PPG Place

This year, we're dedicating PPG Place as our performance space for the great female performers of Pittsburgh's past, present, and future.

 

Dubravka Bencic

As a Postmodernist Composer, Improvisational Pianist & Experiential Performance Curator, Dubravka Bencic is dedicated to transmuting states of being through artistic expression. Her compositions venture into a myriad of shapes and forms taking the listener through a panoply of soundscapes.

Heather Kropf

Portland native Heather Kropf, now living in Pittsburgh, has forged a reputation as a talented and dedicated songwriter. With honeyed vocals reminiscent of early influenced Suzanne Vega and Joni Mitchell, she deftly weaves Americana and jazz influences into piano-based songs that capture the complexity of modern life and romance. Her live performances straddle a fine line between relaxing and mesmerizing.

 

She recently went to Nashville to collaborate with producer/multi-instrumentalist Lex Price (Mindy Smith, Neko Case, k.d. lang). Together, they created her fifth release Lights, named "a starkly beautiful album of heart-wrenching pop songs" and listed as a best album of 2017 by Pittsburgh's TribLIVE. Lights is also an honoree finalist for Top Entertainment + Media Projects of the Year (2018) by the Creative Industries Network and Festival.

Read more about Heather here

Heather Metz

As a Manager of Government Compliance at a Pittsburgh based health insurer, don't let Heather's day-job fool you.  This gal is full of spunk & her passion for the piano and music is what truly drives her.  

 

From the time she was a toddler, banging out classical and modern riffs on her Playskool mini piano, Heather has aspired to cultivate her musical skills throughout her life.  Despite a nearly 10 year hiatus from the art, she returned to the keyboard as an adult through more formal classical instruction, though unconventional-rock piano what Heather loves. Because "Classical music is just metal music before electricity.", right?

Molly Rae

Website

Music

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Enough by Molly Rae

RED by Molly Rae

Molly Rae cultivates genuine emotion from acoustic tones echoing into a voice that reaps honesty. The unmistakable power vocals of Molly Rae set over the driving chords of a piano translates intangible thoughts into something palpable that listeners can grasp onto and feel. Molly’s writing delves into the most vulnerable and intimate subjects and freely talks about them unapologetically in song, pulling inspiration from the ugliest parts of existence to create something beautiful. Her performance background has influenced her writing and the intention to leave audience members feeling empowered, giving way to light in an otherwise dimly lit space.

Molly attended Duquesne University for her Bachelor's of Music Degree in Vocal Performance and graduated in May of 2010 and also received her MBA in Sports, Arts and Entertainment Management from Point Park University in 2013. Rae’s most recent release in 2014, Light & Dark, recorded at Audible Images with Producer and Audio Engineer Stan Kleja is a full reel of musical stills capturing every emotional range in each track. Molly released her first full length album entitled Living the Dream in the summer of 2010, that was recorded with Producer and Audio Engineer Jesse Naus at Red Caiman Media and has performed, collaborated and appeared on projects with numerous local and well renowned artists including Jeremiah Clark, Anthony Rankin of The Love Elektrik, Euphonic Brew, Brooke Waggoner, and The City Dwelling Nature Seekers, to name a few. Molly recorded her first Album at Studio “L” with Rick Witowski in 2007, and two of Molly's original songs from her EP entitled Play Nice and Left for Dead, premiered in a National Documentary by Andrea Niapas entitled Mirror Images. Molly's moving lyrical content is often set to choreography that has been performed live at the Palace Theater and the New Hazlett, and Rae has also made appearances at the Three Rivers Regatta main stage. Molly’s activism in speaking out and up was recently featured by Pantsuit Nation, a nationally recognized democracy group, in a quick creation that garnered the attention of over 119K viewers. In addition, Rae has been actively performing for benefit events with the Voice of Westmoreland and will be taking the stage again at Duquesne University’s Genesius Theater in an effort to raise funds for the ACLU. Molly has also successfully raised over $2K through benefit concerts and events she’s hosted over the past two years in supporting human rights efforts in response to crisis. The artist is honored to continually be a part of Piano Day Pittsburgh, performing with the phenomenal group involved in this amazing event from the time of its proclamation as an official day and it’s first run on August 8th, 2017.

Nicole Rajasekera

Originally from North Carolina, Nicole Rajasekera relocated to Pittsburgh to attend Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) where she obtained her degree in Chemistry. During her technical studies there, she received training with internationally acclaimed pianist Donna Amato. 

