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Wael Farouk

Faculty pianist who defied incredible odds for career as world-class soloist to perform March 7 at Ganz Hall

Posted: 02/21/2013
Thirty-one-year-old award-winning Egyptian pianist Wael Farouk, who is a faculty member at Roosevelt University’s Chicago College of Performing Arts, never should have had a career as a soloist.

Turned away as a child from the Cairo Conservatory in Egypt based on his small stature and an unusual hand condition that prevents him to this day from making a fist or straightening his fingers, Farouk was told many times growing up that he wouldn’t make it as a concert pianist.

Commanding more than 50 concertos and 60 solo programs today, including the complete works of Frederic Chopin and Sergei Rachmaninoff, and giving solo and concerto performances on four continents, Farouk will perform an all-Rachmaninoff program at 7:30 p.m. on March 7 at Roosevelt University’s Ganz Hall, 430 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago.

“Despite the challenges I faced as a child, I have my parents to thank, and especially my father, for instilling me with the idea that if you work hard and give your best, all that you invest will come back to you,” the pianist said.

Born with short hand ligaments that make it difficult to reach the farthest sharps and flats, Farouk began playing the instrument at three years of age on the advice of a doctor in Cairo who believed the movement would be therapeutic for his hands.

Initially turned away from Cairo Conservatory even though he had the highest grades, Farouk went on to receive the Youngest Egyptian Talent Prize at nine years of age from then-First Lady Susan Mubarak. Farouk made his orchestral debut in 1994, becoming the youngest pianist to give a solo recital at Cairo Opera House a year later and the first Egyptian ever to perform Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3 as well as Johannes Brahms’ Piano Concerto No. 2 and Sergei Prokofiev’s Piano Concertos Nos. 1, 2 and 3.
A student at the Manhattan School of Music and at CCPA with piano faculty member Solomon Mikowsky, Farouk is now working on his doctorate in piano performance at Rutgers University.  He has performed all over the world, including in 2004 on Tchaikovsky’s own piano.  Farouk will make his solo debut at Carnegie Hall on June 1.

The New York Concert Review has called Farouk “a formidable and magnificent pianist,” for his command of Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3, a piece that many believed the pianist never would be able to accomplish due to his hand structure. La Tribune Le Progres in France praised him for unequaled “technical virtuosity and expression” and David Dubal, author of The Art of the Piano,  hailed him as “A wonderful musician and a dazzling pianist.”

Farouk’s performance at Roosevelt University’s Ganz Hall is free and open to the public.  For information, call 312-341-2352 or visit The evening’s program, in honor of Rachmaninoff’s 140th birthday,  includes Etudes, Preludes, Variation on a Theme by Corelli Op. 42 and Piano Sonata No. 2, Op. 36 in B-flat minor.