Thierry Bégin-L: Saved by the Guitar

While a musical calling is often apparent early, the unique sensitivity that marks a great performer often comes later in life, with experience. Even so, some artists seem from an early age to combine technical know-how with a visceral understanding of the artistic intention behind the interpreted work. Judging by the many laudatory reviews and packed concert halls, classical guitarist Thierry Bégin-L seems to be one of those lucky few for whom music just flows. If he is recognized today as one of the most promising talents of his generation, it is because he seems to have developed a nearly immersive relationship with his instrument.


Born into a family of musicians, Thierry took his first piano lessons at age 4, then went on to learn the recorder and saxophone. Continuing his exploration, he set his sights on the violin a few years later, finally discovering the classical guitar at the age of 12. He was instantly captivated by the colour, range and expressive potential of plucked strings. Neither monophonic nor polyphonic, the guitar straddles both categories, which is both a source of constraint and an asset that makes the instrument particularly versatile.

From then on, Thierry devoted himself body and soul to the guitar, starting private lessons with Claude Prud’homme before continuing alongside Uruguayan guitarist Álvaro Pierri. He began his academic training at Cégep Saint-Laurent under the aegis of Marc Deschênes then returned to his former mentor, Pierri, with whom he completed a bachelor’s degree at UQAM and a master’s degree at Laval University. Like any musician of his mettle, Thierry travels the world and plays international musical competitions to scoop up an impressive list of first prizes and awards. These distinctions gradually cement his reputation as a high-level performer, and also open doors to concert halls and festivals around the world. France, Spain, Vietnam, Mexico and Belgium are just some of the early successes in an already impressive career.


While he seems to have it all, Thierry’s path has not been without its challenges. Diagnosed with Tourette syndrome while still in primary school, he found practicing his instrument helpful in keeping him focused and, remarkably, reducing and even temporarily halting the symptoms of the disorder. The intimate nature of the guitar and the closeness it confers with the audience create a context that allows Thierry full communion with his instrument. Quebec composer François Dompierre also notes that the performances of the young musician captivate audiences with the sincerity, daring, virtuosity and passion of his playing, while adding a touch of humor that helps render the experience user-friendly.

Beyond his own difficulties, Thierry is confronted on the one hand with an environment that unfortunately still makes little room for the classical guitar, on the other with a lack of funding for the promotion of local artists. As talent alone is not enough, the guitarist has had to go abroad to find opportunities for concerts and develop his career. However, Thierry notes that the tide seems to be turning, because his most recent project, Impressions, has sold out since its launch on the tour of the Maisons de la culture.


Eyes resolutely turned toward the future, Thierry is nothing if not ambitious. He is determined to bring to light not only to the music of his favourite composers, Joaquín Rodrigo, Leo Brouwer and Heitor Villa-Lobos, but also to that of composers whose music moves away from the repertoire traditionally associated with the instrument, such as Antônio Carlos Jobim and Astor Piazzolla. A true globe-trotter, Thierry will fly to Vietnam in early April to give a series of concerts in duet with local guitarist Thu Le. He is also preparing a second album for this autumn, devoted to the music of contemporary composers that Thierry has met during his many travels. Dompierre is now working on the very first concerto for classical guitar in Quebec, a work which will, no surprise, feature Thierry Bégin-L as soloist. Meanwhile, the guitarist will not be idle, because he continues to post remarkable performances of works for solo guitar on his YouTube channel every week.