Born: November 11, 1925 - Düsseldorf, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany
Died: May 7, 2006 - Montréal, Québec, Canada
The German-born Canasdian baritone, musuc poedagogue and director, Jan Hugo Simons, became a naturalized Canadian in 1944. He studied voice with Emilio de Gorgoza in New York (1950-1953) with Emmy Heim and Ernesto Vinci (1953-1958) and Yvonne Rodd-Marling in London (1970).
Jan Simons gave numerous public recitals and was an oratorio soloist on radio and television in Canada, Europe, Mexico, and Japan. Along the way, he rubbed shoulders with Glenn Gould, Gerald Moore, Oscar Peterson, Christopher Plummer and Maynard Ferguson. He was soloist for the first Stratford Festival concert in 1955, and the following year, for the Canadian premiere of the National Ballet of Canada’s presentation of Gustav Mahler's Kindertotenlieder. In 1964 he was soloist with the Chorale de Bach de Montréal in the National Film Board production “Selections from the Christmas Oratorio”. A founding member of the Festival Singers now known as The Elmer Iseler Singers, in 1969 he became Executive Director of the summer musical camp CAMMAC (Canadian Amateur Musicians / Musiciens amateurs du Canada).
Since 1961, Jan Simons devoted his time to teaching in the Faculty of Music, McGill University, and kept close ties with McGill until recent weeks of his life. He was a professor at Marianopolis College from 1963 to 1967 and at Vanier College from 1973 to 1977, and taught music at CAMMAC for fifty consecutive years, having never missed a season during that time. His Primary Role at CAMMAC A man of great initiative, for twenty-five years Jan Simons gave body and soul to the CAMMAC Music Centre at Lake MacDonald in his dual roles as Executive and Artistic Director. As a professional singer, Jan taught voice in his own original way, always with humour and respect for singers at all levels of ability.
In 1963 Jan Simons became a member of CAMMAC’s Board of Directors and Director of winter courses given in Montreal, leading to his involvement in the fundraising campaign to purchase White Forest Lodge, the Lake MacDonald site (1967-1968). After serving as Executive Director of CAMMAC for several years, he actively participated in the Opus Fundraising Campaign for the reconstruction of the new all-season main lodge. The idea of building a new lodge was in fact developed around his dinner table. It gave him great joy to see the Campaign carried on throughout the year and he believed deeply in CAMMAC’s social mission.
Jan Simons' career as a singer and teacher rapidly reached impressive heights, leading the “Conseil Québécois de la Musique” to recognise his remarkable contribution to the musical life of Quebec, his devotion to CAMMAC and his impressive career, by honouring him with the “Prix Hommage” in 2005. It goes without saying that Simons inspired everyone around him with his passion for music. Among his students were Marie-Anik Béliveau, Lisette Canton, Gregory Charles, Lyne Fortin, Simon Fournier, Josée Lalonde, Olivier Laquerre, Suzie LeBlanc, Claudine Ledoux, Michiel Schrey, Daniel Taylor and Matthew White.