Benefit Concert Guest Artists

Neighborhood Strings 10th Anniversary Benefit Concert Guest Artists

Simone Dinnerstein

Simone Dinnerstein is an American pianist. She lives in Brooklyn, New York with her husband, son and dog, less than a mile from the hospital in which she was born.

Simone has a distinctive musical voice. The Washington Post has called her “an artist of strikingly original ideas and irrefutable integrity.” She first came to wider public attention in 2007 through her recording of Bach’s Goldberg Variations, reflecting an aesthetic that was both deeply rooted in the score and profoundly idiosyncratic. She is, wrote The New York Times, “a unique voice in the forest of Bach interpretation.”

Since that recording, she has had a busy performing career. She has played with orchestras ranging from the New York Philharmonic and the Montreal Symphony Orchestra to the London Symphony Orchestra and the Orchestra Sinfonica Nazionale Rai. She has performed in venues from Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center to the Berlin Philharmonie, the Vienna Konzerthaus, the Seoul Arts Center and the Sydney Opera House. She has made ten albums, all of which topped the Billboard classical charts, with repertoire ranging from Beethoven to Ravel.

This season, Simone takes on a number of new artistic challenges. She gives the world premiere of The Eye Is the First Circle at Montclair State University, the first multi-media production she has conceived, created, and directed, which uses as source materials her father Simon Dinnerstein’s painting The Fulbright Triptych and Charles Ives’s Piano Sonata No. 2 (Concord). In addition, she premieres Richard Danielpour’s An American Mosaic, a tribute to those affected by the pandemic, in a performance on multiple pianos placed throughout Brooklyn’s Green-Wood Cemetery. She also joins Renée Fleming, the Emerson String Quartet, and Uma Thurman for performances of André Previn and Tom Stoppard’s Penelope at both Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.

From 2020 to 2022, Simone releases a trilogy of albums recorded at her home in Brooklyn during the pandemic. A Character of Quiet (Orange Mountain Music, 2020), featuring the music of Philip Glass and Schubert, was described by NPR as, “music that speaks to a sense of the world slowing down,” and by The New Yorker as, “a reminder that quiet can contain multitudes.” Richard Danielpour’s An American Mosaic (Supertrain Records, 2021), surpassed two million streams on Apple Music. The final installment in the trilogy, Undersong, will be released in January 2022 on Orange Mountain Music.

In recent years, Simone has created projects that express her broad musical interests. Following her recording of Mozart in Havana, she brought the Havana Lyceum Orchestra from Cuba to the United States for the very first time, raising the funding, booking the concerts, and organizing their housing and transport. Together, Simone and the orchestra played eleven concerts from Miami to Boston. Philip Glass composed his Piano Concerto No. 3 for Simone, co-commissioned by twelve American and Canadian orchestras. She collaborated with choreographer Pam Tanowitz to create New Work for Goldberg Variations, which was met with widespread critical acclaim. Working with Renée Fleming and the Emerson String Quartet, she premiered André Previn and Tom Stoppard’s Penelope at the Tanglewood, Ravinia and Aspen music festivals. Most recently, she created her own string ensemble, Baroklyn, which she directs from the keyboard. Their performance of Bach’s cantata Ich Habe Genug in March 2020 was the last concert she gave before New York City shut down.

Simone is committed to giving concerts in non-traditional venues and to audiences who don’t often hear classical music. For the last three decades, she has played concerts throughout the United States for the Piatigorsky Foundation, an organization dedicated to the widespread dissemination of classical music. It was for the Piatigorsky Foundation that she gave the first piano recital in the Louisiana state prison system at the Avoyelles Correctional Center. She has also performed at the Maryland Correctional Institution for Women in a concert organized by the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. Simone founded Neighborhood Classics in 2009, a concert series open to the public and hosted by New York City Public Schools to raise funds for their music education programs. She also created a program called Bachpacking during which she takes a digital keyboard to elementary school classrooms, helping young children get close to the music she loves. She is a committed supporter and proud alumna of Philadelphia’s Astral Artists, which supports young performers.

Simone counts herself fortunate to have studied with three unique artists: Solomon Mikowsky, Maria Curcio and Peter Serkin, very different musicians who shared the belief that playing the piano is a means to something greater. The Washington Post comments that “ultimately, it is Dinnerstein’s unreserved identification with every note she plays that makes her performance so spellbinding.” In a world where music is everywhere, she hopes that it can still be transformative.

Milad Yousufi photo

Milad Yousufi is a pianist, composer, conductor, poet, singer, painter, and calligrapher. Yousufi’s work is deeply inspired by his country and culture. Born in Afghanistan in 1995 during the civil war, he expressed an early interest in playing the piano. It was during this time that music was banned entirely by the Taliban.

After five years, the Taliban rule was lifted, the arts flourished in Afghanistan. Yousufi took advantage of every opportunity to learn and study music and art. By the age of 12, he was teaching painting and attended the one and only music school in Kabul. After three years of formal piano training, Yousufi was one of four students accepted into a music program in Denmark. He was also chosen to represent Afghanistan at various music festivals in The Netherlands, Belgium, Poland, and Germany. He placed third in the International Golden Key competition in Frankfurt, Germany.

Yousufi concentrated on teaching piano, theory, and a music notation program at the Afghanistan National Institute of Music after his return to Afghanistan. In 2011 The Afghan Youth Orchestra was formed. Yousufi was the pianist and then became the first Afghan conductor and arranged music for their performances. In 2013 the Afghan Youth Orchestra made a U.S. tour playing sold-out concerts in Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center, and New England Conservatory, where he performed as a pianist.

Upon moving to the United States, Yousufi was awarded a full scholarship to attend Mannes School of Music as an undergraduate and studied piano with the world-renowned pianist Simone Dinnerstein. Yousufi is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in composition under Dr. Dalit Warshaw’s mentorship at Brooklyn College.

Yousufi’s compositions have been commissioned by the New York Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra, Refugee Orchestra Project, Kronos Quartet, Music Worcester, the Terezin Music Foundation, Winsor Music, and Worcester Chamber Music Society. His works have premiered in some of the world’s finest concert halls, including Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall, Barbican Center in London, and Boston’s Symphony Hall.

Milad Yousufi serves on the board of directors of Musaics of the Bay and The VISION Collective. He is an ambassador for Arium TV and a faculty member at Brooklyn Conservatory of Music.

Milad Yousufi has a dream to impact the future of music and culture in Afghanistan.