From conductor’s baton to children’s books, Eric Paetkau makes Saskatoon return

Former SSO music director Eric Paetkau is returning to Saskatoon for the launch of his first children's book, 'The Big Book of Stuff,' on April 19, 2023 at McNally Robinson. (Supplied / Photo courtesy of Julie Barnes)

The last time Saskatoon saw Eric Paetkau, he was bidding the Saskatoon Symphony Orchstra — and its devout audience — a fond farewell.

Now Paetkau is making his way back to the Prairies for a visit. But instead of for an orchestra concert, the former music director of the SSO will be in Saskatoon for the launch of his new children’s book titled The Big Book of Stuff.

“There’s short stories, there’s poems, there’s a lot of different things,” Paetkau said. “It’s more a world I wanted to create.”

The new children’s book didn’t come from a predetermined plan to get into writing, Paetkau said. Rather, writing was something he’s enjoyed for many years — little pieces for nephews and nieces and the children of close friends.

“It seems to hit somehow. It makes them giggle,” Paetkau said. “They just seemed to really like it.”

Eventually, he had so much writing built up he decided to string it together into a book to share with family. Paetkau ended up sending what he’d put together to a publisher, and now The Big Book of Stuff will have a book launch at McNally Robinson on April 19th.

The book isn’t a linear plot or storyline. Instead it’s snippets of nonsense, silly words and ideas strung together, poems and verses that don’t connect in logical ways.

“Does life sometimes not make sense? This book will certainly not help at all,” Paetkau said with a laugh. “But it often rhymes, and the pictures are really nice.”

It’s a far cry from the classical music world that had captured to much of Paetkau’s time when he was living in Saskatoon. Paetkau admitted that it was “refreshing” to take a small step back from conducting to tackle some other things that piqued his interest.

He also said that he was excited to return to Saskatoon for the book launch, because of his familiarity with McNally Robinson in the city and for the opportunity to reconnect with the friends that remain in the city.

“(Leaving) was bittersweet, in a way. There were seven great years and so many friends and relationships along the way … but within all of that there were these other projects I really wanted to dive in to,” Paetkau said.

Paetkau’s projects have definitely diversified since stepping away from conducting. He’s still involved in music — Paetkau will be playing some house concerts while in Saskatoon — and he hosts a weekly children’s television-style music show online.

As a children’s entertainer, Paetkau plays covers of old songs and new for his audience. His weekly show, he said, is always a mix of music and activities to capture the attention of children and adults alike.

And like his new book, the songs Paetkau writes for the children’s show are from that same world of nonsensical-ness that permeates The Big Book of Stuff.

“I’ve always had this silly, goofy side to me,” he said. “It was just always part of me. And when I opened that door a bit more it just came spilling out … I just get such a big kick out of it.”

It’ll be a busy week for Paetkau upon his return to Saskatoon, with the book launch taking place mid-week, some house concerts to play, and a lot of people to see.

But for however long he’s in town, Paetkau said he is excited for his trip to Saskatoon to share his newest projects.

“I’ll see friends, I’ll take a drive in the prairies, and just have a good time,” he said.

The book launch for The Big Book of Stuff will take place at 7 p.m. on April 19th at McNally Robinson in Saskatoon.

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