Canadian Concertizer

by J. Andrew Dickenson
September 2006

As the recent winner of one of the world’s most prestigious guitar competitions, Jérôme Ducharme is becoming known for his virtuosity and artistic stylishness. In 2005, Jérôme placed first in the Guitar Foundation of America Competition, a prize that came only a year after he had been awarded third place at the same venue. He also bears winning titles from Lachine’s 2003 International Guitar Competition, the Guitar-Antony International Guitar Competition in France, and many other national competitions in Canada.

Jérôme started his musical training with André Morissette at the Joliette Cultural Center in September, 1990, and has since been the student of Manuel Barrueco, Pepe Romero, Odair Assad, Roland Dyens, Oscar Ghiglia, and many others. His outstanding stage presence has drawn him to concerts with the Montréal Guitar Society and the Montréal Symphony as well as performances with Radio-Canada and CBC radio stations. In October, Jérôme will return once again to the GFA, this time as a performer in the coveted recitals series.

NYlon Review: Let’s start with some background info. How old were you when you began playing guitar?

Jérôme Ducharme: I started to study guitar at the age of 12. My mother forced me to take classical guitar lessons, while I would have preferred rock or heavy metal music. But she was right. I ended up selling my electric guitar for a better classical one.

My first teacher was André Morissette (a former student of Alvaro Pierri), then came Clément Canac Marquis, founder of the Montréal Guitar Society. I entered the Conservatoire of Montréal in 1994 and studied with Jean Vallières, a student of Alexandre Lagoya, until my final examination in 2000. I stayed in this school for two more years to study counterpoint and harmony, than I spent one year in Basel (Switzerland) to study with Oscar Ghiglia and Stephan Schmidt.

What is the classical guitar scene like in Canada?

The classical guitar scene in Montréal is mostly the guitar society scene, and during the summer, there is a festival and an international guitar competition in Lachine, a suburb of Montréal. Also during the summer, but far from Montréal, there is Domaine Forget. It is a music camp with high level students and two guest teachers of international reputation. For example, last year Roland Dyens and the Assad Brothers were the guests. They gave masterclasses and performed a recital.

When did you feel you were ready to enter a competition?

I never felt ready for anything … but my teachers always encouraged me to enter all sort of competitions.

How do you prepare for a competition?

My preparation is not really different from the preparation before a concert or an examination. I make no big deal of the rituals. For me it is all the same — to play for people is always a stressful situation.

In your experience with competitions, have you seen an increase or decrease in the number of competitors and the skill level?

I entered very few international competitions (six in all), so my personal statistics are unreliable! But the level seems high everywhere I go.

What is the biggest benefit of doing competitions?

There are many benefits. They give me more exposure, starting with this interview (my first!), the CD at Naxos, and obviously the tour. I already got a few gigs because of the GFA, but I think the real benefits are still to come. The CD is not released yet and I’m sure I will meet people on the tour.

Are you excited about your upcoming tour?

Totally exited! It will be the craziest year of my life so far. I don’t know how much it will be possible for me to tour the cities between concerts, but I’ll try to take all opportunities.

What repertoire will you be performing on the tour program?

Mostly Spanish music from 20th century. It is a natural choice for me and for the instrument.

What advice would you give students interested in entering competitions?

I think it is good to have long periods of preparation without a teacher and many short periods with. It gives you time to develop a personal view on the pieces without getting lost on your way.