The first Canadian woman to graduate with the Montréal conservatory in percussion (1979) and the first percussionist to specialize in the interpretation with Leight Howard Stevens of marimba in New York, Marie Josée Simard has paved a path of innovation in once uncharted territory: “At the time, I must admit that I was disturbing people. Those people to whom I was speaking about my career objectives — to play solo rather than as part of an orchestra — laughed at me” (La scena musicale, November 2003). Since then, Simard has been recognized as a virtuoso and an exceptional interpreter of percussion instruments. In this regard, this great artist has built a reputation for musical excellence on the national and international stage for over 35 years, and her music — as a soloist — has been heard in a great number of concerts held in countries such as Canada, Mexico, France, Poland and Belgium, Japan, as well as during tours in Korea and China.
Another striking feature of Simard’s career has been the remarkable adeptness she has shown for interpreting contemporary pieces in addition to the more traditional repertoire. She became a multidisciplinary interpreter before this tendency really existed. She has mastered the most complex contemporary pieces, both on keyboard and various percussion instruments, and has interpreted the classical and world music repertoires with great sensitivity. From 1991 to 1996, she was the percussionist for the contemporary ensemble Bradyworks, with the composer and guitarist Tim Brady who together played over forty concerts across Canada.
Simard recently added another string to her bow when she took an exciting foray into the world of Jazz by initiating the trio En trois couleurs that united her with the great pianists and jazz composers François Bourassa and Yves Léveillé. As a soloist, in May 2010, she played 3 Jazettes concertantes by François Bourassa for vibraphone and marimba with the Symphony Orchestra of Trois-Rivières with conduction by Jacques Lacombe, and again on May 10th, 2012 with the Orchestre Métropolitain of Montréal with conduction by Mélanie Léonard. After they opened the Jazz en Rafale festival in 2014, the music critic Bélanger wrote the following: “The result of the performance: I was completely blown away. Marie Josée Simard, a classical soloist little known in the Montréal Jazz scene, excels at playing with improvisations in a completely bewildering manner. From tubular bells to different types of vibraphones, marimba and other heteroclite instruments, the listener on this night has received much for its astonishment [….] Simard weaves like a cat between her instruments, and the two accompanying pianists steer her compositions back to her while sublimating their own compositions” (Camuz, Le calendrier musical de Montréal, March 22, 2014). This new trio was awarded an Opus Prize in 2013, for concert of the year—in Jazz! 2015, Grant (studio / residence) of the Council of Arts and Letters of Québec to reside in Tokyo Wonder Site (Japan) from September to December 2015. 2016, she made a major tour of 17 concerts in China with the Trio In Three Colors.