LEWISTON – George Sebastian Lopez, one of the most popular soloists in last season’s piano series at the Franco-American Heritage Center, will return for two concerts on Feb. 16.

At 1 p.m. that Saturday, he will lecture from the keyboard and conduct a master class. That evening, at 7:30 p.m., he will play works by Bach, Beethoven, Chopin and American composer Andrew List.

List, who lives in Boston, will be present for the performance of his Piano Etudes, a collection of six short pieces. (See accompanying story.)

Just two years ago, Lopez was chosen to select the new Steinway concert grand piano for the Franco center. Since then, he has appeared there as piano soloist with the Midcoast Symphony Orchestra and has given master classes and solo recitals.

For one who blossomed into a concert artist and master teacher, Lopez took up the piano at the rather “late” age of 11. Forced by his mother to practice on his grandmother’s upright, in hopes that he would stay home and keep out of trouble (his mother didn’t particularly like his friends), Lopez was surprised to discover that reading music came very easily to him. By age 14, Lopez he had won his first piano competition, playing a concerto with an orchestra.

His playing also opened other doors. Born in Brooklyn of Mayan parents, the young Lopez moved to Belize, then finally back to the United States. “I was one of five minority kids in a predominantly white school in Texas,” he recalled. At age 16, his playing won him a full scholarship to the Hartt School of Music. A Franco-American study grant led to graduate work in Paris, and he received his master’s degree cum laude from the Sweelinck Conservatory in Amsterdam.

Lopez’s repertoire spans a broad range, from Bach and Beethoven to Ives, Gershwin and List. He likes to play works of contemporary composers, such as List, and Camden resident Glenn Jenks, whose Lyric Suite Lopez premiered during his Piano Series recital at the Franco Center last April. Lopez has also championed the music of Italian composer Romeo Melloni, whose piano concerto he recorded last year with the Prague Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra.

Lopez has performed as soloist and in chamber groups in the United States and Europe. He received critical acclaim for his interpretation of Bach’s “Goldberg Variations” at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam. In the United States, he has been praised for performances on both coasts, as well as in Texas, Wisconsin and West Virginia.

Throughout his career, Lopez has declined to put classical composers on a pedestal, striving to bring a freshness to every piece he performs.

Apopular lecturer on the arts throughout New England, he lives in southern New Hampshire, where he is a member of the faculty at the Manchester Community School of Music and Phillips Exeter Academy. He is a guest faculty member at the Portland Conservatory of Music.

Besides his appearances with the Midcoast Symphony, Lopez recently performed with the Granite State Symphony, the Portsmouth Symphony Orchestra and the New Hampshire Symphony, He has also traveled to give master classes and recitals in Madison, Wisconsin, Seattle, San Francisco and at the University of Texas at Arlington. He recently collaborated with composer David Amran in teaching and performing at Brown University; and last month, he played in a piano-violin recital at Harvard University. In the spring, he will teach and perform in Philadelphia and in Denver.

Concert tickets are $15 for adults, $12 for seniors. Students 21 and younger admitted free. There is no charge for auditing the Saturday afternoon program. For reservations, call the box office at 689-2000. The Franco center is at 46 Cedar St. For more information, log on to www.francoamericanheritage.org.


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