Day 119 - Jean-Pierre (2nd person I approached)
April 29, 2014 - Jean-Pierre was sitting at a food counter, alone and with his hoodie up and covering his head. I approached him anyway. When he agreed to chat with me, I asked his name.
“It’s Jean-Pierre,” he said with a smile.
“But if that’s too difficult to say, you can call me JP.” I was sure I had already detected an accent, and with his name I was certain he was from Quebec.
"I’m from Ottawa,” he said. I asked if I had heard an accent, and he replied
“What kind of accent?” I thought I had offended him. He smiled again, and said,
“Yes. I do have a French accent. I am French Canadian.”
Jean-Pierre was born and raised in the suburbs of Ottawa, Ontario. HIs father was Québécois and his mother was from Belize.
“My father was a self-described atheist. He was part of the movement in Quebec in June of 1965 that left the church. A lot of people think that the issue was with the English, but it wasn’t. The issue was with the Catholic Church. I think it was one Sunday in that June of 1965. The priests stood up in their churches to discover that half of the congregations had left the catholic church. (*Fact Check - see links below.)
It seems somewhat ironic then that Jean-Pierre spent all of his years of school in French Catholic schools.
“My father and mother weren’t religious. At that time in Ottawa the only French speaking schools were Catholic. They wanted me to learn to speak French. When I was about 12 years old, we moved from the suburbs of Ottawa to the downtown area. I went to school in ‘lower town' as it's called,” said Jean-Pierre.
"There was a large population of Lebanese immigrants in Ottawa, with most speaking French. There were neighbourhoods divided by language and background. Coming from the suburbs of Ottawa, the population was predominantly white and English speaking. It was quite a culture shock at first,“ he said.
Jean-Pierre told me he wasn’t inspired by school. University didn't do it for him either.
“I just wasn’t a good student. I wasn’t disciplined, I wasn't interested and I didn’t care for the school environment.” What did interest Jean-Pierre was music and playing classical guitar.
“I started to play the guitar when I was about 12 years old. I studied music in University, and I tried going a number of times, but it never worked out for me” he said. Jean-Pierre taught guitar and worked at various jobs. He was also taking private lessons and master classes from some big names in classical guitar.
“I was taking classes with **David Russell. He’s a Grammy award winning classical guitarist. That’s really some feat because people don’t often pay attention to classical guitar,” he says.
“I also had classes with ***Manuel Barrueco. He is a Cuban (virtuoso) classical guitarist," Jean-Pierre says modestly.
"I didn’t care for his style though, he was so intense and very serious.” David Russell teaches at the Conservatory of Music and Drama Quebec (Conservatoire de musique et d’art dramatique du Québec). He invited Jean-Pierre to audition. He got accepted and moved to Montreal to study classical guitar for four years. He was 29 years old, was able to focus and worked hard during his time at the Conservatory.
In the years since completing his music studies, Jean-Pierre has been busy living life.
“I basically threw everything that I learned about music out. I felt like I was banging my head against a wall. Playing someone else's music and in a constrained manner. I’ve only just started to play again. I came to Vancouver four years ago. Both of my sisters had moved here, and I had been here to visit them a few times. When I move here, I took a training program called ‘Cycle Back’ that taught me about bicycle maintenance and repairs. I’ve been working on bikes now for about 2.5 years. I enjoy cycling a lot, and I like the work,” he said.
Jean-Pierre looks in his backpack that is sitting next to him.
“I wish I had my ‘phone with me. I’ve left it at home today. I started to write some music myself. I’ve just been putting on my headphones and playing with some rifts, adjusting the chords and playing. I record them on my ‘phone. It feels good.” #notastranger
*Fact Check - http://bit.ly/1mZIZ3Z
**Fact Check - http://www.davidrussellguitar.com
***Fact Check - http://www.barrueco.com
****Fact Check - http://www.conservatoire.gouv.qc.ca/english/