Slope pianist goes Bach to the future

Bach in black: Park Slope pianist Simone Dinnerstein has been spreading the good word of classical music, with her “Bachpacking” elementary school tour, a new album, and a performance on Jan. 11.
Photo by Lisa Marie Mazzucco

Park Slope pianist Simone Dinnerstein is taking New York City Bach to school.

The accomplished ivory-tinkler is already well-known in the neighborhood for the regular “Neighborhood Classics” concert series she hosts at PS 321. But this year, Dinnerstein has been taking her love of classical music well beyond Seventh Avenue, with a tour of 10 elementary schools all around the city.

“Schools are wonderful places to expose children to this beautiful art form,” said Dinnerstein, whose mission was to get youngsters excited about Johann Sebastian Bach’s “Inventions and Sinfonias” pieces. “There really isn’t any equivalent to this kind of music in contemporary popular music.”

During Dinnerstein’s two-week tour — which she dubbed “Bachpacking” — the pianist packed up her digital keyboard and introduced Bach’s music to area students. In a recent class at UFT Charter School in East New York, the kids sat mesmerized by how fast Dinnerstein’s hands moved as she played Bach’s “Inventions” — exercises he wrote in 1723 to teach his own students how to play.

“The presentations were fairly interactive and I had the kids sing and come to the keyboard,” said Dinnerstein, who also had the students sing different songs simultaneously to understand how the left and right hands work together on the keys in concert.

“This led into me playing more Bach, and by that point they had already started to draw connections between music they knew and the music I played for them,” she said.

Dinnerstein’s efforts to make the hits of the 18th-century cool again appear to have been a success — several students have since sent her hand-written thank-you notes, she said.

The keen keyboardist is also endeavoring to make adult fans fall in love with the 30 short pieces that make up “Inventions and Sinfonias,” which she recently recorded onto her new album, “J.S. Bach: Inventions & Sinfonias,” and will perform at a “Neighborhood Classics” concert on Feb. 11.

Dinnerstein hopes listeners will discover what her Bachpacking pupils did — that these almost 300-year-old pieces still have relevance today.

“Bach’s pieces are all about texture — like complex tapestries, and his music has a timelessness about it,” she said. “It could have been written in the Baroque period, the Romantic period, or today.”

Simone Dinnerstein performs at “Neighborhood Classics” at PS 321 [180 Seventh Ave. between First and Second streets in Park Slope, (718) 499–2412, www.neighborhoodclassics.com]. Feb. 11 at 7 pm. $15.

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