February 16, 2004 12:00 PM

AGE 23

HOMETOWN Hummar, Jordan

MISSION Playing for peace

•Goodwill gesture:

A classically trained pianist and composer who has played for Jordan’s Queen Noor and Nelson Mandela, Dirani was scheduled to perform at a friend’s Maine home on 9/11. Weeks after the tragedy, he went ahead with a concert—and was moved by the warm reception. “I am an Arab and a Muslim. I was sharing pain and sorrow with the people through my music,” he says.

•Grand tour:

Sponsored by Arab Americans, schools and churches, Dirani has since played hundreds of “house concerts” in towns across America to help bridge the gap between cultures.

•Piano prodigy:

Dirani began composing as a child. “I’d tell him, ‘Go do something like other kids,'” says father Ziad, an architect. “He’d say, ‘Dad, later. I have to finish this.'”

•Today the living room, tomorrow the Grammys:

Last year Dirani’s debut CD, Zade, reached No. 13 on Billboard’s New Age chart. He plans to continue his American odyssey. “It’s a small act of hope,” he says. “Now when I’m asked about Jordan and America, it’s like talking about two daughters. I can’t pick a favorite.”

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