Pianist & cultural activist
“A prodigious pianist” (Chicago Tribune) recognized for his “singing tone” (New York Times), and a cultural activist who “likes to shake it up” (Chicago Tribune), George Lepauw uses music and the arts to inspire and bring people together.
Named “Chicagoan of the Year (2012) for Classical Music” (Chicago Tribune), George represents the ideal 21st century musician, intensely focused on his art and wholly engaged with the world.
A concert pianist since his formal debut at age ten in Paris, George Lepauw has performed ever since as a recitalist, chamber musician, vocal collaborator, and soloist with orchestra. He also occasionally collaborates with musicians from other musical genres, including cabaret, musical theater, traditional Chinese and Persian music, flamenco, blues, and pop.
In 2008 he founded the International Beethoven Project (IBP), a radical non-profit organization focused on connecting tradition and innovation in classical music, motivated by Beethoven’s indomitable spirit as an artist and humanist, through the production of multi-disciplinary festivals, special events, and media. He continues to serve as its President and Artistic Director.
As part of the Beethoven Project Trio, George performed in the World Premiere concert, in Chicago, of a newly-discovered, long-lost piano trio of Beethoven’s in 2009 to great acclaim, followed by a highly-praised first recording on Cedille Records produced by the legendary Max Wilcox, which reached 24th place on the Classical Billboard charts in 2010.
Over the course of his life, George Lepauw has been deeply engaged in community-building and education through the arts and culture. In college, he co-founded and served as both Vice-President and then President of the French Cultural Association of Georgetown University, working hand in hand with multiple university departments as well as with the French Embassy, the Alliance Française, and other organizations in Washington, DC. In 2002, he was a founding member of the Benjamin Marshall Society, dedicated to the forgotten architect of some of Chicago’s most iconic early-20th century buildings (i.e. the Drake Hotel). From 2007 to 2010, he founded and published a print magazine, the Journal of a Musician, which featured original articles and interviews with some of classical music’s biggest stars (including Hilary Hahn, Yefim Bronfman, Natalie Dessay, James Conlon, Henri Dutilleux). In 2014-15, George was Artistic Director of the Chicago Academy of Music, helping to launch an after-school music education program for deserving children of Chicago’s South Side. And between 2016-18, George served as Executive Director of the Chicago International Movies & Music Festival (CIMMfest), leading two festivals over the course of his term which presented dozens of films, live concerts, and panel discussions.
George grew up in an artistically engaged family: his sister Consuelo Lepauw is a violinist based in Chicago, his father Didier Lepauw was a founding member and First Violin in the Orchestre de Paris, and his grandfather Roger Lepauw was Principal Viola of the Orchestre de Paris and previously of the Orchestre de l’Opéra de Paris; his mother Jane Lepauw is a writer and civic activist.
George began piano studies at the age of three in Paris with Aïda Barenboim (mother of Daniel Barenboim), and furthered his studies with Elena Varvarova, Brigitte Engerer, Vladimir Krainev, Rena Shereshevskaya, Ursula Oppens, James Giles, and Earl Wild, among others. Significant supporters and mentors have included Maestro Carlo-Maria Giulini, Maria Curcio, and Maestro Kurt Masur.
He obtained his Bachelor of Arts degree from Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. with a double major in English Literature and History, and received his Masters of Music in Piano Performance from Northwestern University. George has taught piano privately for over fifteen years, gives master classes around the world, and is a frequent guest speaker at universities and “ideas festivals”. He also makes regular appearances as a performer or speaker on radio and television. He is also a founding member of the Chicago Ideas Co-op, a leadership committee of the Chicago Ideas Festival, and recently sat on the Grant Park Music Festival Artistic Vision Committee, to help bring this legendary American festival to the next generation of music-lovers.
His current creative projects include recordings, films, and multimedia explorations on Johann Sebastian Bach’s complete Well-Tempered Clavier, Debussy’s and Chopin’s Preludes, and Beethoven’s Sonatas. George recently launched and hosts a podcast, Through The Stage Door, with guests including Ton Koopman, Lucas Debargue, Anderson & Roe, and writes occasional posts for his personal blog.
George Lepauw shares his time between his two homes of Paris and Chicago.
More at www.georgelepauw.com.