Among the foremost American pianists of her generation, Lara Downes is a trailblazer dedicated to expanding the resonance and relevance of American music for all audiences, drawing inspiration from the legacies of history, family, and collective memory to explore her own mixed-race heritage as an interpreter of diverse American traditions.
Talkback with Helga Davis / Stay for a conversation with Lara Downes immediately following the concert.
“Expect glamour with substance.” – WQXR
Morton Gould: American Caprice
Dana Suesse: American Nocturne
Florence Price: Fantasie Nègre No. 1
Nathaniel Dett: The Place Where the Rainbow Ends from Magnolia Suite
Samuel Coleridge-Taylor: Deep River
Margaret Bonds: Troubled Water
Scott Joplin: Weeping Willow; Peacherine Rag; Solace; Maple Leaf Rag
George Gershwin: Rhapsody in Blue
Pianist Lara Downes has been called “an explorer whose imagination is fired by bringing notice to the underrepresented and forgotten” (The Log Journal). An iconoclast and trailblazer, her dynamic work as a sought-after performer, Billboard chart-topping recording artist, producer, curator, activist, and arts advocate position her as a cultural visionary on the national arts scene.
Downes’ musical roadmap seeks inspiration from the legacies of history, family, and collective memory, excavating the broad landscape of American music to create a series of acclaimed performance and recording projects that serve as gathering spaces for her listeners to find common ground and shared experience.
Downes is the creator and curator of Rising Sun Music, a recording series that sheds light on the music and stories of Black composers over the past 200 years, featuring a wide range of leading instrumentalists and vocalists. Her latest recording release, Reflections: Scott Joplin Reconsidered, showcases the stylistic breadth of Joplin’s music from his iconic piano rags to his songs, dances, and opera. Downes is also host of the NPR Music video interview series AMPLIFY with Lara Downes, and evening host and Resident Artist at KDFC, the classical radio station of San Francisco’s Bay Area. She serves as the inaugural Artist Citizen in Residence for the Manhattan School of Music, and is a Fellow of the Loghaven Artist Residency. Her work has been supported by the Mellon Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Sphinx Organization, the Classical Recording Foundation Award, the University of California Innovator of the Year Award, and the Center for Cultural Innovation, among others.
Downes’ artistry has been called “a musical ray of hope” by NBC News, “luscious, moody, and dreamy” by The New York Times, and “addicting” by The Huffington Post. She is equally at home on major stages including the Kennedy Center, Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Boston Symphony Hall, the Ravinia Festival, Tanglewood, and Washington Performing Arts, and in clubs and intimate venues including Joe’s Pub, National Sawdust, Yoshi’s, and Le Poisson Rouge.
Downes’ fierce commitment to activism and advocacy sees her working with organizations including the ACLU, Feeding America, the Lower Eastside Girls Club, the Sphinx Organization, and Watts Learning Center. She is an Artist Ambassador for Headcount, a non-partisan organization that uses the power of music to register voters and promote participation in democracy.
To learn more about Lara Downes, please visit her website.
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