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La Scena Musicale - Vol. 17, No. 2 October 2011

Michelle Cormier

by Caroline Rodgers / October 1, 2011

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This May, Michelle Cormier was honoured with the very first Business Volunteer award at the 2010 Prix Arts-Affaires (Arts and Business Awards) for her commitment to the Orchestre Métropolitain, where she has been Chair of the Board for five years.

Awarded by the Montreal Arts Council in collaboration with the Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal, the Prix Arts-Affaires promotes volunteerism in the Arts and encourages businesses to contribute to Montreal’s arts community. The Business Volunteer award, new this year, specifically recognizes an individual who has used his or her expertise to enrich the arts community.

Cormier is the Vice President and Chief Financial Officer at TNG Corporation. She also serves on the boards of several other companies. Since becoming Chair of the OM Board in 2006, she has played a major role in revitalizing the orchestra.

Cormier shares her thoughts on music and her volunteer work for the OM.

What role does music play in your life?
At home, we listen to almost all types of music: classical, rock, country and pop. Music is omnipresent. We listen while we go about our daily activities, such as when we’re cooking. Music crosses all cultures and I find that extraordinary. I think it’s important to listen to a bit of everything.

Classical music is the basis for all music. I had often attended concerts and benefits, but it’s through working with the OM that I really discovered the passion for classical music, transmitted to me by the conductor and the musicians. When you leave a concert, I notice that you always have a sense of calm and joy.

Music brings a lot to people throughout their entire lives. When kids are small, parents often play soft music in their rooms to help them fall asleep. We grow up with music, and it’s also there at the end of our lives. I will never forget how before her death, my mother was in the hospital and didn’t want to read or watch TV; she only wanted to listen to music!

What motivates you to volunteer for the Orchestre Métropolitain?
It’s amazing to watch these talented musicians who are so devoted to their craft. They work hard and bring so much to the audience that you can’t help but want to support them. Five years ago, the OM went through a difficult time financially, and they asked my boss to help with the recovery. I worked with him and we organized a fundraiser and made changes to the Board. I found myself on the Board and from there, I discovered an extraordinary organization. Today, the OM is financially stable.

When I look at the progress the OM has made, not only financially but also musically and in its programming, it motivates me to keep working. Yannick Nézet-Séguin is amazingly talented and has brought the orchestra with him on his journey to excellence.

I go to all of their concerts unless I’m out of the country. I also try to attend concerts in the boroughs; it’s a different experience because the audience comes from the surrounding community, people from all walks of life. The OM plays an important role in the community by offering concerts that everyone can afford.

It’s not always as easy to find funds to support cultural activities as it is for health or education. In Quebec, we have philanthropists like Jacqueline Desmarais and Richard Renaud who give their time and money. These people remain behind the scenes but I think we should celebrate their work more openly. This will spread the word that there are great things to be done in the arts field.

Musicians’ lives are not necessarily easy; we need to help them. They work hard to do what they love. They are a great example of the importance of pursuing your passion.

Translation: Lindsay Gallimore

This article introduces a new column recognizing volunteers, philanthropists and businesses who have contributed to music and the arts.

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