In a concert room in New York City’s funky East Village neighborhood, a hushed audience admires performances of well-respected classical compositions. But Bach and Schubert are nowhere to be heard. Most of the evening’s artists wrote in the era of MTV—they are contemporary composers who are living with, or have died from, AIDS. Pianist and conductor Mimi Stern-Wolfe started the annual Benson AIDS series in 1990. “The arts lost so many performers and creators,” she says. “I wanted to let [their] music live on.” Stern-Wolfe has released Sudden Sunsets: Highlights of the Benson AIDS Series (, $15), featuring ten composers who died in the ’80s and ’90s, such as Lee Gannon and Chris DeBlasio. “It brings the creations of all these guys who died in their thirties before the world,” she says. “Think of what they could have done.”