Not long after he was named our new concertmaster, I reached out to Canadian violinist, Jean-Sébastien Roy, to see if he’d be interested in letting me interview him for my blog. Giocosity was barely two months old and I hadn’t even met with the French horn section yet, so I was coming to him out of nowhere with absolutely no interviews under my belt. Within a day he responded back with a yes and even offered to do it over the phone if I weren’t able to wait until October when he was planning to move to Columbus.
Wow. Talk about above and beyond!
Last month I had the pleasure of meeting him downtown where he was kind enough to meet with me for a couple of hours while I asked him a myriad questions – about him, his music and his time so far here in Columbus.
If you’re just getting to know him, Jean-Sébastien Roy played as guest concertmaster with the Columbus Symphony Orchestra on two different occasions last year: the waltzes concert at the new year and the Mahler concert in February. He has played as guest concertmaster with orchestras all over the world – including with the Strasbourg Philharmonic in Strasbourg, France, where I spent my senior year in college, so I definitely wanted to ask him about that.
Here’s my interview. Enjoy!
Originally from outside Montreal (Joliette), Quebec, Canada, Jean-Sébastien joins the Columbus Symphony Orchestra as our acting concertmaster for the 2013-2014 season. In talking with him, I learned that he already had connections to Ohio.
Here are some of the basics:
Education: Le Conservatoire de Montréal, Cleveland Institute of Music
Home Life: I have a younger sister (5 years) who is a pianist. Mom and Dad are musicians, too (Piano and guitar), but make their living at other jobs. I also have a dog back home in Canada.
Any fun hobbies? I’ve become a wine enthusiast. (And yes, I like the Alsatian Rieslings!)
Why the violin? It’s always been the violin – since I was two. I started lessons at age four.
How often do you practice? Every day, but I sometimes have to take a day off from time to time. It (orchestra playing) can get very tiring.
Do you ever practice as a section? Not usually. (Sectionals are) used more with youth orchestras. If you have time, it’s great, but it’s usually only used if there’s an occasional very difficult piece.
Instrument: 1745 Carlo Antonio Testore, Jacob Eury bow made in 1830 (From 2006-2009, Roy played a 1717 Windsor-Weinstein Stradivarius on loan to him after winning the 2006 Canada Council for the Arts Music Bank Competition)
What do you gain from performing? I gain a thrill of playing – you go for it. The public wants to hear this piece, they’re here for a good time. You get on stage, you play your piece, people clap for you. When you rehearse, you start and stop. The energy isn’t the same. If you screw up, nobody’s there to hear. At concert time, you have adrenaline in you – you just go for it. Sometimes it’s great, sometimes it’s not as perfect as in a rehearsal because you’re nervous, but it’s a better experience.
COLUMBUS SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA
What do you think of the CSO so far? I love it – it’s a great orchestra. They respond very well to the conductor. They really care and wish to make the concert very good. I’m still new, but I’m very happy with it.
Is it nice to be able to work with fellow Canadians Jean-Marie Zeitouni and librarian, Jean-Etienne Lederer? Yes, but also Alicia Hui (Principal 2nd Violin) is from Canada – from Edmonton.
What should people here know about the Columbus Symphony Orchestra? We’re just a bunch of people getting together and playing music. It’s all very interesting with fun people, passionate people. It’s very demanding to perform, so we might look a little still and focused on stage, but there’s a lot of passion with every performer.
Which concerts are you most looking forward to playing this year? Carmen in Concert, the Bruckner, Guy Braunstein (Former Concertmaster of the Berlin Philharmonic – will be playing Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto)
Are you looking forward to any particular, upcoming guest conductors? Michael Stern – and Jacques Lacombe (French-Canadian). Jacques Lacombe – he conducted when I was 10 at a festival put on by my teacher and I’ve seen him from time to time since then.
Ohio Theatre or Southern Theatre? Southern has better acoustics, but with a smaller place, it’s easier to fill. The Ohio – the most beautiful I’ve seen in my life.
Place to perform outside of Columbus: Europe in general – anywhere in Europe. This music was born there, there’s so much history. America has the incredible halls. When you set foot in Europe, there are great halls where great performers have been for centuries, it’s very special. You feel like you’re a part of its history.
Composers: Schubert, Richard Strauss, J.S. Bach, W. A. Mozart
Musical Era: End of the classical / beginning of romantic Mozart and Schubert were writing incredible music. Beethoven just opened the door to everything.
Show off pieces for the violin: Brahms Hungarian dances
Take a moment to listen to this video of Jean-Sébastien Roy’s playing Brahms Hungarian Dance No. 20.
Pieces for the Violin: Mendelssohn violin concerto is a beautiful piece. Brahms Violin Concerto in D Major Op us 77, Beethoven’s Violin Sonata No. 9 Opus 47 “Kreutzer Sonata.”
Violinists: Itzhak Perlman, Jascha Haifetz, Nathan Milstein, I love the old guys!
Conductors: Wilhelm Furtwängler (Berlin Phil 40’s), Sergiu Celibidache, Leonard Bernstein
Performances: Hard to tell – very different playing in a symphony, playing solo, or in a chamber setting – most are special for different reasons. The Mahler #2 was nice – especially being the concertmaster.
You just arrived last month, so what parts of the city have you explored? German Village, Short North, Campus Area (I think!)
Can you sing the OSU Fight Song or Alma Mater? Not yet, but I just arrived. (OK – I’ll grant him that, but I came prepared and brought the music for the fight song with me just in case. Unfortunately, we met in a fairly noisy place, so Jean-Sébastien wasn’t really able to pull out his violin to play it for me. Next time.)
Any plans to see the Blue Jackets? Not sure yet – I don’t go that often. Tickets in Montreal are really expensive. (For you hockey fans out there, Montreal took on Columbus this past Friday and unfortunately, the Habs beat our Blue Jackets by a score of 3-2. Sigh.)
Igor Stravinsky – Rite of spring: Genius? Or just plain weird? Genius – the rhythm was incredible.
Finally – and most important – what’s your favorite Jeni’s Ice Cream flavor? There was an almond one that was amazing. I also like the Poached Pear Riesling.
Again with the Riesling. I think he might just need to check out some of our local wineries!
Come back on Wednesday when we talk about Jean-Sébastien’s role as concertmaster, his thoughts on leadership within the orchestra as well as what violin music we should all have in our music libraries! In the meantime, if you’d like to learn more about Jean-Sébastien and his music, visit his website and his bio on the CSO website.
Thanks very much to Jean-Sébastien for granting me permission to use some of the photos off his own website.