Having completed his basic musical studies with Claude Coppens and Godfried-Willem Raes at the Royal Conservatory of Ghent in Belgium, Luk Vaes took lessons with Yvonne Loriod and Olivier Messiaen in France and went to Cologne for post-graduate study under Aloys Kontarsky. In 1990 he won a special Fulbright scholarship to study American piano literature with Yvar Mikhashoff at Buffalo's State University of New York.
He became first prize winner of the international competitions "Tenuto", "Orpheus" and "New Music for New Pianist", was awarded the Artistic Promotion Prize for the best interpretation of Belgian music. In 1991 he won the Cameron Baird Competition and a year later he received the Darmstädter Stipendium Preis.
Luk Vaes worked on a personal level with composers such as Earle Brown, Mauricio Kagel, Lou Harrison, Frederic Rzewski, Ned Rorem, George Crumb, Kevin Volans, Helmut Lachenmann, John Cage, Edison Denisow. He made numerous recordings for television and radio both in Europe and in the USA and played solo concerts at such renowned venues and festivals as the Concertgebouw Amsterdam, Philharmonie Keulen, Tage für Neue Musik Zürich, Berlin Biënale, Warsaw Autumn, Klavier Festival Rurh, Mozarteum Salzburg, Almeida Festival London, Ijsbreker Amsterdam. As well as appearing in concert series in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Paris, Rome, Luk Vaes gave master classes in Vienna, Salzburg, Sienna, Chicago, New York, Gent, Berlin, The Hague, etc.
As a freelance organizer he has conceived and co-ordinated concerts and festivals in Ghent, Brussels, Toronto, New York and Chicago. He was appointed musical director of the "Week of Contemporary Music" (1992) and became production director of the 1993 incarnation of the North American New Music Festival. He was director of the Belgian new music ensemble Champ d'Action and founded and directed the Flemish part of the international November Music festival organization. Besides being invited as a member of the jury of international competitions, Luk Vaes has written and produced programs for the Belgian Radio (Ravel according to Ravel, Piano works by Cowell) and recorded CD's for the New York based label Mode Records, the German Winter&Winter catalogue and for the Belgian recording centre Steurbaut. His Kagel-CD (together with Teodoro Anzelotti) was awarded nine international prizes, amongst which "CD of the year" by the English magazine 'Wire' and 'Choc' by 'Le Monde de la Musique'.
His repertoire contains not only 'classics' from the traditional piano literature and the major works and styles of the 20th century music but also the complete works by Mauricio Kagel, programs presenting New Music of the Russian Commonwealth, musical theatre, Post Modernism, an 8 hour marathon of American music, etc.
Current research projects at the Orpheus Instituut and the Royal Conservatory of The Hague include the aural perception of the ‘cluster’, extended techniques in new piano repertoire for children, the impossible tempo in the second piano sonata by Robert Schumann, and the large-scale project on the performance practice legacy of post-WWII experimental music.
His docARTES doctoral defense took place on December 22, 2009 at Leiden University.