CPO Violist Katerina Grigoriu retires this year after a 37-year career with Orchestra. We got the opportunity to ask her about how she began her journey as a professional musician, what brought her from Romania to Canada, and more. We wish Katerina all the best!

Where are you from originally?

I am originally from Romania.

How old were you when you started playing music, and what instrument did you play?

I started to play violin at the age of seven because my parents made me. I did not really like violin because I dislike anything high pitched. So after lots of arguments, I switched to viola.

What made you decide to pursue a career as a musician?

By the end if high school I decided that I actually wanted to be an orchestra musician so I studied music performance at the Faculty of Music in Bucharest.

Where did you receive your education in music?

My music education started in the Bucharest School of Music This was a school  where students went from grade one to grade 12 where everybody studied music to become a professional musician (beside regular classes).

What made you decide to join the CPO?

After graduation I played in the Romanian Radio orchestra until I came to Toronto in 1976

I wanted to get a job in either Toronto or Hamilton but Calgary had auditions for viola a   month before and I wanted to see how auditions were in Canada, so I did the audition for Calgary (a city about which I’d never heard about before).

Do you remember when you were told that you were accepted into the CPO? What were you thinking?

The auditions for CPO were held in Toronto at the time so when I got the job offer I looked up on the map where Calgary was and seeing that it was very close to the Rocky Mountains I thought,  “WHY NOT?”

This proved to be the best decision of my life. I arrived in Calgary in 1977 and I found a much better orchestra than I was expecting and also an incredibly friendly one.

At the time most musicians were in their early twenties and it was amazing to see how truly  professional  everybody was.

Do you have a favourite memory of your time with the CPO? If so, what is the memory? (concert, event, etc.)

37 years is a very long time and you accumulate a LOT of wonderful memories.

We had lots of outstanding soloists (Isac Stern, Pavaroti, Yo Yo Ma and many others). Memorable events: playing in Carnegie Hall and Musikverein in Vienna,  also sitting next to the students from the Youth Orchestra and playing Mahler (my own daughter playing oboe next to her teacher right behind me).

How do you think the Orchestra has changed over the years?

During 37 years I spent here a lot of these same people and the ones who came in the next 5 years are still here and I think that in this time, the musicians continued to become better and better (both the ones who were already here and the newly hired ones).

If you could travel back in time, and could give your younger self a piece of advice about being a musician, what would it be?

Pretty cliche: practice more and be the best player you can possibly be.

What is your last concert with the CPO?

My last concert with the CPO is Tchaikovsky 5 (Jon Kimura Parker Plays Mozart).

Anything else you’d like to add?

I consider myself so incredibly lucky to have had 37 years being surrounded by the best group of people anybody could wish for, and doing something that I loved.