updated 02/16/2004 AT 01:00 AM EST
•originally published 02/16/2004 AT 01:00 AM EST
HOMETOWN Hummar, Jordan
MISSION Playing for peace
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.
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.
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."