"Rich percussion by George Lernis on sounds that are both danceable and dreamy" - Jazz Weekly. Born and raised in Nicosia Cyprus, George Lernis is a world percussionist, drummer and educator who currently resides in the US. He has recorded and collaborated with prominent figures such as, Grammy winners/nominees: Antonio Sanchez, Dave Liebman, Anat Cohen, Tiger Okoshi, A Far Cry String Orchestra, Mehmet Ali Salnikol’s Whatsnext? big band and the Pharos Ensemble just to name a few. In addition, George performs and gives workshops extensively around the world, which includes appearances in venues such as Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center, and workshops at higher education institutions such as Harvard, Princeton University and Emerson college.
In 2008, George released his first album as a bandleader, Shapes of Nature featuring the George Lernis Jazz Quartet. In addition George with two of his colleagues formed the Pharos ensemble, performing and preserving the musical traditions of the Asia Minor regions around the US and the world in the form of concerts and educational workshops. Furthermore, during this time George was also the lead percussionist in the Grammy nominated Mehmet Ali Sanlikol’s @Whatsnext? Big band album. In 2018, George became the artistic director of the annual Boston Byzantine Festival under the sponsorship of the Mary Jaharis Center in Boston, MA where he organizes festivals, and invites world renowned artists to perform in the US.
George is considered to be bimusical, having studied equally the traditions of the Middle East and Jazz music. In addition to the drumset, he specializes in a number of instruments such as: the darbuka, bendir, riq. Growing up in Cyprus and being surrounded by traditional music George became interested in hand percussion at an early age, specifically the instrument known as darbuka. At the age of 13 he started attending formal drum-set lessons and by the age of 15 he was playing music with several bands in the styles of Jazz and Greek traditional music. In 1998 George joined the Cypriot Army Force where he eventually became a member of the military band SMEF serving as the lead drummer of his unit.
In 2001 he came to the United States to study music at the prestigious Berklee College of Music. Throughout his studies George mentored master musicians such as: Kenwood Dennard, Mark Walker, Dave Samuels, Gary Barton and Gary Chaffee among others. He graduated in April 2005 with a bachelor degree in Jazz Performance. In 2008, George was accepted at the Longy School of Music with a full scholarship from where he received a master’s degree in Modern American Music. During his graduate studies he studied privately with master drummer Bob Gullotti and bassist John Lockwood.
Currently George is attending Berklee College of Music’s graduate program Global Jazz with a full scholarship and is being mentored by jazz legends such as Danilo Perez, Joe Lovano and John Patitucci among others. At the institute George is exploring ways of introducing his Middle Eastern roots within a Jazz improvisational setting in the form of composition.