Université de Montréal awards honorary doctorate to Rafael Payare

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The OSM’s music director gets handed his degree from UdeM’s chancellor and rector before going on to conduct a concert at the Maison symphonique de Montréal.

Université de Montreal chancellor Frantz Saintellemy and rector Daniel Jutras presented Rafael Payare, the charismatic music director of the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal (OSM), with the university’s highest honour.

The conferring of an honorary doctorate was held before an audience filled with friends, associates and members of the UdeM community, as well as concertgoers attending the last of three performances of the OSM’s 2023-24 season opener.

"We are proud that the first honorary doctorate awarded to Rafael Payare bears the seal of Université of Montréal," Jutras told the crowd.

"In the short time he has been at the OSM, he has already won the hearts of Montrealers, and his extraordinary life story is an inspiration to our students. He is living proof that education changes lives, and with a little help a person with talent, passion and determination can find their way to the top. Rafael Payare is a marvelous ambassador for music and for Montreal. And with this honorary doctorate, he becomes an excellent ambassador for our university. Welcome to the UdeM family!"

Payare was named music director of the OSM in 2021, becoming the ninth conductor to lead the orchestra. The Venezuelan maestro is one of the most prominent of the new generation of conductors and one of the most sought-after on the world stage. His style and artistic approach are defined by his innate feel for the music, his brilliant technique and the charisma he exudes on the podium. Rafael Payare trained as a horn player and graduated from his country’s renowned El Sistema music education program.

"Your journey from Puerto La Cruz on the Venezuelan coast to Montreal is a remarkable story that is far from over," Saintellemy told the maestro during today’s ceremony. "We are proud that your story is now being written from Montreal. You have adopted our city by choosing to raise your daughters here. You have adopted our language. You have even adopted our winters! That’s all it takes to win the hearts of Quebecers. Thank you for bringing your tremendous energy to our city."

UdeM is the first university in the world to award Payare an honorary doctorate.

"Receiving an honorary doctorate from Université de Montréal, the largest French-speaking university in North America, is an honour that fills me with emotion and also a sense of responsibility," the maestro said. "In ever-evolving societies facing major challenges, music and education are two fabulous tools that offer new perspectives while building bridges between cultures and nations. Music and education complement and reinforce each other, which is why music should be a right, not a privilege."