Professional cellist Stéphane Tétreault credits his bilingualism to the EMSB

Mr. Tétreault
Montreal - Friday, January 12, 2024

Stéphane Tétreault, professional cellist, made a special guest appearance at Dante Elementary School in St. Léonard on January 9. The Royal Vale School and FACE alum was chosen by the English Montreal School Board to be the ambassador for its campaign À la CSEM, on cultive le français…jour après jour, which openedwith a celebratory event at the school.

Mr. Tétreault, now 30, is full swing into his career as a professional musician. He performs mainly in Quebec, but also throughout Canada, the United States and abroad. Being bilingual has been an asset, he says, because it has enabled him to pursue his career in Quebec and in Europe, where proficiency in both languages is an asset.

Growing up, it was commonplace to switch in and out of English and French, he recalls. Both his parents have a French Canadian heritage, though his mother did her schooling in English in several different provinces. When it was time to enrol the young Tétreault in school, his parents chose FACE Elementary School in downtown Montreal.  At that time there was only room in the English section of the school. Although he had eligibility there was one small problem: he only spoke French. His mother taught him to speak English the summer leading into his Kindergarten year. He says he adapted quickly to an English setting at school. “At that age, we learn pretty fast!” he said.

Mr. Tétreault remained at FACE until Grade 8, then did a year of homeschooling in English. He completed his youth education at Royal Vale School in NDG for the last two years of high school, where he graduated fully bilingual. He went on to study music at the Université de Montréal and earned a masters degree in music performance.

It was within this setting of a duo-lingual family and in French Immersion school within an English setting that provided him the language skills and options that opened doors to making a career in music.

The work of a full-time professional musician goes beyond the long hours of rehearsing and performing. It also involves preparing for concerts, recording, networking and doing the administration, Mr. Tétreault said. He has even added teaching to his current repertoire and is busy learning the production side of the music industry.

When he is in Quebec, he works mostly in French, he explained. During his travel though, when it takes him throughout Canada or in Europe, he can pivot seamlessly and comfortably into either language. “Bilingualism has been instrumental in my career and in my life. It’s been a privilege to be able to travel and to be able to be at home – and to be comfortable in either language,” he said. (Italian and Spanish would be the next on his language bucket list if he had the time!)

Mr. Tétreault is the student of the late cellist and conductor Yuli Turovsky and has received numerous awards and accolades, and has been the headline of many concerts since 2007.

In February, he plays the cello at Bourgie Hall with pianist Olivier Hébert-Bouchard in the concert “Claude Debussy: Forgotten Images.”

“It’s more than a profession,” he says. “When you feel like you are invested in your passion – in what you love to do in life – it is a real privilege. And it does feel like a life in music. That said, there are sacrifices. There is the practicing and the travelling, where you are away from friends and family. But what it brings you is being able to share music with audience members and listeners. And then to hear how my music makes them feel – that’s very special.”

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