Franciscus-Guillielmus (Frans-Willem or François-Guillaume) Aerts received his first music lessons from the organist Anselmus Homans (1780-1830) in Meerhout. Later Aerts went to Paris, where he met the pianist Henri Herz and became one of his students. From 1837 until his death Aerts was Kapellmeister and organist of St Paul's church in Antwerp. In 1839 he was appointed by the Antwerp city council as singing teacher in the municipal school and subsequently, together with Corneel Schermers and Joseph Bessems he conceived a plan to found an 'Ecole Spéciale de Musique'. Upon approval by the city administration their 'Ecole de Musique de la Ville' was able to open its doors on 15 March 1844. Aerts mainly taught piano and organ there, but also solfège, music theory, harmony and basso continuo, counting among his pupils the young Jan Blockx. This music school was the direct predecessor of the 'Vlaemsche Muziekschool van Antwerpen', the Flemish Music School of Antwerp of which Peter Benoit became director in 1867, and which he later upgraded to Royal Conservatory.
In Antwerp Aerts was also concurrently a piano dealer, from 1851 onwards experimenting with building straight pianos with variable touch pressure. Pianos of his manufacturing were displayed at the World Exhibitions in London (1851) and Paris (1855 and 1862). Fétis, visiting the Great Exhibition in 1851 wrote about Aerts: M. Aertz [sic], whom I had the pleasure to see on several occasions at the Exhibition, seemed to me so satisfied with the straight piano he had put there, that what I could say about it wouldn't add anything to its jubilation.
As a composer Aerts is known for his Hulde aen den Erfprins (Homage to the Hereditary Prince), a cantata that was performed on 8 April and 4 September 1853 by the Antwerp singing society 'Voor Tael en Kunst' (For Language and Art) on the occasion of the coming of age of the crown prince.
His daughter Leonie Aerts became a celebrated virtuoso piano player, famous as a Liszt interpreter.
© Studiecentrum voor Vlaamse Muziek vzw - Annelies Focquaert (translation: Jo Sneppe)