The American lutenist, conductor, and music researcher, Paul O'Dette, began playing classical guitar, and while in high school also played electric guitar in a rock band in Columbus, Ohio, where he grew up. He eventually adopted the lute (as well as the related archlute, theorbo, and Baroque mandolin) as his primary instruments, and primarily specializes in the performance of Renaissance and Baroque music. He studied early music at the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis, Basel, Switzerland; medieval and Renaissance performance practice with Thomas Binkley and the Studio der Fruhen Musik; guitar with Christopher Parkening and Michael Lorimer; lute with Eugen Dombois.
One of the most influential figures in his field, Paul O'Dette has helped define the technical and stylistic standards to which 21st-century performers aspire. He has performed at major international festivals all over the world, including Boston, Los Angeles, Vancouver, Berkeley, Utrecht, London, Bath, Paris, Montpellier, Bremen, Dresden, Munich, Berlin, Frankfurt, Leipzig, Vienna, Prague, Milan, Geneva, Barcelona, Copenhagen, Oslo and Melbourne.
Though best known for his recitals and recordings of virtuoso solo lute music, Paul O'Dette maintains an active international career as an ensemble musician and continuo player as well, performing with today’s most respected conductors and ensembles, such as Jordi Savall, Gustav Leonhardt, Nikolaus Harnoncourt, William Christie, Christopher Hogwood, Andrew Parrott, Nicholas McGegan, Tafelmusik, The Parley of Instruments and The Harp Consort. He is also a member of Tragicomedia, a continuo ensemble acclaimed for its recordings and concerts of 17th-century operas, cantatas, and oratorios.
Recently Paul O'Dette has been active conducting Baroque operas. In 1997, together with Stephen Stubbs, he led performances of Luigi Rossi's L'Orfeo at Tanglewood, the Boston Early Music Festival and the Drottningholm Court Theatre in Sweden, while in 1999 they directed performances of Cavalli's Ercole Amante at the Boston Early Music Festival, Tanglewood, and the Utrecht Early Music Festival and Provenzale's La Stellidaura Vendicata at the Vadstena Academy in Sweden. The 2000-2001 season included productions of Monteverdi's Orfeo for the Vancouver Festival and Lully's Thesee for the Boston Early Music Festival.
Paul O'Dette has taken part in more than 100 solo and ensemble recordings for Harmonia Mundi, Philips, Decca, Sony, Hyperion, Telefunken, Astree, Virgin Classics, EMI, Arabesque, Nonesuch, BIS, and BASF. His recordings have been nominated for Gramophone magazine’s Record of the Year Award and have been recognized with multiple Grammy nominations, including: Grammy Award for a CD of Purcell Songs with Sylvia McNair (1996); Grammy nomination for conducting in a recording of Johann Georg Conradi's Ariadne (2005); Grammy nomination for Bacheler: The Bacheler's Delight (2006). Each volume of his acclaimed series of John Dowland’s Complete Lute Works received the prestigious French Diapason d’Or, and the 5-CD boxed set received the Diapason d’Or Of The Year Award (1995, 1997). His discography includes "Le Secret des Muses" (music of Nicolas Vallet) and "The Royal Lewters" (music of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I’s favorite lutenists), which garnered a CHOC du Monde de la Musique, a Diapason d’Or (2003) and the Preis der Deutschen Schallplattenkritik. He has also broadcast for the ABC (Australia), BBC (UK), CBC (Canada), Radio France, RAI (Italy), Westdeutscher Rundfunk (Cologne), Bayerischer Rundfunk (Munich), SFB (Berlin), NOS (Holland), Austrian Radio, Spanish Radio and Television, TV Ankara, Hungarian Television, Norwegian Radio, Danish Radio and Television, Swedish Television, Swiss Radio and Television, National Public Radio (USA) and CBS Television (USA).
In addition to his activities as a performer, Paul O'Dette is an avid researcher, having worked extensively on the performance and sources of 17th-century Italian and English solo song, continuo practices and lute technique, the latter resulting in a forthcoming book co-authored by Patrick O'Brien. He has published numerous articles on on Renaissance and Baroque Performance Practice and co-authored the Dowland entry in the forthcoming update of the New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians. Together with Stephen Stubbs, he is writing a book on Baroque vocal practice.
Paul O'Dette was resident at Oberlin Conservatory (1978), Washington University (1982), Wiener Musikhochschule (1987), UCLA (1989), Bremen Musikhochschule (1989-1994), and Indiana University (1995-1996). He has served as Professor of Lute and Director of Early Music at the Eastman School of Music in New York since 1976, and is Artistic Director of the Boston Early Music Festival. In this institute he also serves as Professor of Conducting & Ensembles; Affiliate Faculty - Musicology; and Director of Collegium Musicum. In addition he gives regular master-classes, and lectures throughout Europe, North America, Japan, Australia, Russia and South America, including radio and television broadcasts throughout these countries. He lives in Rochester, New York with his wife, son and daughter.