For Belgian Ambassador Pierre Clement Dubuisson, chamber music and diplomacy have gone hand in hand throughout his career. Whether stationed in Strasbourg, Brussels or Kyiv - as he has been for the last three years, Dubuisson has pursued his musical interests as a bassoonist and a flautist.
54-year-old Dubuisson said that his morning routine of practicing the bassoon is "good for the respiratory system." Since he's a person who can get by on little sleep, early morning practice sessions fit in well in his busy schedule.
"I'm very energetic, in good condition. On family outings in the mountains, I'm the first one to get to the top," he said.
A native of the mining town of Mons, south of Brussels, Dubuisson took up the flute when he was six.
"But after about 30 years," he said, "I wanted to try another instrument, and the bassoon it was. I like it very much because it suits my own personality and psychology."
Although the bassoon's place in the orchestra is in the background, Dubuisson said the instrument nonetheless "contributes to giving the orchestra a certain color."
After completing his secondary education in Mons, Dubuisson considered the possibility of continuing his musical education. But his family and music teacher advised him against entering a conservatory - wisely, he now considers.
"They were right, because in order to be a professional musician, you have to be far more talented than I am," he said.
Unlikely as it was that Dubuisson would pursue a career in music, it was even less likely that he would follow in the footsteps of his father and grandfather and work down a mine. His elders encouraged him "to be anything but a miner," he recalled.
"Anyway," he said, "mining for me was out, as all the mines [in Mons] closed when I was 10 or 12 years old."
Dubuisson went to the University of Mons, where he studied English and German. Growing up in bilingual Belgium, he is also fluent in French and Dutch. After completing university, he stayed on at Mons and taught foreign languages.
"After about 13 years of teaching, the routine bored me. I started looking for something else," he said.
Having read that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was recruiting diplomats, Dubuisson entered the Diplomatic Academy in Brussels. After completing the program, he was sent to New York, Strasbourg - where he organized the Musicians of Europe orchestra in 1995 - Brussels and now Kyiv.
Dubuisson described his tenure in Ukraine as "exciting."
While Dubuisson considers places like Stockholm and Lisbon "nice cities in very civilized countries," he said he finds it far more interesting to be a diplomat outside the European Union.
"It is an incredible experience to be in a young country like Ukraine, independent for only 12 years, watching it grow, meeting its people, its leaders, their considerations and hopes," he said. "The youth, especially those from regions like Luhansk, Odessa and Dnipropetrovsk, are bursting with optimism. They'll be the ones to pave their nation's way to prosperity, but it will take time."
It's not just the country's young people that impress Dubuisson, however. He said he's also very fond of its fresh produce.
"A carrot here tastes like a carrot," he said.
That enthusiasm for the riches produced by the Ukrainian soil may have influenced Dubuisson's choice of dish for lunch at Le Cosmopolite, a Belgian restaurant on Volodymyrska. He ordered a salade velene that featured penne, tuna and anchovies seasoned with basil sauce (Hr 58), washed down with a Chernihiv-brewed Taller beer (Hr 5).
Dubuisson also applauded Ukrainian cuisine naming among his favorites "blinis (pancakes), vareniki and a good borsch in the winter." But, diplomat that he is, he said he enjoys it all.
Living up to its name, Le Cosmopolite offers an eclectic array of French, Austrian, Belgian and fusion dishes, including a Greek salad (Hr 40). Though duty called and the ambassador was unable to stay for dessert, healthy portions of Chocolate Mousse, go for Hr 28.
Returning from the subject of food to Dubuisson's passion for music, he said his motivation is the pleasure it gives to others.
"For me, it's not just a musical activity; it's a social act, too. Thanks to music, I've been given access to many types of people with whom I would never have had contact if I hadn't played an instrument," he said.
The ambassador had the opportunity on two occasions to play with the Odessa Philharmonic Orchestra. He even considers his musical interests a part of his diplomatic work, since getting involved in the music scene has given him the opportunity to see Ukrainian life at close quarters.
"Being a musician alone is not interesting, because you can't practice chamber music or orchestral music if you don't listen to the others, and the equality of listening to others is a sign of tolerance. So through music, I've learned - in political and social contexts - to open my ears to others."
Given that music is such a fundamental part of the ambassador's life, it is not surprising that if stranded on a remote island, it would be his leisure item of choice. Expanding on his cultural interests, he said, "I'd take Mozart, as Mozart has everything. There is drama, yet relaxation [and] joy - all in harmony. Then, Shakespeare - a definite - and The Bicycle Thief for film."
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