Starting her career as a chemist at PPG after graduation, she now works as a sales engineer. But, she stays actively involved in piano and continues to refine her skill. She performed at Heinz Hall at Piano Day last year, has played at Kresge Hall in Pittsburgh and, most recently, Carnegie Hall in New York. 

She started piano at 8 years old and won state and regional competitions throughout her secondary education. She is classically trained and is partial to music from the early Romantic era, most specifically, Frédéric Chopin (and is the name of her Bichon Frise puppy!). 

In addition to her 15 years of piano experience, she also loves to travel and has been to 15 countries.

Amy Simpson

Amy Simpson is a pianist, teacher, and church musician residing in Murrysville. Ms. Simpson is currently a doctoral candidate in Piano Performance at West Virginia University, studying with Dr. Peter Amstutz. She holds an M.M. in Piano Performance from Carnegie Mellon University where she studied with Ralph Zitterbart. She also holds undergraduate degrees from Westminster College in Mathematics and Computer Science. 

 

Recently, Ms. Simpson was featured as a soloist performing Beethoven’s Emperor Piano Concerto with the Edgewood Symphony Orchestra. She was also featured last year with the West Virginia University Orchestra in Stravinsky’s Symphony in Three Movements. As chamber musician with tubist, Philip VanOuse, she was a winner of the Pittsburgh Concert Society competition. She has also performed solo and chamber music programs for Sewickley Presbyterian Church, Symphony East, Symphony South, and Chamber Music at Ghost Ranch. She has served as an accompanist for faculty recitals at Duquesne University, W&J University, and Slippery Rock University, and acted as an accompanist at Carnegie Mellon and Point Park Universities. She has been an Adjunct Professor at CCAC and West Virginia University. Ms. Simpson has also has maintained a private piano studio in Murrysville for 30 years, and is happy to have taught scores of talented students. 

 

Ms. Simpson has performed in master classes with Till Fellner, Earl Wild, John Browning, and Eunice Norton. Earl Wild complimented her performance of the Chopin Barcarolle indicating it was “very good for balance and voicing”. 

As a church musician, Ms. Simpson has served Newlonsburg Presbyterian, Sewickley Presbyterian, and other churches in a variety of capacities, including adult and children’s choir director, pianist, organist, and contemporary ensemble director. She has served as musician for two national church conferences at Ghost Ranch Conference Center. She has written and arranged a number of vocal and instrumental compositions, including an arrangement for the 2012 Presbyterian Church USA General Assembly, held in Pittsburgh. 

 

Ms. Simpson resides in Murrysville with her husband, Jim and two adult sons, Timothy and Stephen.

Nanette Kaplan Solomon

Nanette Kaplan Solomon, pianist and Professor Emerita of Music at Slippery Rock University, performs frequently as soloist and chamber musician. She was on the faculty of Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania from 1977-2014, where she coordinated the piano program, and taught music history, form and analysis, music skills, and women and music classes. She has presented lecture-recitals at the College Music Society national meetings in San Diego, Savannah, Cleveland, San Juan, Denver, Kansas City, Miami, Quebec City, San Antonio, Atlanta, Portland (OR), and Richmond (VA), and has performed at the international conferences in Berlin, Vienna, Kyoto, Limerick, Costa Rica, Madrid, Bangkok, Zagreb, Croatia, Seoul, Korea, and Buenos Aires, Argentina, Stockholm, Sweden and Helsinki, Finland.  Dr. Solomon’s involvement with the works of women composers has led to invitations to perform at several Feminist Theory and Music conferences, the American Music/American Women symposium in Boulder, Colorado, the Athena Festival in Murray, Kentucky, as well as at nine of the International Festivals of Women Composers held at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. She presented a lecture-recital of works by contemporary women at the MTNA national conference in Minneapolis in 2000. She has been a soloist with orchestras in Connecticut, New Jersey, Massachusetts, as well as featured artist with the Butler (PA), Youngstown and Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestras. Dr. Solomon has also performed at the Phillips Collection, the National Museum of Women in the Arts, and the French Embassy in Washington, D.C., Wigmore Hall in London, the Lincoln Center Library in New York City, and the Mozarteum in Salzburg, Austria.  She has been a guest artist at colleges and universities in Pennsylvania, California, New York, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Florida, Minnesota, and Maine.

 

Dr. Solomon’s numerous awards include winner of the Pittsburgh Concert Society auditions, winner of the French Embassy award from the French Piano Institute, a fellowship to the Berkshire Music Center at Tanglewood, semi-finalist in the University of Maryland International competition, and finalist in “Search for a Star” sponsored by the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and Marvin Hamlisch.
 

Read more about Nanette here .

Sofia Sunseri and Hands Off Choir

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