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Jan Michael Bourgeois went from studying ions to “Ionisation”

2020 DFOM graduate Jan Michael Bourgeois brings passion to percussion and the podium

May 27, 2020 — 

NOTE: We in the Desautels Faculty of Music are incredibly proud of our students. While COVID-19 is sidelining in-person commencement ceremonies around the globe, we want to find alternate ways to celebrate our graduates and give them the recognition due to them. Until we can gather together to properly applaud the years of study and practice that have led to this milestone, please join us in congratulating our 2020 Desautels Faculty of Music graduates.

Today we celebrate Jan Michael Bourgeois!

Anyone who has ever seen 2020 DFOM graduate Jan Michael Bourgeois conduct or perform can automatically tell that he has a serious passion for music. He, however, took a little longer to understand where his future lay.

Changing his path, and changing his life

Though he began playing piano at about 8 years old, percussion at 12, and singing at 19, his original career plans were entirely different.

“I started off studying chemistry at the University of Saskatchewan, intending on applying to the College of Pharmacy and Nutrition,” he says.

“Three years into the program in 2009, I found that I was scheduling all my classes and labs around band and choir rehearsals, and in that moment, I asked myself what I was prioritizing and why. So I switched my focus from chemistry to music education, and I’ve been enriched and fulfilled since!” Bourgeois says.

He has now earned his Master of Music in Instrumental Conducting.

Bourgeois, from Estevan, Saskatchewan, is a ubiquitous face in the DFOM, in no small part because his conducting work with the University of Manitoba Wind Ensemble, Concert Band, and Cantata Singers puts him in front of many of the student musicians in the faculty. Additionally, he performs with the UM Percussion Ensemble and the Wednesday Night Jazz Band. He has represented the DFOM at recruitment fairs and open houses, answering countless questions from aspiring musicians.


Not proud

When asked what awards and accomplishments he is most proud of in his time as a DFOM student, Jan Michael defers. Having been awarded the Marcel A. Desautels Faculty of Music Graduate Scholarship and the Wilhelm Rieder Award in Music, Bourgeois is humble.

“I think that proud is the wrong word,” he says.

“I am much more grateful and honoured to be the recipient of both of these awards,” he explains.

Of his proudest moment in the faculty, he says:

“Once again, I think ‘proud’ doesn’t quite encapsulate how I felt in my collaborative accomplishments. I believe that the entire sphere of support and mentorship from my faculty advisor, musicians in the ensemble, and the excitement of sharing knowledge with my fellow graduate students were really the highlight of my time as a DFOM student. Since our last performance opportunity wasn’t able to come to fruition, I think that the real celebration of the entirety of my DFOM experience will be the next time I get to lead an ensemble in a public setting.”

A repertoire packed with favourites

Because he has worked with so many ensembles, Bourgeois’ favourite pieces learned in the faculty run the gamut.

In percussion performance, he is most fond of Ionisation, by Edgard Varése. In choral performance, his favourite pieces are Veljo Tormis’ Four Estonian Lullabies and Benjamin Britten’s Rejoice in the Lamb.

In wind conducting, he has loved studying everything from the well-known to the brand-new, highlighting his delight in conducting Aaron Copland’s Quiet City; Suite of Old American Dances by Robert Russell Bennett; Selections from Tielman Susato’s Danserye (as arranged by Patrick Dunnigan); Fisher Tull’s Sketches on a Tudor Psalm; and the work of fellow graduate student Jesse Krause, a composition student who wrote the piece Jackpine for the University of Manitoba Wind Ensemble’s 2019 concert “From Mountain to Moon.”

During his time in the faculty, Bourgeois has worked closely with DFOM assistant professor and Director of Bands Jacquie Dawson, and credits her direction with his success.

“Jacquie’s guidance and mentorship has been invaluable to me,” he says.

“Without her leadership, patience, and support, this master’s degree would have been impossible. I cannot communicate in words how important Jacquie’s unconditional encouragement was and is to me,” he adds.

“Jan Michael came to the University of Manitoba Desautels Faculty of Music full of determination, curiosity and a thirst for knowledge,” says Dawson.

“He is a very gifted musician, conductor, teacher and leader who contributed greatly to the fabric of the faculty and ensembles. It was an honour to be his teacher and advisor, and witness his remarkable growth and achievements,” she adds.

Credit Recital

Due to the disruption caused by COVID-19, the Desautels Faculty of Music had to cancel all of its remaining events for the 2019-2020 season. In addition to final ensemble performances, about 40 student credit recitals were cancelled, including those of graduating students, whose final credit recitals serve as a sort of capstone project showcasing what they have learned throughout their studies. Unfortunately, Jan Michael’s graduate conducting recital was among the cancelled recitals. The piece he had prepared was Brian Balmage’s Miniature Suite.

Next steps

When it comes to planning for the future in a world where COVID-19, Bourgeois is cautious.

“Like everyone, I am living in a time of uncertainty where long-term planning is subject to daily alterations,” he says.

“Looking for employment as a school band teacher when the practicality of “school band” in September is unresolved seems almost contradictory.”

However, as ambiguous as the future currently is, Bourgeois knows that ultimately, musicians will overcome, and remains optimistic.

“As musicians, problem solving, improvisation, and hard work are the staples of our careers, and I know that whatever comes, we are prepared,” he says.

Advice for new DFOM students

As Bourgeois prepares for his next chapter, he has advice for incoming DFOM students:

“You have chosen to come to an excellent facility with amazing musical opportunities, so take advantage! Sing, play, experiment, and expand your musicianship by performing in a variety of ensembles—perhaps something that is outside of your comfort zone. The DFOM has many ensemble opportunities all led by brilliant musicians; just take your pick!”


Jan Michael Bourgeois offers acknowledgement and thanks to the following people for their support throughout his graduate studies:

“Jacquie Dawson, of course. But also the community of musicians that came together every week to support the musical endeavours of the whole. All musicians from the wind ensemble, concert band, percussion ensemble, cantata singers, Wednesday and Thursday night bands, those ensemble leaders, and my fellow graduate students, especially Ryan Wehrle.”

Congratulations, Jan Michael! We are incredibly proud of you, and can’t wait to see the music you perform and direct once the curtains rise again!

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7 comments on “Jan Michael Bourgeois went from studying ions to “Ionisation”

  1. Clarence Briand

    Truly consistent with my experience with Jan Michael when he conducted the Gallery Singers in North Battleford, Sask.
    We were blessed to work with you for the few years that you were here. Nothing seemed to phase you.
    We miss you, Jan Michael and wish you great things in your future carrer!

  2. Rose Bourgeois

    Congratulations Jan Michael on your well deserved success.Your hard work and dedication surely has paid off.We are proud of all your accomplishments.It was a joy to raise such a creative,kind,considerate,enthusiastic spirited soul.Wishing you a very happy and prosperous future in your upcoming career.Follow your dreams and trust your heart. With Love and pride from Mom & Dad

  3. Merv & Brenda Simon

    Jan Michael we are happy to read this and happy for you. You have worked hard and deserve your success. We look forward to seeing you again soon.
    Congratulations! We are proud of you.
    Love Auntie Brenda & Uncle Merv

  4. Jackie Wilson

    Congratulations! What a huge accomplishment,your hard work has certainly paid off! Your mom asked me about music for our Doud Reunion, now we have a whole year to plan. I’m excited to hear your ideas! Again, I’m feeling so happy for you!

  5. André van der Merwe ( Jean's dad)

    Another big fan from your Gallery Singer days in North Battleford SK wishes you only the best. Our world needs more music and you can make it happen beautifully!

Comments have been closed.

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