After taking piano lessons for 4 years, Louis Charbonneau began his percussion studies in 1947 at the Conservatoire de Musique de Montreal with Louis Decair and Saul Goodman. In 1950 he became professor at the Conservatoire where he taught many percussionists who are now working with various Canadian orchestras. In 1950, he was appointed timpanist of l'Orchestre des Concerts Symphoniques de Montreal (which in turn became the Montreal Symphony Orchestra) where he performed frequently as a soloist notably in a 1959 performance of Milhaud's Concerto for percussion and small orchestra under Igor Markevitch, after which the conductor invited him to take part in the 1960 US tour by the Orchestre Lamoureux of Paris. His interpretation of the Concertino by Franco Donatoni had Claude Gingras, the music critic from La Presse, write "Charbonneau is ... capable of the greatest strength and the greatest refinement at the same time ... He's a kind of ''poet of the timpani". In 1981 he participated in 19 performances of Stravinsky's Histoire du Soldat in the parks of Montreal under the direction of Charles Dutoit. In Stockholm in 1985, he was the only Canadian representative to participate in the first concert of the Orchestre Philharmonique du Monde, broadcast by satellite. Louis Charbonneau participated in the creation of many Quebec and world premieres. In September 1977, he conducted l'Ensemble des Percussions de Strasbourg and six Montreal percussionists in the Varese's Ionisation, performed for the first time in Canada in February 1969 by his students from the Conservatoire de Musique de Montreal at a concert in Toronto. He was on the jury for the percussion exams of the Conservatoire de Metz and Conservatoire de Strasbourg in 1971 and in Paris in 1973. The same year he was a coach for the l'Orchestre Mondial des Jeunesses Musicales in Israel. As well as his teaching activities at the Conservatory, l'Ecole Vincent-d'Indy and later on at the University of Montreal, he gave masterclasses at the Royal Conservatory of Music of Toronto in 1983, at the Los Angeles Philharmonic Institute and the Domaine Forget a Saint-Irenee in 1989. He also gave clinics for the Percussive Arts Society in London, Ontario in 1990. In 1990 and 1991, he was invited as timpanist for the Boston Symphony for some concerts and a European tour. In March 1998, Louis Charbonneau retired from the Montreal Symphony Orchestra.