2014 has hardly begun and it’s already proven to be quite a year for New River Community College associate professor of music, Dr. Louise Billaud. She recently received her doctoral degree and her dissertation has been honored by the National Association for Music Education (NAfME). To top it off, Billaud has received the Outstanding Faculty Award by the State Council for Higher Education in Virginia – the only community college instructor in Virginia to be so honored.
We wanted to get to know Dr. Billaud a little better so we reached out to her via email and asked if she would take part in a short Q & A. She graciously accepted our invitation.
Q: How did you become interested in music?
A: I believe that everyone is drawn to the sounds of music, which has the potential power to take us out of our normal realm into something greater. As one of my students summed up the value of music, “This would be one messed up world without it.” When I was a child I heard my mother play “Stormy Weather” on the piano. When my older brother was given lessons, I wanted the same opportunity. When they told me I was too young, then that just made me want it all the more. So, when he quit, I was finally allowed to begin this musical journey.
Q: It’s said that you have a real passion for teaching. What is your motivation?
A: To whom much is given, much is expected. I had the opportunity to work with a great Master teacher, Steinway artist and Professor Emeritus Jean-Paul Billaud, who would become my husband. His lectures opened up the world of music in a way that was life-changing. It is now my turn to offer students a similar opportunity to open their world to new musical possibilities and share with them my genuine caring for their hopes and dreams and futures. As I said before, “What I really care about…is to touch people in a way that is lasting, and hopefully, will move them to share with others what they discover.”
Q: You recently received your doctoral degree and your dissertation has been honored by the National Association for Music Education (NAfME). How did you react when you first learned that NAfME planned to formally recognize you during a special ceremony in April?
A: I was stunned. This was probably the hardest path I have taken in my professional life, so I was filled with many emotions, particularly that of gratitude to my husband and to all those responsible for guiding me through this process. I certainly spent time on my knees in prayer for the fortunate outcome of my work, and this was beyond expectations!
Q: Not long ago, you also received the Outstanding Faculty Award from the State Council for Higher Education in Virginia (SCHEV) – the Commonwealth’s highest honor for faculty at Virginia’s public and private colleges and universities. Does that speak more to your passion for teaching or music…or both?
A: Actually, I hope that it recognizes my passion for reaching people. My husband wrote something that truly explains my passion for music and conveying it through teaching, performances, research and/or service: “We all are, without exception, the beneficiaries, the receptacles of this cosmic language, but we are not all its appointed guardians. Fortunate are those who are entrusted with this guardianship and accept it, for they will go through their mortal life with the responsibility of carrying this spark of divinity.”
Q: You have performed many concerts – both in the states and abroad. Do you plan to start performing again soon and if so, where will you be going?
Oh yes, absolutely. Of course, I am now in the process of bringing back my technique, which was put on the back burner during my doctoral studies. While I have not yet begun the process of initiating and renewing contacts, I expect to be back next spring with a program featuring Russian and American works.
Q: Is there any song you can’t play on the piano? What is your favorite genre and why?
A: That is an easy one to answer. I can’t play anything on the piano that I have not yet tried! Oh, I like jazz, but I don’t play it. Favorite genre? Well, that just depends on what I am working on or the mood I am in. Some say that I have a special affinity for Russian music, this could be because I can be quite passionate about those composers. Fortunately, music offers such a variety of emotional experiences, that there will always be music that speaks to my soul.