Eric Paetkau is about to define a new soundtrack for the city of Saskatoon – the JUNO-nominated conductor takes his place as the 16th music director of the SSO and leads the orchestra into a new era.
Paetkau lives the music in each and every moment he’s onstage and is uncompromising when it comes to artistic excellence. This prairie boy has made a big splash in the classical music scene since moving from playing in orchestras to conducting them.
A stand out in the Canadian music scene, Eric is part of the new generation of conductors – conductor, musician, and arts entrepreneur - who will call Saskatoon home and take the orchestra to new heights.
Eric started his musical career as a violist before delving into the conductor world of orchestral, opera, and chamber repertoire. The pedigree is impeccable – performance studies in violin and viola, a masters in viola at the prestigious New England Conservatory of Music, further studies in Germany, and then conducting studies in the the Netherlands, U.S., and Canada.
As a violist, Eric was a member of the Nuremberg Symphony in Germany, and frequently played with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, the Canadian Opera Company, the National Ballet of Canada Orchestra, Les Violons du Roy, and Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra.
In 2007 this violist turned conductor started his own orchestra, group of 27. As each year passed, g27 grew and grew – a few more concerts, then a full season, and then collaborations and recordings. They've been called "Toronto’s all-star band" and "a supergroup" with Eric leading the way.
With the dynamic and innovative group of 27, he's produced a concert recording with JUNO award winning soprano Shannon Mercer on Centaur Records, released to critical acclaim, as well as a recording of Canadian concerti with bassoonist Nadina Mackie Jackson and trumpeter Guy Few on the MSR label. Both discs were nominated for Classical Album of the Year categories for the 2104 JUNO Awards. The orchestra also has an outreach performance collaboration for Toronto's at-risk youth with Toronto's Regent Park School of Music and Dixon Hall Music School.
Eric held the position of Resident Conductor with Quebec City's world-renowned Les Violons du Roy for a number of years and led the orchestra in over 40 concerts with soloists such as renowned contralto Marie-Nicole Lemieux, harpist Valérie Milot, and violinist Pascale Giguére.
Eric is no stranger to Saskatchewan – growing up just outside of Edmonton, he visited Saskatoon often to see his grandmother. As a teen, when he attended Rosthern Junior College, Eric would come in to the city on weekends and is now amazed to see how much it has changed.
Beyond the stage, you find a very tall man who has a passion for a good meal, great cider, and a good game of basketball – displayed recently while spending downtime on a photo shoot checking the score of the Kentucky game of the day.
In the summer of 2015, Eric and his wife Karen will make the move to Saskatoon – but don’t worry, she's used to the prairie winters too! Karen, who is already falling in love with Broadway and Riversdale, is a personal trainer, yogi, and violist who grew up in Winnipeg.
The world of orchestral music is ever changing and we have to be not only relevant in our communities but leaders in what is going on around us. There is a huge opportunity right now to make the SSO something truly extraordinary, and something even more than it is now. I envision the SSO as a leader in artistic excellence and innovation and to be a shining example of success in the orchestral world.