• Lara Downes, piano
    Julia Torgovitskaya
Southwestern University’s Sarofim School of Fine Arts’ Music Department is pleased to welcome Lara Downes to the Alma Thomas Theater. Program can be found here.

An iconoclastic pianist whose artistry has been called “luscious, moody and dreamy” by The New York Times and “ravishing” by Fanfare Magazine, Lara Downes takes inspiration where she finds it, going beyond labels like “classical” or “eclectic” to make music that is timeless and timely, starts conversations, and resonates with the world we live in. She engages audiences of all ages with her charismatic presence, intellectual curiosity, and masterful command of her artistic voice. She is a trailblazer onstage and off. She is a communicator who understands that music is a dialogue between artist and audience, as life is a balance between speaking and listening, giving and receiving.

Not surprisingly, Lara is comfortable in a diverse range of venues, from Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center to Le Poisson Rouge (NYC) and Yoshi’s (SF). Her personal journey from student (trained by Hans Graf and Rudolph Buchbinder) to artist has followed a roadmap that seeks inspiration in unexpected places, drawing on the legacies of family, history, art and culture to form an artistic vision that in turn inspires her audiences with a unique style that the Huffington Post has called “addicting - Downes plays with an open, honest heart.”

Born in San Francisco and raised in Europe, Downes’ interest in connecting music to a wide and inclusive breadth of human experience mines her own mixed African American and Eastern European background and her peripatetic upbringing. Her newest chart-topping release, America Again (Sono Luminus, 2016) was selected by NPR as one of “10 Albums that Saved 2016”, and hailed as “a balm for a country riven by disunion” by the Boston Globe. The recording, her tenth solo release, is in many ways the coming-of-age memoir of an artist who has found her own way and carved her own path through American music. Lara takes inspiration from the musicians that inspire her – from Leonard Bernstein to Nina Simone – to express the diversity of American history and American dreams. In her own words: “I’ve traveled all around this country and played for audiences in small towns and big cities. I’ve learned that my music is a bridge to unexpected friendships with people who come from very different versions of America than my own. There is no such thing as a typical American life, and there are millions of American stories. American music has a complicated history, full of contrasts and contradictions, just like my own, and I’ve learned that what is most beautiful about me comes down to my contradictions and contrasts.”

A laureate of the prestigious Sphinx Organization Medal of Excellence, Lara has been recognized as a leader in expanding the reach of the arts, as a performer, an entrepreneur, and a cultural visionary. She enjoys creative collaborations with a range of leading artists, from cellist Yo-Yo Ma to former U.S. Poet Laureate Rita Dove, and her partnerships with prominent composers span genres and generations to bring significant new contributions to the 21st Century repertoire.

Lara’s essays and memoirs have been published in The Rumpus, Huffington Post, The Establishment, Readers Digest, Listen Magazine, and other national outlets. Her music is available on over 200 digital platforms throughout the world and her performances on YouTube have attracted a cult-like following. She is a favorite of national radio audiences, heard on NPR Music, Sirius XM, American Public Media’s Performance Today and Marketplace, and over 100 public radio affiliates nationwide.

When not on the road recording or performing, Lara serves as Artist in Residence at the Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts, UC Davis, where she mentors the next generation of young musicians as Director of the Mondavi Center National Young Artists Program. She is a Steinway Artist.



March 6, 2018

7:30PM | Alma Thomas Theater


TICKETS GO ON SALE July 17, 2017

Adults: $12.00
Seniors Over 63: $10.00
Students: $5.00 with identification

For more information and to purchase tickets, please click here.