Duo shares love of classical music

Since 1949, the Jeunesses Musicales Canada have been working hard to bring classical music to all Canadian citizens, whether they reside in a major metropolitan centre or in a small rural community.

One of the latest Jeunesses Musicales tours features acclaimed violinist Marc Djokic, a Halifax native as well as Julien LeBlanc, who originally hails from Cocagne. Djokic and LeBlanc will next perform at Bouctouche’s Salle Antonine-Maillet tomorrow at 7:30 p.m., and at Dieppe’s Salle La Caserne, located at 331 Acadia Avenue, on Tuesday, April 19, beginning at 8 p.m.

From a tour stop in Quebec, Julien says that his love affair with the piano began when he was nine years old, giving his first professional concert at the age of 16.

“It really was love at first sight,” he says, although he started with the instrument since it was the only one available to him at the time. It was the 1984 movie Amadeus that solidified his decision to pursue classical music.

“I was completely taken by that movie,” he says. “From that point on, I only listened to classical music.”

Asked whether he had to endure any teasing from his schoolmates due to his classical music preference over the more “acceptable” pop or rock music of the day, he says that listening to classical music was his way to differentiate himself from his peers.

Julien now calls Montreal home. Although he does miss the pace of life in New Brunswick, he decided to live in Montreal due to the city’s vast artistic community which he is happy to be a part of.

Marc Djokic grew up in a musical household, learning to play the violin under the watchful eye of his father, Phillipe, at the age of seven.

“I think that any child seeing a musical instrument played has this natural instinct to want to get their hands on the instrument themselves,” Marc says. “My father started me on the violin and I started studying the instrument with him. It was fun at first but when I showed skill and talent at it, I decided to continue along in my studies.

“There came a point in time though when I got older that I had to step back and question whether I was continuing to play violin for myself or if I was doing it for others. But then I realized it was something that I did truly enjoy and I think a big reason for that was it was a bonding experience with my family.

“I think a lot of people try to find interests that they could share with their parents and music was the thing that we had in common.”

Growing up in a mostly classical music household, Marc jokes that he recalls attending an art class in junior high where the students were invited to bring in music of their choice to listen to in class.

“I was the only one that showed up with a collection of violin concertos,” he laughs. “I didn’t really put too much concern into what others thought though.”

At the point of speaking with the Times & Transcript, the duo was seven shows into their tour and Marc says that, thus far, their shows have been well-received.

“So far the audiences have been a real good mix of young and old,” he says. “I think one reason why we are able to appeal to such a broad range of ages has a lot to do with the creativity in the music we choose to perform. We have some classical romantic pieces in the show but also feature more contemporary pieces as well. We try to choose music that we know people will like.”

Asked if younger generations of music fans coming out to these shows is a surprise to him, Marc says that he had actually predicted the gravitation towards classical music by younger people for quite some time.

“I think there is a growing interest among younger generations of music fans to experience a high level of instrumentalists in concert. I think people in general have a lot of music thrown their way that is not musically enriching; classical music tends to offer that something more,” he says.

“People want to hear musicians who have a good knowledge and understanding of their instruments as well. The very fact that we get feedback from young and old people alike means we are indeed reaching a broad base of people with our music.”

Article published in April 12, 2011 edition of the Times & Transcript