May 8, 2020

Sister Act: Young Artist and Prep Program Students Practice Sibling Harmony

Cloutier sisters
The Cloutier sisters (from left): Maude, Mara and Marianne. Photo courtesy of Marie Cloutier.

It’s hard enough for one person to make a mark in their chosen field. So what’s the secret of families that produce multiple high achievers in the same specialty?

Ask the Cloutier sisters – Maude, Mara and Marianne – Young Artist Program (YAP) and Preparatory Division students at the Cleveland Institute of Music: It’s all about a mutual love for classical music. Not only have they formed their own string ensemble – the Cloutier Trio – they have also had lots of time to practice together since COVID-19 moved everyone inside to online learning.

Natives of Montréal, Canada, the Cloutier sisters live in Chardon, Ohio, with their parents, who – despite not being musicians themselves – passed on a love of classical music to their daughters. 

Maude, 16, studies with acclaimed violin faculty member Jan Mark Sloman, former associate concertmaster of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. Originally a student in the preparatory division, Maude is the only sister enrolled in CIM’s Young Artist Program. Mara, 15, played violin before switching to cello five years ago. A student in CIM’s prep division since fall 2018, she studies with Melissa Kraut, co-head of CIM’s cello department and one of the world’s leading pedagogues. Marianne, 12, just made the move to viola this year after playing violin for many years. Also a prep student since fall 2018, she studies with faculty member Stanley Konopka, assistant principal viola for The Cleveland Orchestra and an avid chamber musician nationally and internationally.

The trio formed for the first time six years ago, back when the sisters each played violin. They were asked to put together a small performance in their local church. Maude’s piano teacher at the time suggested that her two younger sisters play violin and that Maude accompany them on piano on a piece by Vivaldi.

“The concert was a success, and we have been performing together ever since,” said Maude, who has been playing violin since age 4.

Even before attending CIM, where public service and paying their civic rent is a key aspect of every student’s education, the sisters already have performed several free concerts – often raising money for their local church or playing for residents in area nursing homes.

“We’ve had many public performances,” Maude said. “I remember I organized an entire concert for some 100 people when I was 11 or 12, and the three of us have performed many different short pieces as a trio, duo or even solo. We’ve given concerts in nursing homes, and soon we began playing concerts in those facilities every other week. Since 2018 we have put together a fundraising concert at our local church every six months or so. Last December, we presented a concert to raise money for a homeless shelter, and we raised $11,000!”

Maude (mostly) remembers when she became interested in music.

“I was 4 years old,” she said. “We were at church one Sunday, and at one point a young woman began playing the violin during a meditation. I don’t remember much of it, but my parents told me I stood up and yelled, ‘I want to play the violin!’ We met the young woman afterwards, and she became my first teacher. We have remained close to her to this day.”

As for what’s next for the trio, who are homeschooled, they plan to keep studying and improving as classical musicians. Just how far they go is still yet to be determined, but in this CIM family, talent and creativity run deep.