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Juilliard Alumni Visits

28 February 2017

  • juilliard alumni

BIS Abu Dhabi are thrilled to be welcoming two Juilliard Alumni artists, Abby Gerdts (an actress) and Dr. Benal Tanrısever Simsek (a pianist), to the school on Monday 6th March. Students will have the opportunity to be involved in an interactive performance assembly with the artists, and several students will be participating in smaller Drama and/or Piano workshops.

Abby Gerdts is an actress, writer, and teaching artist from New York City. She is a co-founder and former Program Director of Artists Striving to End Poverty (ASTEP), a non-profit organization that provides arts education and empowerment programs for under-served youth around the world. Through her work at ASTEP, Abby trained and collaborated with hundreds of artists, creating programming for communities with little access to the arts. Abby is an arts education and applied theatre consultant currently working on projects with the US ARMY’s Civil Affairs branch, Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, Bard College, and UNHCR. Since 1999, Abby has helped to cultivate arts programs, performances, and training programs for students of all ages in the United States, India, South Africa, the Dominican Republic, Turkey, China, and Ecuador.

Dr. Benal Tanrısever Simsek began her musical education with Prof. Ferdi Statzer at the İstanbul Conservatory. She received a scholarship to continue her work at The Juilliard School of Music and became the first student to complete her undergraduate and graduate studies in four years. Following her outstanding achievement, she was accepted to the Professional Studies Program. She performed in recitals and played as soloist with orchestras in major concert halls around the world. Dr. Benal received the “Women of Outstanding Achievement Award” in the U.S.A and her concert was broadcast live by 130 radio stations. Her personal life as a concert pianist from Turkey, coming from New York and living in Berlin was the subject of a documentary by The German television RIAS. Her achievements were recognized and written about in the German Encyclopaedia of Music.

Under the auspices of the President, and the support of the Ministry of Culture, she was the first artist to perform other than conventional concert halls. She was a pioneer in organizing open-air classical music concert in the stone mines on the outskirts of Ankara. That was the first time where diverse audience from all backgrounds came together and listened to classical music.