Marie-Josée Simard. Percussionist, b La Baie, near Chicoutimi, Que, 29 Nov 1956; premier prix percussion (CMM) 1979. Born into a musical family, Simard made her debut on vibraphone in her parents' orchestra in Baie-Comeau. Her mother was her first teacher and accompanist until she entered the Conservatoire de musique du Québec, where she studied 1974-6. She then studied at the Conservatoire de musique de Montréal 1976-9. Simard was the first woman percussion graduate in Canada and the first woman to be awarded first prize in percussion at the CMM. Assisted by several grants 1970-81, she continued at the Orford Art Centre, in England, with Michael Skinner and James Blades, and in New York with the marimba specialist Leigh Howard Stevens. In 1979 she won the Search for Stars contest of the du Maurier Council for the Performing Arts (du Maurier Arts).
In 1984, Simard was guest soloist with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra at a concert in honour of Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh on their visit to Canada. She represented Canada at a 1992 Metropolitan Opera benefit concert in New York. In 2000 she performed with flutist Susan Hoeppner and in 2001 performed Landscapes of Patmos by Petr Eben with organist Jean-Pierre Lecaudey.
Simard has performed as soloist with several Canadian orchestras including the MSO, the OJQ, the Kingston Symphony, the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, and the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony Orchestra. She has also toured in Canada, South America, Mexico, China, South Korea, the US and much of Europe. She has taken part in the Festival de Paris (1994) and the Poznan Festival in Poland (where she premiered Four Seasons Greetings by Joanna Bruzdowicz in 1989) and several other international festivals. She has performed on CBC and has worked closely with many composers to encourage composition for keyboard percussion instruments.
Simard has premiered more than 25 works written for her, such as Rachel Laurin's Concerto for Marimba and Vibraphone (1993), François Dompierre's Xylo fun, Pierre-Max Dubois's Simard-Suite with Symphony Nova Scotia (1986), Denis Gougeon's Dialogues for marimba and orchestra, Michel Longtin's Venu de l'est: hiver '44 and Clermont Pépin's Concerto for marimba and orchestra and the concerto for marimba and vibraphone by the Rumanian composer Maya Badian (1989).
Simard worked at the Domaine Forget Music and Dance Academy until she became a professor at the Conservatoire de musique de Montréal in 1992. She has transcribed many compositions for the marimba, xylophone and vibraphone and has also conducted percussion ensembles. She has served on juries for the Canada Council, the Conseil des arts du Québec and the Conseil québécois de la musique. From 1989 to 1994, she was a member of the board of directors of the Ensemble contemporain de Montréal.
Simard has received several grants from the Conseil des arts du Québec, the Canada Council and Jeunesses Musicales Canada.