Arts &
  Arts Culture Analysis  
Vol. 8, No. 3, 2009

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Robert J. Lewis
  Senior Editor
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Bernard Dubé
Sylvain Richard
Robert Rotondo
Marissa Consglieri de Chackal
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Diane Gordon
Emanuel Pordes
Serge Gamache
  Arts Editor
Lydia Schrufer
Mady Bourdage
Marcel Dubois
Emanuel Pordes
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Tommy Emmanuel
John Stetch
Susie Arioli
Coral Egan
Diana Krall
Stacey Kent
Carol Welsman
Aldo Romano
Denzal Sinclaire
Madeleine Peyroux
Bireli Lagrene
Sonido Isleño
Provost & Lachapelle
Kevin Breit
Sophie Milman
Annie Poulain
Badi Assad
Donato & Bouchard
Ingrid Jensen
John Roney
Russell Malone
David Binney
Kurt Rosenwinkel
Mimi Fox
Voo Doo Scat
Coral Egan
Martin Taylor
Jordon Officer
Melody Gardot
Jean Vanasse

2009 Montreal Guitarissimo 2008 (Russell Malone, Stanley Jordan, Monte Montgomery, Sylvain Provost etc
Montreal Jazz Festival 2005 EMI Classics








Piano Keyboard

a day in the life of music festival programmer

Frédéric Poulin - Music Festival Programmer @MIJF


Frédéric Poulin has been working as a music festival programmer for both the Montreal International Jazz Festival and Les FrancoFolies (the largest francophone music festival on the planet) for the past two years. In particular, he is responsible for programming the guitar events for the Montreal Guitar Show and Guitarissimo concert series. We spoke about his work.

ARTS & OPINION: Do you ever get sick of music?


ARTS & OPINION: How many hours of music do you listen to per/day on average?

FRÉDÉRIC POULIN: Over the course of a year, a minimum of 4 hours/day. Most of it from December to June.

ARTS & OPINION: How many CDs do you listen to per/year?

FRÉDÉRIC POULIN: I would say about 3000.

ARTS & OPINION: Do you listen to them from beginning to end?

FRÉDÉRIC POULIN: That’s impossible. But I give them a good listening before making a decision. Applicants don’t have to worry that I’ll (or anyone on our programming team) will listen to a couple of cuts for 30 seconds and then make a decision on it. We take our work seriously and I think it shows in our programming. It’s not an accident that the Montreal Jazz Festival is regarded by many as the best in the world. One of the most difficult aspects of my work is having to reject good music because it doesn’t fit into a particular theme.

ARTS & OPINION: I know you play guitar, that your father is a musician, that music is in your blood. Are you living the dream?

FRÉDÉRIC POULIN: Absolutely. Vocation and avocation are one and the same, on top of which I’m now playing in a band for the first time in many years.

ARTS & OPINION: What is most satisfying about your work?

FRÉDÉRIC POULIN: On a personal basis, getting to know and work with André Menard (co-founder of Montreal Jazz Festival = MJF) and Laurent Saulnier (Program Director of MJF). Both of these gentlemen have between 40 and 30 years of music listening experience under their belts, and I consider myself very lucky to have access to their incredible knowledge. Both of their brains should be digitalized and uploaded onto the Internet under the music encyclopedia category.

ARTS & OPINION: What most impresses you about their knowledge?

FRÉDÉRIC POULIN: Besides their many recommendations which are of course invaluable, what they have mostly taught me has been by example. They are both totally open to all genres of music, which is really quite rare. As we know, when people become more comfortable with complex music, such as jazz or classical, they sometimes become snobbish about music they ‘used to love and listen to.’ It’s like a rich guy who wants to forget he was once poor. But good music is good music and our team doesn’t care where it comes from or what genre it belongs to.

ARTS & OPINION: What is the most difficult challenge facing a festival programmer?

FRÉDÉRIC POULIN: For myself, it was learning to recognize and appreciate music that I don’t personally like. As you know, it’s impossible to be equally inclined towards all genres of music. Which obliged me to find a way into music that perhaps has nothing to do with my personal experience. So for example, let’s pretend I don’t like Rap music, but since millions of people do, I had to find out what it is about this music that attracts so many listeners from all around the world, which means I have to not only listen to the music but find the feelings and reasons which cause this music to be created. If the music is angry, there must be a situation in life that corresponds to that anger and I want to know about it. Cuban music is not only just music but it’s the story of a people who live on the island of Cuba who aren’t as free as we are, which is maybe why their music feels so free. They create their freedom through their music.

I wasn’t prepared for this kind of discipline when I first joined the team, but it has forced me to become a much better listener; and when you finally learn to appreciate a new genre of music it’s like learning a new language. During the past couple of years I have become familiar with many musical languages and I’m only at the beginning of my career.

ARTS & OPINION: As the person solely responsible for the guitar programming, were you under more pressure than usual?

FRÉDÉRIC POULIN: I could always consult with Jacques-André Dupont, the director of all the guitar shows who also recommends. Like myself, he plays guitar and is familiar with many styles of guitar playing. But yes, there’s lot’s of pressure especially when you’re working within a tight budget. It’s one thing to find a good guitarist, it’s another to get him to sign the contract. We have to pay for transportation and hotel and if the musician or group turn us down we have to find someone else. It can be very frustrating at times.

ARTS & OPINION: How did you decide on the programming of the 9-concert Guitarissimo series?

FRÉDÉRIC POULIN: The Montreal Guitar Show now features both acoustic and electric salons, and Jacques-André and myself wanted the concerts to reflect the many voices of the guitar as a means of expression, so we invited not only guitarists like Russell Malone and Stanley Jordon but classical guitarists as well as the sonic heavy electric guitarist Oliver Langevin, who to my pleasant surprise drew a huge crowd.

ARTS & OPINION: Do the guitarists find you or do you find them?

FRÉDÉRIC POULIN: Now that our jazz festival is known everywhere in the world, I receive lots of unsolicited CDs and DVDs, but for the more known guitarists, I have to go and find them, but it’s a lot easier now since all of them have websites with contact addresses. But all of us programmers are open to unsolicited music and musical suggestions.

ARTS & OPINION: If there’s one thing I’m going to take home with me from this conversation, Frédéric, it’s the reminder that before we decide negatively on a certain kind of music, we should put in the effort to find out why so many people like it. I thank you for sharing your time and insights with Arts & Opinion.

FRÉDÉRIC POULIN: I thank you for the opportunity of explaining my work. I love talking music almost as much as listening and playing it.


Wes Montgomery
Paco de Lucia
Joe Pass
Django Reinhardt
George Benson
John Scofield
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