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TUNING IN: A late-blooming musician makes a career out of music

François Côté at Acadia, where his musical background has led him to his new job as Coordinator for the university's Performing Arts Series of concerts.
François Côté at Acadia, where his musical background has led him to his new job as Coordinator for the university's Performing Arts Series of concerts. - Sara Ericsson

François Côté is Acadia's new Performing Arts Series coordinator, and an amateur musician

WOLFVILLE – François Côté is, in his own words, a late blooming musician.

After picking up a flute as a teenager, singing in front of people for the first time in his thirties and now teaching himself piano over the past four years after more than four decades of wondering whether he would ever play, Côté has become a self-taught amateur musician who loves sharing his passion for music with anyone who will listen.

And now, as the new Coordinator for the Acadia Performing Arts Series, he has a crowd with their ears tuned.

“I’m either a very late bloomer, or a budding musician who hasn’t bloomed yet but is coming of age to retire,” laughs Côté.

Making music after years of

Côté remembers a conversation with a woman who recalled being told as a child she was a bad singer by a vocal coach.

The woman said nothing has left such an imprint on her and has hesitated to sing since.

Côté had a similar experience as a young French Canadian, growing up in Québec City, where his father played piano and sang with a strong, crooner-type voice, often mimicking Frank Sinatra.

Fascinated with the keys and the musical mysteries they held, a young Côté approached the piano and began pressing keys in an attempt to create a melody.

His father yelled for him to stop creating noise. On a later date, when Côté sang a song while his family was seated for dinner, his father again yelled at him, telling him his voice was terrible.

Now, over four decades later, Côté has purchased a keyboard and has been teaching himself to play for four years and has sung in front of crowds. But that memory often comes back.

“Personally, I wish I was encouraged in music, because as a result of that I never took a music lesson, never learned how to read notes, and I really wish I had,” he says.

Finding a footing with folk and medieval sounds

When he became curious about music and sound again as a late teen, Côté went for what he calls the simplest-possible sound – wooden flutes. He now owns over 75 clay, wood and metal flutes and plays 25 of them regularly.

The flute became his main instrument, and he continued practicing, even performing while working at Grand Pré, where he’d dress in period costume and play traditional French music.

This, says Côté, is how his passion for both folk and classical music began, inspiring him to research world music of all kinds, from Latin America, to Africa and Asia.

He went on to form a medieval-folk band called Ensemble À Part, and toured Canada playing medieval French music at festivals. The bands final performance was at Wolfville’s Deep Roots Music Festival in 2004.

“That band was really what set me up for what would come next – it got my feet into both the folk and classical music worlds,” says Côté.

Just a few months later, Côté joined the Deep Roots team as the festival’s programmer, where he worked until 2009.

Now, Côté works as the coordinator for the Acadia Performing Arts Series, a job he inherited from the program’s first, Peter Smith, who’s been mentoring Côté since his start on March 12.

As someone who’s become a music connoisseur through self-education, Côté taught himself the ins and outs of the folk industry and will use the same approach in his new job, along with guidance from Smith.

“I manically started absorbing what was out there in the folk music world, what’s worth what, and what agencies are involved. I’m going to do the same here, and I welcome that,” he says.

Attention to detail while booking or listening to music

It’s a process that comes naturally to Côté, who, as someone with musical interests spanning all genres, looks to study every piece of music he lends his ear to.

He often attends concerts and studies every note, crescendo and musical phrase.

It may seem a laborious task, but it’s become second nature to Côté.

“My friends know better than to ask me if I liked a concert, because they are in for a long answer,” he laughs.

The Acadia Performing Arts’ new season is already booked and is always scheduled over a year in advance – something Côté says will be his biggest adjustment coming from the folk world, where things move at a different pace.

With posters designed and 19,000 brochures to hand out, Côté has a big job ahead of him, but it’s one that he’s excited to sink his teeth into.

He’s personally most excited for the new season’s first show on Sept. 23, where The Rose Ensemble will present the “Land of Three Faiths,” Ancient Voices of Mediterranean Jews, Muslims and Christians.

“Classical and folk music are two worlds that are structured very differently, but Peter has left me with such a great system to follow that I know I’ll be O.K.,” says Côté.


The Acadia Performing Arts Series’ 2018-19 season begins on September 23, 2018 with The Rose Ensemble presenting “Land of Three Faiths”, Ancient Voices of Mediterranean Jews, Muslims and Christians. The series ends April 5, 2019 with Symphony Nova Scotia’s annual Wolfville concert, at Convocation Hall. In between, the series offers six more wonderful concerts, including a special Christmas concert with The Celtic Tenors, coming to Wolfville directly from Ireland.

All details available at www.pas.acadiau.ca.

Full-season subscriptions are $193 (general) or $119 (students) for eight concerts, and are on sale now at www.boxoffice.acadiau.ca

Individual concerts tickets on sale in August 2018.

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