After completing a Bachelor’s degree in Music Theory at McGill University, Jérôme Blais obtained in 1995 a Master’s degree in Compositional Techniques at the University of Montreal, where he completed his doctoral studies with Michel Longtin and Reno De Stefano in 2004. His research dealt with the integration of improvisation into the compositional process.
Jérôme Blais’ works have been performed by several professional ensembles, among which are Norman Adams (Halifax), Array Music (Toronto), Bozzini String Quartet (Montreal), Bradyworks (Mtl), Continuum (Tor.), Simon Docking (Hfx), Ensemble contemporain de Montréal, D’Arcy Gray (Hfx), Wallace Halladay (Tor.), Corey Hamm (Vancouver), Janice Jackson (Hfx), Hank Knox (Mtl), Ang Li, Suzie LeBlanc (Mtl, Hfx), Mindful Flower Gamelan (Wolfville), Motion Ensemble (New Brunswick), Musica Nova (Lennoxville), Orchestre Métropolitain de Montréal, Barbara Pritchard (Hfx), Quasar Saxophone Quartet (Mtl), Jeff Reilly (Hfx), Rosa Ensemble (Amsterdam), Société de musique contemporaine du Québec (SMCQ, Mtl), Symphony Nova Scotia (Hfx), Marcia Swanston (Hfx), Ziya Tabassian (Mtl), Toca Loca (Tor.) and Upstream Music Association (Hfx).
Recent prestigious performances of his works include his arrangement of the Yiddish song Dremlen Feygl Oyf Di Tsvaygn for chamber ensemble, by soprano Suzie LeBlanc with the Société de musique contemporaine du Québec in Montreal in May 2016. The orchestral version of this arrangement, which is part of his song cycle Songs for Milena (dedicated to the memory of Czech journalist Milena Jesensnká), was performed by Janice Jackson and Yannick Nézet-Séguin’s Orchestre Métropolitain de Montréal, conducted by Airat Ichmouratov. The complete song cycle was premiered by Janice Jackson and Symphony Nova Scotia conducted by Bernhard Gueller in January 2015. Other prestigious performances include his work Es ist genug!, which has been performed by Canadian pianist Ang Li over the last few years at several locations in Canada, in the United States, including at Carnegie Hall in New York City, as well as in Asia.
In January 2016, Blais’ multimedia show (Un)Forgotten Voices – Le Tombeau de Barbeau, based around the work of Canadian anthropologist and folklorist Marius Barbeau (1883-1969), was premiered by Janice Jackson and some of Halifax’s finest musicians, including Norm Adams, D’Arcy Gray, Lukas Pearse and Sue Sayle.
Jérôme Blais’ main current research and creative projects include a major song cycle and multimedia show based on contemporary Acadian poetry, in collaboration with soprano Suzie LeBlanc, an orchestral work for the Dalhousie Symphony and a concerto for electric guitar and large ensemble for Montreal guitar virtuoso Tim Brady.
He has been invited as featured composer by festivals such as Newfound Music in St. John’s, Newfoundland, Shattering the Silence in Wolfville, Nova Scotia and Ok.Quoi?! in Sackville, New Brunswick. He also performs as a pianist and improviser, notably with saxophonist Jean-Marc Bouchard.
Blais is also an active music researcher and regularly presents the results of his research in conferences. In January 2016 he presented a conference paper as part of a colloquium on the work of composer John Rea at McGill University in Montreal. In 2010, he was invited as a keynote speaker by the Canadian University Music Society, for its annual conference in Regina, Saskatchewan. His presentation for this event was published by the Society’s journal Intersections. In 2011 he participated in the Journée d’étude en improvisation at University of Montreal. In 2008, he contributed a chapter on Canadian composer John Rea in the book Compositional Crossroads: Music, McGill, Montreal, published at McGill-Queens University Press. His work on musical notation is the subject of a paper in Composer au XXIe siècle: Pratiques, philosophies, langages et analyses (Paris, Vrin, 2011).
His research and compositional activities have received funding from such agencies as the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, the Fonds pour la formation de chercheurs et l’aide à la recherche (FCAR, now FQRSC), the Conseil des arts et des letters du Québec (Quebec’s Arts Council), the Canada Council for the Arts and the Nova Scotia Department of Tourism, Culture and Heritage, Culture Division, including a 2014 Commissioning Grant for his show (Un)Forgotten Voices – Le Tombeau de Barbeau.
His work (Un)Forgotten Voices, which is part of the show (Un)Forgotten Voices – Le Tombeau de Barbeau, is included on the CD Live Wired, which was recently released by the Acadia New Music Society. The work has been nominated for the 2015 Prix Collégien de Musique Contemporaine, administered by the Quebec office of the Canadian Music Centre. His works Mouvance, based on a text by Acadian poet Gérald Leblanc, and Rafales, for solo oboe, were nominated for ECMA’s Best Classical Composition of the Year in 2013 and 2014. Mouvance is included on the 2013 East Coast Music Association (ECMA) Award winning Best Classical Recording Between the Shore and the Ships.
In addition to his composition and improvising activities, Jérôme Blais taught harmony, composition and orchestration at the University of Montreal’s Faculty of Music and at the University of Sherbrooke’s School of music from 1998 to 2004. He is Professor of Composition and Music Theory at Dalhousie University in Halifax since 2004.