He was born Jean Joseph Clermont Pépin in Saint-Georges, Quebec in 1926. Pépin studied with influential Canadian composers Claude Champagne (Montreal) and Arnold Walter (Toronto), and at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia from 1941 to 1944 with Rosario Scalero. In 1949 he won the Quebec government study grant Prix d'Europe as a pianist, which afforded him the opportunity to study several years in Paris (1949-1955). During this time he studied composition with Arthur Honegger and André Jolivet, and analysis with Olivier Messiaen at the same time as Pierre Boulez, Karlheinz Stockhausen, and Serge Garant. Pépin taught at the Conservatoire de musique du Québec à Montréal from 1955 to 1964 and later served as director from 1967 to 1973.
His pupils included François Dompierre, André Gagnon, André Prévost, Jacques Hétu, Silvio Palmieri and Micheline Coulombe Saint-Marcoux. Pépin was best known for his String Quartets Nos. 3 and 4, his Symphonies Nos. 3 (Quasars), 4 (La messe sur le monde) and 5 (Implosion) and his ballets L'Oiseau-phénix and Le Porte-rêve. He was named to the Order of Canada in 1981.
In 1985, he established the Concours de Musique Clermont-Pépin to encourage the development of artists from the Beauce region of Quebec. In 1990, he was named an officer of the National Order of Quebec.
He died of liver cancer in 2006, aged 80.
- 1949 - Prix d'Europe
- 1952 - Prix du Centenaire de l'Université Laval
- 1955 - Prix international de composition de Radio-Luxembourg
- 1970 - Prix Calixa-Lavallée
- 1970 - Bene merenti de patria
- 1981 - Officer of the Order of Canada
- 1990 - Officer of the National Order of Quebec
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