Features

Frank Zappa’s music at the Thomas More Institute

By Amanda Siddall

“When I teach, I learn,” François Ouimet says.

The music teacher explains what drives his passion for teaching at the Thomas More Institute (TMI): “As a conductor, I was taught the importance of developing a thorough and wide-ranging artistic culture. TMI has made this possible for me.”

François first began teaching at TMI in 2004, with his first course being From Orpheus to Mingus: a Musical Journey in 12 Episodes. Currently he is teaching Let’s Hear the Music! Sound and Structure, a two-part course that reviews how music is constructed and explores where music is going.

His teaching extends beyond TMI: He also teaches elementary, high school, and college-level choirs at Vincent-d’Indy music school. Outside the classroom, he leads the 120-voice University Chorus and the 16-voice Schulich School Singers at McGill. He also conducts the Orchestre Métropolitain Chorus and a community choir called les Voix Ferrées.

This season, Ouimet is guest conductor of Voce Boréales, a professional choir based in Montreal.

This spring, François takes on what may be his most eccentric course topic yet: Frank Zappa: An Iconic American Maverick.

“He is one of my favourite musicians, a fascinating artist,” Ouimet explains.

Despite a busy schedule, Ouimet manages to squeeze in time for himself.

“I practice Buddhist meditation and I train twice a week in a gym. I read a lot of books, and once in a while you will see me demonstrating in the street for causes dear to my heart.”

Another activity “dear to his heart” is playing the electric guitar. Ouimet previously had several electric-guitar side projects including WLOVE, a psychedelic funk rock band.

“Alas, what started out as my main musical activity gradually turned into a hobby, and these days I have no time for my hobby.”

If he had more time, Ouimet says he’d be tempted to take up another instrument.

The bass clarinet. I love that sound – it bewitches me,” he says.

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