“It helps keep me balanced:” Caddy, music instructor plays violin all over the world

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WASHINGTON COUNTY -- One of his passions has taken him around the world and another has allowed him to meet people from all over the world. They're completely different passions, but they make up the life of one Ozaukee County man.

For seven years, the rolling hills of fescue, short fairway grass, and smooth putting greens at Erin Hills Golf Course have been John Patek's summer office.

"It's a great place to come to work," said Patek.

He's walked over it, around it, and through it so many times that he's intimately knowledgeable about every aspect of the home of the 2017 U.S. Open Championship.

John Patek

John Patek

"That's the best part of this job is people are here because this course is special and then because you can make it a little more fun because you know the nuances of the course," explained Patek.

Looping for players is a lot of work, but with it, comes rewards.

John Patek

John Patek

"It's very important to understand people and to make sure that I'm here to help them play golf and to help give them lines and read putts. I'm also here to help them enjoy it and that's as much about understanding people as it is about being knowledgeable," said Patek.

However, being a caddy isn't the only way he understands and helps people, or makes a living.

"Teaching is a great way to do that because I'm the president and the secretary and the head of HR and I'm the product when it comes to playing the violin," said Patek.

He's enjoyed teaching violin and other string instruments in his hometown of Mequon much longer than he's been caddying.

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John Patek

"It's a question of, kind of creating an income basically. As a freelance musician, you have infinite options," explained Patek. "Teaching doesn't lead to just more teaching, it leads to performance options. And it leads to playing gigs."

Ever since he graduated from the University of Wisconsin, Patek has worked hard enough and been fortunate enough to play all around the world.

"I just got to play with the Lucerne Symphony in Lucerne, Switzerland. That's where I work mostly as a performer," said Patek. "So Switzerland, France, Germany. I've played in Italy, played in Spain, the Czech Republic. With the Lucerne Company, we just played in Lucerne and then I got to go to Istanbul and Croatia for the first time. So those were really great experiences."

It's because of the choices he's made that he's been able to live out his passion, which includes playing with one particular organization.

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"My dream is the Milwaukee Symphony. I saw them growing up. I've subbed with them a few times and I love it. I'm giddy every time. I would be less excited to play with the New York Philharmonic than I am to play with Milwaukee because I grew up as a kid," said Patek. "But it's a question of putting things together to make it your life."

John Patek

John Patek

That's what makes Patek's walk one of fulfillment and it's following a unique path to success.

John Patek

John Patek

"I think it helps keep me balanced or more balanced than I would be if I just played the violin. Maybe I would be a little better at the violin. Maybe I would play more with Milwaukee Symphony or more with prestigious orchestras or people would know my name more as John Patek, the violinist. At the same time, I feel pretty balanced mentally and spiritually and I feel good about what my life is and this is part of it, for sure. It balances the stress and the work of music and then music balances it out. You know, if I work here for 20 out of 23 days, my shoulders are a little sore. My feet are a little sore and violin can make me forget about all those things," explained Patek.

This December, Patek will be playing Harry Potter with the Milwaukee Symphony in the violin section and soloing with the Concord Chamber Orchestra next May.

Patek says his dream is for all people to encourage and support their children to become musicians and respect it as a very honorable and respectful career.

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John Patek