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 Quartet of Stanford University; The University of California, Berkeley (Berkeley Pictures), and for the Elfenworks Foundation (La Povertà).
Giancarlo Aquilanti is professionally active as a conductor, composer 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 in many European cities, as well as in the United States. He is also in demand both as a pianist and as a conductor, and has performed in international tours in China, Italy, Germany, Hungary, New Zealand, Australia, Spain, Portugal and Morocco with the Stanford Symphonic Orchestra and the Stanford Wind Ensemble, which he has directed since 1996.
He recently completed his second opera in three acts entitled Oxford Companions to a libretto by D.S. Neil Van Leeuwen. The plot takes place in 1960 at Oxford University. The libretto evokes a tragic chapter of European history - the Second World War and the persecution of the Jews in Nazi Germany. Oxford Companions deals with several
themes including culture, love, friendship, and the ethical dilemma of choosing between social justice and personal affections. In the spring of 2009 a CD entitled A Celebration of Life was released by Arsis. It is entirely dedicated to music by Giancarlo Aquilanti, and was recorded with the Stanford Chamber Chorale. Aquilanti is currently involved in
various projects including a new CD, in collaboration with the Italian composers Paolo Ugoletti and Domenico Clapasson, which will be released in 2010. The texts of this new recording are based on a selection of poems by the Italian writer and poet Gianni Rodari. Along with this project Aquilanti is working on the orchestration of various songs by the rock band The Grateful Dead. This experimental project will culminate in a concert, directed by Aquilanti, that will take place in October 2010 with the collaboration of The Grateful Dead and the Marin County Symphonic Orchestra.