Germany ( Dortmund Orchester Zentrum NRW).

5) What would be your main advice to a young musician who wants to become professional?

Of course, working on your technical skills is a must. But playing chamber music with other musicians, better as oneself if possible, and as much as you can is the key to success.

6) What made you choose the viola as your instrument?

The role of the viola in chamber music and in orchestras is to be the glue, the passing player, the coordinator, and the peacemaker all at once! Aside from that, if you’ve ever played a Mahler symphony because in his music it’s so typical, you remember how often the changing of color, chords, through a unique note is given to the violas? The blue note… my love!

7) Which qualities are for you the most important in a viola player?

Flexibility! And a profound knowledge of the score, whatever you play.

8) How many private masterclasses will each student have with you during the 10-day Academy?

Of course, it depends a bit on the number of violists… But let’s say that beside private lessons, one every second day at least, there will be class ensembles, chamber music for Violas ensembles… We will also speak on different topics, like technical issues, Bach and the Suites for Viola… and the door of the class stays open for the violists (and others) who would like to listen to the lessons. Open doors, open minds…

9) Will you teach orchestral viola excerpts during your class and if yes how many?

It’s part of a violist’s life, of course! We will focus on four different excerpts. Mahler, 10., Brukner 4., Mendelssohn Midsommer night dream, and finally Don Quixott from Strauss.
If somebody has an audition coming up, we will be able to work on whatever is needed.

Pictures from a masterclass of Jean Eric Soucy in Strasbourg. (Haute Ecole des Arts du Rhin)

The other participants of the masterclass were

The pianist: Sonia Simard
The altists: Ori Kam, Jean Sulem et Jean-Christoph Garzia.