Earl Stafford. Pianist, conductor, b Thunder Bay, Ont, 12 Sep 1952. Earl Stafford began his music education at eight, debuting with the Thunder Bay Symphony Orchestra at 10. He later attended the University of Toronto, where he studied piano with Pierre Souvairan. He continued his piano studies in New York with Milton Kaye, and later at the Paris Conservatoire with Aldo Ciccolini. In 1980, Stafford was awarded a gold medal for best accompanist at the International Ballet Competition in Varna, Bulgaria. His interest in ballet music has been a dominant influence in Stafford's double-sided musical career, that of pianist and conductor. After the win, he pursued conducting studies in Paris, where he audited classes given by the Italian conductor Franco Ferrara. This experience provided the impetus to alter his focus and devote more time to conducting.

In 1984, Stafford was appointed music director and principal conductor for the Royal Winnipeg Ballet (having in 1976 become rehearsal pianist there). He served on the faculty of the Banff Centre for the Arts 1984-92, and was music director 1997-2002 for the Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra, a position to which he returned for the 2008-09 season. In 2002, he conducted the Toronto Symphony for the Golden Jubilee Gala. Over the years, he and former Royal Winnipeg Ballet principal dancer Evelyn Hart have had a strong professional relationship; in 2002 Stafford co-produced From the Heart, Evelyn Hart and Friends for the National Arts Centre Orchestra.

Earl Stafford has been a guest conductor with many orchestras in Canada, including the Calgary Philharmonic, Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony, Manitoba Chamber Orchestra, National Arts Centre Orchestra, Toronto Symphony, and Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra; as well as the Hungarian State Orchestra, the New Queen's Hall Orchestra, the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, the Theatre Harmony Orchestra of Moscow, and the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra.

Interest in New Music

Stafford's interest in contemporary music led him to create the Festival of New Music with the Saskatoon Symphony. The ensemble has featured works by many Canadian composers including Michael Conway Baker, Neil Currie, Elizabeth Raum and R. Murray Schafer. Stafford led the world premiere of Andrew Balfour's Voice of the Lake, a work commissioned for the Icelandic Festival held in Gimli, Manitoba 14 Jun 2006.

See also Ballets and Dance Theatre

Selected Discography

Davies, V. The Big Top: A Circus Ballet. Winnipeg Symphony, Earl Stafford, conductor. 2005. Water Lily Records WLCD 5905

Currie, N. Passionscope. Earl Stafford, conductor. 2001. Neil Currie label NC20356