Vilnai's musical journey owes to a unique heritage as a Russian-Romanian-Polish descendant raised in Jerusalem around a mix of contemporary and traditional Jewish and Arab music, with a soul for rock n'roll a BFA in jazz and an MM in concert composition. He pursued guitar studies at the New School Jazz and Contemporary Music Program in New York in 2000, where he graduated with honors in 2003, followed by composition studies at Brooklyn College where he received the John Cage Award for excellence in Composition.
Vilnai has performed with Matt Darriau's Paradox Trio, Aaron Alexander's Midrash Mish Mosh, Romashka, as well as other ensembles, and has shared the stage with diverse figures such as trumpeter Frank London, balafon player Famoro Dioubate and the Phoenix Symphony. He served as musical director of the off-Broadway show Nice Jewish Girls Gone Bad and as guitarist for several shows, including the cast album of Next Thing You Know. He has been commissioned to write works for the Metro Chamber Orchestra, Brandy Trio, ai ensemble, trombonist Jen Baker, trombonist David Whitwell and video artist Elizabeth Hamby. His compositions have been performed around the country, most notably by
CUNY’s CME, OMNI Ensemble and others. His 2011 release ‘Shakespeare Songs’, featuring the MIVOS quartet and singer Gelsey Bell was said by Lucid Culture to possess ‘creepy otherworldliness’, and ‘ghostly ambience’. Vilnai has led 'Vampire Suit', an improvising chamber quintet that combines his interests in Balkan music with contemporary, detailed chamber writing. The ensemble has released two recordings to positive reviews, said to have 'enduring beauty' (Cadence Magazine), called 'Bram Stoker's Transylvania jazz scene‘ (jazzreview.com), and said to posses an 'airy, festive, free-form atmosphere' (download.com, editor's pick).
In addition to his work as a performing and composing musician, Vilnai is an active music teacher, an activity he pursues out of conviction that arts education is a responsibility and a mission for any active artist. At the New School he studied music education as an elective. He teaches guitar, composition and theory privately to students of a wide gamut of ages and abilities, from beginning children to college students to amateur adults. From 2003-2006 he was guitar teacher for the non-profit Harmony program. In the years following his graduation from Brooklyn College he has substituted as a teacher there for both college and high school classes for topics ranging from theory, music history, music technology, introduction to music and more and has taught at Uncommon Schools and at NYC public schools through the Brooklyn Conservatory of Music. As a teacher, Vilnai draws on his knowledge of a plethora of styles and traditions to stimulate and engage students and to draw connections between disparate genres, highlighting the similar throb that lies in all artistic expression.