Acclaimed for his inspirational performances and eloquent musicianship, Paul Watkins enjoys a remarkably varied and distinguished career as soloist, chamber musician, and conductor. He is the Artistic Director of the Great Lakes Chamber Music Festival, and in 2019 he was appointed Professor of Cello at the Yale School of Music. He has performed as concerto soloist with prestigious orchestras throughout the world under eminent conductors including Bernard Haitink, Paavo Berglund, Leonard Slatkin, Sakari Oramo, Gianandrea Noseda, Sir Mark Elder, Sir Andrew Davis, Sir Charles Mackerras, Andris Nelsons, Edo de Waart, Hannu Lintu and Vasily Petrenko. A dedicated chamber musician, Paul was a member of the Nash Ensemble from 1997 until 2013, when he joined the Emerson String Quartet. With the Quartet he has travelled extensively, performing at major international festivals including Tanglewood, Aspen, Ravinia, Edinburgh, Berlin, and Evian, and has collaborated with artists such as Emanuel Ax, Yefim Bronfman, Evgeny Kissin, Renée Fleming, and Barbara Hannigan. He is a regular guest artist of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center.
He took first prize in the 2002 Leeds Conducting Competition, and has held the positions of Music Director of the English Chamber Orchestra and Principal Guest Conductor of the Ulster Orchestra. In recent seasons he made his conducting debuts with the Minnesota Orchestra, Detroit Symphony, and Omaha Symphony. His extensive discography as a cellist includes more than 70 recordings, including 18 solo albums for Chandos. His first recording as a conductor, of the Britten and Berg violin concertos with Daniel Hope, received a Grammy nomination.
Paul’s future plans include solo performances and recordings with, among others, Alessio Bax, Anthony Marwood, Lawrence Power, Leila Josefowicz, Edward Gardner, and Sir Andrew Davis. He is also in demand as a visiting teacher and has residencies this season at the Curtis Institute of Music and the Butler School of Music at the University of Texas at Austin.