Victor Sawa

Born 1950, Montreal Quebec


Victor Sawa is a music conductor, frequently dubbed as ‘the modern renaissance man’ for his wide variety of interests and experiences. Born in Montreal, Victor studied Classical Music at McGill University and achieved his Licentiate of Music in 1969. In 1971, he received his Bachelor of Music and Concert Diploma (both with distinction), and was awarded the Premier Prix Concours for Clarinet and Chamber Music from the Conservatoire de Music de Montreal. Victor attended the New England Conservatory of Music (Boston), graduating with a Masters of Music Performance (with honors) in 1973. Within months of completing his studies, Victor received the ‘Outstanding Musician Award’ from the prestigious Tanglewood Festival, joining Leonard Bernstein in the list of recipients. Together with his colleagues in the New England Ragtime Ensemble, he won a Grammy Award for Best Chamber Music Recording. The recording, Scott Joplin’s Red Back Book, inspired the score for the movie The Sting, which, in turn, prompted US President Gerald Ford to invite the Ensemble to perform at the White House.

In addition to his widely recognized musical talent, Victor is a skilled teacher and communicator. Beginning in 1974, he served as an instructor (Conducting and Performance) at the Music Department of Wilfred Laurier University. In 1975, he also became an Instructor (Conducting and Performance) at the University of Waterloo. He served with both universities until the early ’90s. In addition to his teaching career, Victor played Solo Clarinet with the Canadian Chamber Ensemble (1974–94), and Principal Clarinet with the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony (1974–94). He has been listed in the International Who’s Who of Music since 1979. From 1983–93, Victor served as Music Director of the Kitchener-Waterloo Youth Orchestra, and from 1985–93 was the Music Director for the Guelph Youth Orchestra. From 1986–91, he attended the Pierre Monteux School for Advanced Conductors.

In 1987, he was awarded the Grand Prix du Disque for Best Chamber Music Recording for his work with the Canadian Chamber Ensemble (of which he is a founding member). He also undertook a number of international tours with the Ensemble, in Canada, the U.S., Mexico, South America, and Europe. In 1989, Victor received the Kitchener-Waterloo Community Arts Award for Music, and the Canada Council Award for Conducting (which he received again in 1990 and 1991). In 1992, he was appointed Music Director of the North Bay Symphony, and, in 1994, became Resident Conductor of the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra (CPO). At the CPO, Victor led the orchestra in concerts ranging from Classics to Pops, in the formal concert hall, and in the Rocky Mountains, including for the annual ‘Mozart on the Mountain’ outdoor festival, attracting audiences of over 13,000.

Victor began his distinguished career as Music Director of the Regina Symphony Orchestra (RSO), and the Sudbury Symphony Orchestra in 1996. With his guidance, the RSO produced the Mozart at Mission Ridge outdoor concerts, and later the Symphony Under the Sky, increasing the RSO’s audiences and its financial health. The RSO also became the only orchestra in Canada to receive royal patronage from Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales.

In 2006, Victor was honoured with the first Honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts, by the University of Regina. He was appointed Honorary Consul for Japan in 2013. In 2010, Victor was also appointed Music Director of the Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra. He was instrumental in the growth of the audience and corporate sponsorship, programming a vibrant new Pops series, in addition to Classical concerts, and in creating a new awareness of the orchestra in the community. The Saskatoon Star Phoenix says ‘Effervescent Maestro Sawa has done for the SSO what carbonation does for a beverage…and it figures that there was a full house to savour the fizz.’

In 2014, Victor was honoured with the title Conductor Emeritus of the SSO. In addition to his busy career as the Music Director for three distinct Canadian orchestras, Victor has served as Guest Conductor for other orchestras in Canada, Europe, Mexico, and the U.S. Recently he participated in a three-country musical journey that saw him in Vienna, then rehearsing with the Györ Philharmonie in Hungary, then conducting them at the Internationale Donauphilharmonie Series in Weiden, Germany.