Gilles Lefebvre | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Gilles Lefebvre

Lefebvre, Gilles. Violinist, organizer, administrator, (Montreal June 30, 1922 - Montreal, May 27, 2001); honorary D LITT (Montreal) 1978, honorary D LITT (Sherbrooke) 1986.

Lefebvre, Gilles

Lefebvre, Gilles. Violinist, organizer, administrator, (Montreal June 30, 1922 - Montreal, May 27, 2001); honorary D LITT (Montreal) 1978, honorary D LITT (Sherbrooke) 1986. He began taking violin lessons at the École supérieure de musique d'Outremont (École Vincent-d'Indy) while pursuing academic studies at the Collège Ste-Marie. He then studied (1939-42) with Armand Weisbord at the University of Ottawa, where he founded a string quartet and an instrumental ensemble. Between 1942 and 1945, he served as a musician with the RCAF and gave a number of recitals for two violins with Henryk Szeryng to entertain the troops. In Montreal in 1945 he took part in the premiere of André Mathieu 's Sonata for piano and violin with the composer. That year he also studied with Arthur LeBlanc. With his DVA allowance and a scholarship from the French-Canadian Institute in Ottawa, he was able to go to France in 1946. He spent 1946-47 at the École normale de Paris with Jacques Gentil (violin and chamber music) and Georges Dandelot (harmony and analysis), and took private lessons 1948-50 with René Benedetti, Norbert Dufourcq, and Georges Enesco, among others.

During the 1948-9 season, he gave some 50 recitals in Canada with the pianist Colombe Pelletier, during which he was struck by the interest of the young in music and by the infrequency of concerts in remote centres. With a group of people who shared his ideals he founded the Hélicon (1949), an association that was to become the nucleus of the JMC (YMC). He then left for Europe to explore the means of developing cultural activities for youth in Canada. He met the director of the JM of France, René Nicoly, who invited him to organize, under their banner, a delegation of Canadians studying in Paris, and to join their representatives at the 1950 Congress of the International Federation of JM in Vienna. Supported by this international movement, the JMC expanded rapidly in Quebec and then in the other provinces of Canada. With modest subsidies Gilles Lefebvre in 1951 created the JMC music camp, which in 1967 became the JMC Orford Art Centre, one of the centres of Canadian musical culture. In 1951 he also established the Journal des Jeunesses musicales du Canada and in 1961 organized the first JMC National Competition in Montreal. In August 1974, during the JMC's 25th-anniversary celebrations, the concert hall that had been inaugurated in 1960 was named after him.

In 1964 Lefebvre was commissioned by UNESCO to visit leading musical organizations in the Far East. He also began preparing the program for the World Festival of Expo 67, of which he was associate artistic director (1964-7). He also served as president (1950-54) and general director (1953-72) of the JMC and president (1954-7, 1967, 1970-74) of the International Federation of JM, becoming honorary president for life in 1974. He represented the latter organization on the International Music Council and UNESCO and was president (1970-79) of the board of the JM World Orchestra, which he founded in 1970. In addition, he was director (1972-78) of the Canadian Cultural Centre in Paris and director general (1978-83) of international cultural relations at the Dept of External Affairs of Canada. He was associate director (1983-87) of the Canada Council, then interim secretary (1987-88) of the Canadian Commission for UNESCO, before giving up his official duties to devote himself to the promotion of the arts. In 1991 he became president of the Conseil des arts de la Communauté urbaine de Montréal, a position he occuped until his death.

Lefebvre received the 1963 Prix de musique Calixa-Lavallée and in 1967 was appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada. The CCA, of which he was president from 1971 to 1972, awarded him the Diplôme d'honneur in April 1978. In 1981 he was made an honorary member of the International Music Council and in 1982 he was awarded both the Canadian Music Council medal and that of the JMC.

In 1985 he was made Chevalier of the Ordre national du Québec and in 1988 he was named Officier of the Ordre des arts et lettres de France. In 2000 the CCA granted him the Keith Kelly prize for cultural leadership. In 1994 his book La musique d'une vie, in which he recounts his musical career, was published by Éditions Fide.

As musician, educator, humanist, and born organizer, he chose to dedicate his life to the music education of Canada's youth, to the search for new talent, and to the advancement of the careers of Canadian artists at home and abroad.


"Musiciens-éducateurs, les Jeunesses musicales ne peuvent rien sans vous, "Jmc, Apr 1969.

"L'élaboration d'une politique de la musique au Canada, "CMB, 5, Autumn-Winter 1972.

La musique d'une vie (Saint-Laurent 1993).


Samson, Marc. "Gilles Lefebvre: une réalité énergique," Quebec City Le Soleil, Aug. 30 , 1969.

Maheu, Renée. "Gilles Lefebvre: in the beginning there was music, "Mcan, Aug. 36, 1978.

Brousseau, Jean-Paul. "Gilles Lefebvre et les échanges culturels," Montreal La Presse, July 26, 1980.

Toussaint , François "Le père des JMC s'éteint, "Le Devoir (Quebec, May 29, 2001).