When Alexandre Doucet was in elementary school and just beginning his musical education, he started, as all students did, with a papier-mâché violin. He had to prove he could take it home, and return it safely, before being allowed to take a real instrument home.
Doucet is quiet and reserved about his ability. Speaking about his love for the instrument, he said in his understated way, “It’s great. It’s four chords and use your fingers … to play notes.”
Years of practice later, Doucet is now an accomplished violinist in the Moncton Youth Orchestra, and he’s preparing to play Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture as an audition piece for the New Brunswick Youth Orchestra.
Doucet, 13, lives in Saint-Joseph-de-Kent, near Bouctouche and works with Swan Serna, the former director of Sistema N.B.’s programs in Elsipogtog and Richibucto. Sistema is an organization that helps kids learn music for free.
Serna now teaches Doucet and one other student while he works on earning his Master’s degree from Laval University in Quebec.
Together, they spent a month preparing for Doucet’s submission to London Young Musician festival in the U.K., which took place over Zoom due to COVID-19.
Serna actually became part of Doucet’s social bubble during the pandemic so their lessons could continue.
“We as adults, we need to strive and we need to find ways for keeping the children and youth doing positive things,” Serna said.
What Doucet didn’t know when he entered the Sonata/Sonatina category competition was just how many musicians he would be up against. Nearly 1,000 other violinists had entered the competition last month. When he eventually found out, it made winning second place that much sweeter.
“I honestly didn’t think a lot of people auditioned for it … but then when I found out there was like, 1,000 people, I was really surprised,” Doucet said in an interview with CBC News.
Serna, who’s also had a student recently win third place in a New York competition, said his teaching success comes down to three things: engagement with the student, a family who supports the student and a teacher who does their best.
Serna said he immediately saw in Doucet a desire to keep improving. By the time Doucet placed second in the young musician competition, Serna said he knew he could do it.
“He’s very, very passionate,” Serna said. “I think he has a lot of strength as a person.”
Melanie Doucet, Alexandre’s mother, also didn’t know how many musicians he had to compete against, but said she was surprised and proud when she learned he placed second, playing his winning submission on repeat for half an hour.
“It was just exciting to know that he could win such a large competition outside of the country,” she said.
Melanie played music when she was young, and she wanted her son to have that same experience. Calling herself a disciplined mother — Alexandre’s been doing his own laundry since he was seven — she wanted him to study music as a means of gaining self-discipline.
“There’s something about music, you know, that just touches every part of you in some way,” she said.
Serna calls Alexandre humble, and Melanie agrees, saying he doesn’t realize how good he is, but she hopes he’ll stick with the violin as he gets older.
“I had no idea when he started playing violin how far he would get. So it’s been really, really cool.”