A grand passion
Gavin George ’25 is a longtime fan of Dutch violinist and conductor Andre Rieu. Not surprising – millions of classical music aficionados around the world are. What is surprising is that George became a fan at age 2.
“My mom got an Andre Rieu DVD for Christmas,” he remembers. “I was absolutely infatuated. I would watch two hours of it twice in a row.”
Another early memory was watching a piano, a gift from an uncle to encourage his early musical interest, being brought into the house. He recalls “just seeing it there in our front room and touching the keys for the first time and being able to make some music for myself for the first time.”
That early fascination with classical music sparked a remarkable career as a concert pianist for the freshman from Greenville, South Carolina. He began formal instruction at age 3 (3 and a half, more precisely) and made his concerto debut at 7, performing Haydn’s Concerto in D Major. In 2011, at age 8, he became the youngest player yet to appear on the Emmy-winning PBS show “From the Top.”
For two consecutive years, he won gold medals in the American Association for the Development of the Gifted and Talented Piano competition, as well as winning the 2012 SAA Piano Concerto Competition. He’s played at a music festival in Luxembourg, in Carnegie Hall, on the CBS Early Show and on the Queen Latifah Show.
Call him a “child prodigy,” however, and George has mixed feelings.
“In general, ‘prodigy’ has become very watered down,” he said. “But others have described me that way. I think it’s pretty common. I know that I’ve always had an appreciation and love for music, and that has been my driving force in pursuing it for so long.”
Although he admits that few of his peers were also accomplished concert pianists, George, who was homeschooled through grade 12, says he never saw himself as unusual.
“It was never something that stood out as odd to me,” he says. “I didn’t have that kind of a juxtaposition.”
Naturally, George has come to Furman to study… science. A high school AP class sparked an interest in chemistry, and he plans to follow a pre-med track with an eye on a career as a radiologist.
He’s still planning on performing, though. Furman’s strong music department was a big factor in his decision to enroll, and he plans on keeping up with it as his studies allow.
“Music is still a passion of mine,” he says. “I haven’t lost any love for it.”
Although his favorite composer is Rachmaninoff, he does appreciate some more modern music.
“I like ’80s, jazz, pop, prog,” he says. “In general, if it’s got a good beat, I’m happy.”