Jean Bernard Cousineau, violinist, educator, composer (born 6 November 1937 in Montréal, QC; died 4 April 2013 in Montréal). Violinist Jean Cousineau was an influential music educator and composer. He developed a learning model for young people based on the teaching method of Shinichi Suzuki, who called Cousineau the most important violin teacher in North America. In addition to founding the École des Petits Violons and directing its acclaimed ensemble, Cousineau also composed the scores for such landmark Canadian films as Pour la suite du monde (1963), À tout prendre (1963) and Mon Oncle Antoine (1970). He received the Prix de musique Calixa-Lavallée in 1988.
Cousineau began studying violin with Marcel Saucier at age eight. He graduated with a BA in music from the Université de Montréal in 1958 and, with the aid of grants from the Ministère des Affaires culturelles du Québec (1958–61) and the Canada Council (1961–62), he studied in Paris with René Benedetti (violin) and Renée Jamet-Hansen (harmony and counterpoint).
On his return to Canada, Cousineau taught violin at the Institut des arts du Saguenay (1962–67). He developed a violin method specifically for young people based on the work of Japanese educator Shinichi Suzuki, whom he consulted in Japan in the summer of 1965. While in Tokyo he published, in English and Japanese, Canadian Music, a teaching manual based on the Suzuki method.
Cousineau returned to Montréal in the autumn of 1965 and founded the École des Petits Violons to train young violinists from the age of five. In 1974, he founded the Ensemble Les Petits Violons to showcase more advanced students. He made numerous arrangements for the ensemble and conducted it in concerts and recordings. His pupils at the École des Petits Violons included Chantal Julliet, Angèle Dubeau and Martin Chalifour.
In 1988, Cousineau earned his PhD in educational sciences from the Université de Montréal. He published his doctoral thesis, De la nature du violon: le violon nous enseigne, a study of what the violin can teach us, in 1989.
Cousineau wrote more than 100 compositions, including the scores for a number of acclaimed films. While contributing to the CBC Radio series Histoire du jazz (1962–65), he composed the scores for Pierre Perrault and Michel Brault’s landmark documentary Pour la suite du monde (1963) and Claude Jutra’s groundbreaking À tout prendre (1963). His scores for Jutra’s acclaimed Mon Oncle Antoine (1970) and Dreamspeaker (1976) won Canadian Film Awards. Cousineau also composed the music for Clément Perron’s Taureau (1973), Jutra’s Surfacing (1981), Francis Mankiewicz’s Les Beaux souvenirs (1981) and Gordon Pinsent’s TV movie A Far Cry from Heaven (1983), among others.
Family and Legacy
Various members of Cousineau’s family are equally accomplished musicians. Singer-songwriter Luc Cousineau and composer François Cousineau are his younger brothers. Jean co-wrote several compositions with his son, cellist and music teacher Nicolas Cousineau. His daughter, Marie-Claire, is the director of École des Petits Violons, where she also teaches; and his daughter Yukari is first violin with the Metropolitan Orchestra of Greater Montréal.
Jean Cousineau was awarded the Prix de musique Calixa-Lavallée in 1988 for his contributions to the musical culture of Québec. He died of cancer in 2013 at the age of 75.
Music Score (Non-Feature), Dreamspeaker, Canadian Film Awards (1977)