Giancarlo Aquilanti was born in Jesi, a small town in central Italy, where he took his first musical steps. He studied at the Conservatory of Music in Pesaro, Italy, where he received diplomas in Trumpet Performance, Choral Music, and Composition. In 1985, he moved to the United States, where he studied with Glenn Glasow at California State University at Hayward receiving a Master’s degree in Composition cum laude in 1988. He continued his studies in composition at Stanford University, completing a Doctoral degree in Composition in 1996. This was a very productive period in his life, which saw the composition of his first opera, Lot’s Woman, which was performed under his direction at Stanford University in 1996. At Stanford he started his teaching career in music theory, composition and conducting. A highlight of his teaching career came in 2004, when he was awarded the Walter J. Gores Award for Excellence in Teaching – Stanford University’s highest teaching honor. He is currently director of the Music Theory Program at Stanford University. His responsibilities include directing the undergraduate theory program, developing the curriculum, and training and supervising the graduate teaching assistants.
Besides the teaching of harmony theory and counterpoint, he pursued rigorous studies in modern composition, and worked on computer based technology applied to music and acoustics. In his music one can hear the profound inspiration of the Italian operatic tradition born of early cultural experiences. Nevertheless, his compositions are much influenced by his American education, revealing a unique and exotic combination of popular melodies of his native region, jazz rhythms and classical traditions. He is a prolific composer and has written compositions for all kinds of combinations of instruments: orchestral, choral and band pieces, three string quartets, concertos and sonatas for cello, violin, flute, clarinet, tuba, woodwind quintets, piano trios, piano quartets, piano quintets. He has also written commissioned works for the Philarmonic Symphony of the Marche (Introitus); the Stanford Chamber Chorale (Magnificat); the Woodwind Quintet of Stanford University; the University of California, Berkeley (Berkeley Pictures), and for the Elfenworks Foundation (La Povertà), the city of Favignana (The Sound of Favignana), the city of Bevagna (Bevagna).
Giancarlo Aquilanti is professionally active as a conductor and educator. He is often called to direct concerts outside the academic arena, to give lectures explaining the theory and development of his compositions, and to hold workshops for American Bands and Wind Ensembles. His music has been performed all over the world. He is also in demand both as a pianist and as a conductor, and has performed in international tours with both the Stanford Symphonic Orchestra and the Stanford Wind Ensemble in China, Italy, Germany, Hungary, New Zealand, Australia, Spain, Portugal and Morocco. He has been the music director of the Stanford Wind Ensemble since 1997.
Aquilanti recently completed two commissions: the Symphony for Winds no. 3, and the Symphony no. 4 (Dance Suite) for Symphony Orchestra. The Symphony no. 3 was premiered at Stanford University in March of 2017, and the Symphony no. 4 was premiered by the Filarmonica De Rio Negro in Argentina under his baton.
Additionally, he recently premiered his fourth opera, Ángela, Dante y Umbría, commissioned by the University of Guanajuato, México, with a Spanish libretto by Benjamin Valdivia. Another ongoing project are orchestrations of various songs by the rock band the Grateful Dead. This project was previewed with a concert directed by Aquilanti in May 2011 with the collaboration of Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead and the Marin Symphony Orchestra.