Mimi Stern-Wolfe, a pianist and conductor who specialised in music packages with a social-justice or political theme, most notably an annual live performance that featured music of composers misplaced to AIDS, died on June 21 at a care heart in Manhattan. She was 84.
Her daughter, Laura Wolfe, mentioned the trigger was issues of a sequence of strokes.
In the late 1970s Ms. Stern-Wolfe, a fixture on the Lower East Side of Manhattan for many of her grownup life, based Downtown Music Productions, which within the years since has introduced a variety of packages, together with performances by and for kids, eclectic reveals by the Downtown Chamber and Opera Players, and live shows that includes works by ladies, music of the Holocaust and extra. Ms. Stern-Wolfe performed and carried out at many of the performances, typically main from the piano bench.
In 1990, moved by the demise of her buddy Eric Benson, a tenor claimed by AIDS in 1988, Ms. Stern-Wolfe began the Benson AIDS Series, live shows held virtually yearly since then to, within the phrases of her group’s web site, “promote the work of gifted composers and musicians who are fighting H.I.V./AIDS and to preserve the creative legacy of those who have already died.”
In the early years, with the illness nonetheless defying remedy, the live shows have been charged with emotion; the viewers included individuals who have been visibly sick, emaciated and weeping because the music was performed. In later years, she considered the live shows extra as a approach to hold the music alive and to convey to a youthful era the trauma of these early years of the epidemic.
Rohan Spong, a documentary filmmaker, captured the preparation for the 2010 live performance in “All the Way Through Evening,” a movie launched in 2012.
“Mimi felt passionately that the wider community remember the talented music composers affected by H.I.V./AIDS in the early years of the pandemic,” Mr. Spong mentioned by e-mail, “many of whom were felled at young ages, and whom she had known personally.”
“As she did with so many other issues,” he added, “she was able to synthesize her humanist values with her love of music and her dedication to her community.” The music she introduced, he mentioned, “seemed to cross space and time, communicating the beauty of these men’s lives and the tragedy of their deaths with an immediacy that was felt by audiences over two decades later.”
Miriam Stern was born on May 27, 1937, in Brooklyn. Her father, Bernard, was a pharmacist, and her mom, Emma, was a homemaker. She grew up within the Ozone Park neighborhood of Queens and within the Rockaways. Her dad and mom have been each immigrants — her mom, she mentioned, had come from Chernobyl, in Soviet Ukraine — and so they stored a full of life family, which had an impact on younger Mimi.
“They were not activists; they were sympathizers,” she mentioned in a 2015 interview with the nonprofit group Labor Arts, which named her a recipient of the Clara Lemlich Award for social activism that yr. “They were Jewish immigrant sympathizers and had friends who were both Zionists and Communists, and they all used to come to birthday parties and stuff, and argue. A lot. And I remember being kind of fascinated by that when I was a child.”
By age 6 she was taking piano classes. She graduated from the High School of Performing Arts in 1954, earned a bachelor’s diploma in music at Queens College in 1958 and acquired a grasp’s diploma in music and piano efficiency at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston in 1961. She lived and studied in Paris for a time earlier than deciding on the Lower East Side.
She had two passions, as she put it: classical music and “my political proclivities.” But she discovered that they not often overlapped; individuals who have been passionate in regards to the causes she cared about didn’t usually have a lot use for classical music.
“What I wanted to do with my music was to find a way to synthesize my political ideas and my music,” she mentioned.
Ms. Stern-Wolfe in her condominium on the Lower East Side of Manhattan in 2013. Most of the live shows she introduced occurred in that neighborhood or close by. Credit…Michael Nagle for The New York Times
And so she organized live shows like “War and Pieces,” that includes music highlighting the results of conflict. She introduced live shows dedicated to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Langston Hughes and Harriet Tubman. After the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations of 2011, she organized a live performance of protest songs.
Other packages have been extra whimsical, like a 1987 live performance titled “Notes From the Underground: Music as Satire.” And then there was “A Toast to the Steins,” with music by Jule Styne and Leonard Bernstein and a poem by Gertrude Stein set to music.
Ms. Stern-Wolfe’s marriage to Robert Wolfe in 1961 resulted in divorce. In addition to her daughter, a singer-songwriter and youngster of that marriage, she is survived by her companion of 30 years, the poet Ilsa Gilbert, and a grandson.
Although Ms. Stern-Wolfe carried out in lots of locations, most of her productions have been staged on the Lower East Side or in surrounding neighborhoods, by selection. She needed to make classical music and different kinds accessible to the individuals who have been her neighbors.
“I didn’t want to go to the Upper West Side every time I went to a concert,” she mentioned in a 2006 interview, “so I made a vow to bring the music down here. If I’d lived uptown, life would’ve been very different. Perhaps I’d have a job with City Opera.”