Giancarlo Aquilanti was born in Jesi, a small town in central Italy. 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 under Glenn Glasow at California State University at Hayward, receiving a Master's degree in Composition in 1988, and later a Doctoral degree in Composition from Stanford University.
In his music one can hear the profound inspiration of the Italian operatic tradition born of early cultural experiences, although the music is also much influenced by his American education. He is a very prolific composer and he 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, and the opera Lot's Women, which was performed under his direction at Stanford University. His music has been performed in many European countries, as well as the United States.
He teaches music theory/composition and conducting at Stanford University. He is also very active as a pianist and conductor, and is currently the Conductor of the Stanford Wind Ensemble. In 2004, he was awarded the Walter J. Gores Award for Excellence in Teaching, Stanford University's highest teaching honor.