Toronto-born, Los Angeles-based violinist Blake Pouliot has become the toast of the classical music world after performing with the likes of pop icons Yo-Yo Ma and Diana Ross, and scoring a 2019 Juno Award nomination for Best Classical Album.
The flamboyant 25-year-old musician began his career as a concertmaster with the National Youth Orchestra of Canada, and returns home to perform as a guest soloist on The Frenergy Tour featuring both the National Youth Orchestra and the European Union Youth Orchestra. “I have been playing violin since I was seven-years-old and to return home to play with the National Youth Orchestra is a dream come true,” says Pouliot. “In a way I feel like I’m coming full circle, and also helping pay it forward.” Pouliot is a breath of fresh air in the historically conservative world of classical music. Outspoken and a flashy dresser, Pouliot thinks outside the box.
“My attire and aesthetic is a bit different in a world characterized by traditionalism,” he explains. “In order to grow the audience, we need to progress.” Pouliot adds, “I am one of the first out solo violinists – if not the first – in North America. I may perform for conservative audiences, but people have been quite respectful and gracious. I have not had any real negative reactions and I am very fortunate to grow up in an age where being gay has become more socially acceptable.”
One of Pouliot’s personal career highlights was performing with Diana Ross at the 2018 National Arts Centre Gala in Ottawa. “People always ask me what she is like, and I tell them she smells amazing!” Pouliot says. “She was lovely to work with, so professional, so iconic – and not just a gay icon.
She did four or five costume changes, while I wore this sequin jacket. She walked onstage and told me, ‘Oh my God, I love your jacket!’ It was surreal. I have a photo of that moment on my wall!” 6 Richard Burnett
Blake Pouliot joins the National Youth Orchestra of Canada and the European Union Youth Orchestra on The Frenergy Tour which headlines Notre-Dame Basilica on November 14 at 7:30 pm. Entrance by donation to the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal’s educational program, La Musique aux enfants.