AKA André Léon Marie Nicolas Rieu, Jr.
Birthplace: Maastricht, Netherlands
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Violinist, Conductor
Executive summary: Waltz King of Europe
André Rieu grew up surrounded by music -- his father conducted the Limburg Symphony Orchestra and Leipzig Opera -- but he says he never understood the somber atmosphere at classical concerts. Now a conductor himself, he encourages his audiences to enjoy the music, which often means clapping in rhythm or waving their hands. Dashingly handsome, he leads his band while facing the audience instead of the orchestra, and of course, while playing the violin. Critics are sometimes put off by his public persona, which is more akin to a rock star than symphony maestro, but Rieu's performances are consistently sold out, his CDs top the classical charts, and his stylish performances are irresistible.
He began playing the violin at the age of five, became an accomplished professional, and played for years, as he has said, "for one conductor after another who did everything wrong, and I knew I could do it better." He started his own orchestra in 1987, and had immediate success playing the music of Johann Strauss and other popular waltzes, polkas, and everything from movie music to "Hava Nagila". On his first visit to Australia, he performed for free at a mall, without his orchestra, charming shoppers with such treats as a sing-along of "Waltzing Matilda".
Father: André Rieu (conductor, Limberg Symphony Orchestra, d. 1992)
Brother: Jean Philippe Rieu
Wife: Marjorie Rieu (m. 1975)
Son: Marc Rieu (b. 1978)
Son: Pierre Rieu (b. 1981)
University: Royal Conservatory of Brussels
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