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News : Entertainment Oct 11, 2012 - 5:35:19 PM

Internationally celebrated concert pianist to play tonight

By National MS Society, Connecticut Chapter

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Internationally acclaimed concert pianist Polina Bespalko and local rising star Jonathan Dandrow, a native of Cheshire, will perform Thursday, Oct. 11, at Cheshire Academy in Cheshire. Dandrow’s mother, Jeanne, was diagnosed two years ago with multiple sclerosis, a potentially debilitating disease. The concert will benefit the National MS Society, Connecticut Chapter. (contributed photo)
CHESHIRE, CT - Internationally renowned concert pianist Polina Bespalko will perform Thursday, Oct. 11, at Cheshire Academy in Cheshire. The concert, MS Keys To A Cure, hosted by budding concert pianist Jonathan Dandrow, 23, of Cheshire, will benefit the National MS Society, Connecticut Chapter, and those it serves.

Described by acclaimed Russian pianist Nikolai Petrov as an “amazing virtuoso,” Bespalko debuted in her first public performance in her native Russia at age 8. A student at Moscow Central Music School, she appeared regularly at some of Russia’s most prestigious venues, including Bolshoi Hall. At just 13, Bespalko played for the Orthodox Patriarch Alexy II. She went on to attend Tchaikovsky Moscow State Conservatory, where she was personally requested by the Minister of Culture to perform in every major cultural center and arts festival in the region.

Bespalko made her American debut in 1998 as a member of the Russian-U.S. Cultural Music Exchange. She performed at Cincinnati’s Matinee Musicale, The Philips Collection in Washington D. C., and the 2002 Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City, Utah.

While in the U.S., Bespalko earned an Artist Diploma at the University of Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music in Cincinnati, Ohio. She will also soon complete her Doctor of Musical Arts program at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music. Bespalko has won many awards, including the Grand Prix in the Rachmaninov Concerto competition in Catania, Sicily, and the Silver Medal in the 2001 Wideman International Piano Competition in Louisiana. She has awards from the 2005 World Piano Competition in Cincinnati as well as the 2008 Iowa International Piano Competition.

Bespalko serves as coordinator of the piano department at Xavier University in Cincinnati, but she continues to perform throughout the U.S. and abroad, including her homeland, Russia. At MS Keys To A Cure, Bespalko will perform a program of works by Franz Liszt, including “Sponsalizio,” the “Dante Sonata,” “A la Chapelle Sixtine,” and the landmark “Piano Sonata in B Minor.”

A recent graduate of Xavier University, Jonathan Dandrow, a rising star in his own right, will also perform. Dandrow studied under Bespalko, making his orchestral debut in 2011 on a multi-state tour as the piano soloist in George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue.” While at Xavier, Dandrow earned the Xavier University Music Award, a prestigious award given to the music major who has demonstrated the highest level of musical and academic achievement.

In 2010, Dandrow’s mother, Jeanne, began experiencing baffling symptoms that seemed to come and go without warning. After numerous visits to many different specialists and even a misdiagnosis, Dandrow’s mother was eventually diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, a potentially debilitating disease.

More than 6,000 Connecticut residents, like Jeanne Dandrow, battle multiple sclerosis. Symptoms can include numbness and tingling in the limbs, difficulties with speech and vision and, in some severe cases, complete paralysis. There is no cure for multiple sclerosis. Events, such as MS Keys To A Cure, ensure ongoing scientific research to find better treatments and a cure. Funds raised also provide for the continuation of vital programs and services offered by the National MS Society, Connecticut Chapter, to people living with MS.

“My mother’s courageous battle against multiple sclerosis has inspired me to get involved,” said Dandrow, who graduated from Cheshire High School, in Cheshire. “MS Keys To A Cure enables me to unite my passion for music with my commitment to help fund a cure. I am delighted to be able to introduce to Connecticut my teacher, mentor and friend, Polina Bespalko.”

Dandrow, who grew up in Cheshire and whose family still resides in there, will perform “Bach/Busoni chaconne in D Minor,” a violin work by Johann Sebastian Bach, which was later transcribed by Ferruccio Busoni for piano.

News 8 health reporter Jocelyn Maminta will serve as mistress of ceremonies. The concert will feature hors d’eoeuvres and pastries, drawings for gift baskets and prizes, an auction for a weeklong stay at a beach house located in Old Lyme and much more. Superbly Sweet, of Southington, will feature a custom-designed cake and offer an array of cookies and other confectionary delights. Seating is limited. Registration is requested and available online at There is a $40 registration fee for adults; students 18 and under, can register for $20. The event will take place Thursday, Oct. 11, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Cheshire Academy, 10 Main Str., Cheshire.

“Before meeting Jonathan’s mother Jeanne, I didn’t know much about multiple sclerosis and its effects,” said Polina Bespalko, who will perform in honor of Jeanne Dandrow and the many others battling MS. “After learning more about MS from both Jeanne and Jonathan, I felt moved to help by offering to perform for the benefit of those living in the face of this disease.”

MS Keys To A Cure sponsors include Lisa’s Gourmet Baskets, of Cheshire, and Superbly Sweet, of Southington. Jonathan Dandrow’s concert, MS Keys To A Cure, is an example of Do It Yourself Fundraising. To register for the concert, visit For more information on multiple sclerosis and the many ways to help make a difference, visit

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