Composer, Conductor

Walter Boudreau

Last updated: May 4, 2020

Born in Montreal October 15, 1947

Artistic Director, Société de musique contemporaine du Québec

New music is fantastic. We’ve been plagued with an obsolete image from the 1950s of all these boring exercises that emptied the halls. It has nothing to do with the amazing array of different works in contemporary music. There’s something there for everybody. Enjoy new music!

Concertgoers reluctant to test the waters of contemporary music might well heed Walter Boudreau’s clarion call – words that reveal this Montrealer as one of Canada’s leading lights on the contemporary music scene, one who works tirelessly to promote modern music by Canadians and others.

Boudreau was the first composer-in-residence of the Toronto Symphony (1990–1993). He has been artistic director and principal conductor of the Société de musique contemporaine du Québec (SMCQ) since 1988 and has brought that organization international acclaim. He has led prestigious musical ensembles and orchestras across Canada and abroad. His many awards and prizes include the inaugural CBC Radio National Competition for Young Composers in 1974, the Jules Léger Prize for chamber music in 1982, the Molson Prize from the Canada Council for the Arts in 2003, the Prix Denise-Pelletier in 2004 (the most prestigious award given by the Quebec government in the area of the performing arts), and in May 2015, the Governor General’s Performing Arts Award, Canada’s highest honour in the performing arts. In 2013, he became both a member of the Order of Canada and a Chevalier de l’Ordre national du Québec. Boudreau’s teachers in Montreal have included Bruce Mather, Gilles Tremblay, and Serge Garant, and he also studied in Europe and the United States with Pierre Boulez, Mauricio Kagel, György Ligeti, Karlheinz Stockhausen, and Iannis Xenakis.

As a composer, Boudreau has written over 60 works for chamber ensemble and full orchestra, in addition to film scores. Other major achievements to be noted include two participatory events he organized: the Millennium Symphony in 2000 – a collective work by 19 composers for 333 musicians and 2,000 bellringers; and in 2011, Le téléphone bien tempéré, which included a role for the audience’s cell phones. 

NAC media featuring Walter Boudreau