Lara is joining KUSC’s digital team in Los Angeles as Resident Artist where she will be a vibrant creative force in digital productions. She will offer audiences new and exciting moments of discovery.
Pianist Lara Downes is a sought-after performer, Billboard Chart-topping recording artist, producer, curator, activist, and arts advocate. Her dynamic work positions her as a cultural visionary on the national arts scene. Lara’s 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.
Q&A With Lara Downes
Q: What was your “Love at First Listen”?
A: My own first touches on the piano keyboard! I fell in love with the sound of the instrument when I was about 3 years old, and I’ve never looked back. My very first clear memory is at the piano, in my first baby music class…the teacher was showing me something at the keyboard and one of the other kids was playing around on the floor and distracting the teacher, and I remember being so bewildered that that little boy didn’t want to pay attention to the music! And then as I started lessons, every new piece of music I was assigned was a thrilling opportunity to enter a new world. I’m afraid I’ve fallen in love way too many times to count!
Q: What has been your go-to quarantine activity to pass the time?
A: Making music! I’ve put out four albums in the last twelve months (Some Of These Days; Florence Price Piano Discoveries; The Bedtime Sessions; and Remember Me To Harlem)!! It’s been a whirlwind actually, which is good because I need to be busy.
Q: Favorite dish to cook?
A: My husband is the chef in our house, but I’m the baker. I love to fill the house with the smell of something sweet in the oven. And I do actually have the elusive perfect chocolate chip cookie recipe.
Q: What’s your favorite snack?
A: Black licorice, and anything with cheese powder!
Q: Favorite composers?
A: Robert and Clara Schumann – their music speaks to the poet and the romantic in me. My recording For Love Of You was a beautiful opportunity to bring them together again, and to celebrate their intense creative partnership. It was also the only one of my albums that I’ve recorded here in California! We recorded it at Skywalker Sound in Marin County, with the San Francisco Ballet Orchestra. And maybe that brought me hometown good luck, because the album spent several weeks at #1 on the Billboard Chart! Duke Ellington – for all the obvious reasons, and because he said it best: “There are simply two kinds of music, good music and the other kind.” He meant that music should exist without categories or definitions, and I live by that vision. And Florence Price, a composer whose work I’ve been performing for many years, whose musical voice expresses so much beauty, resilience, determination and authenticity.
Q: Favorite non-classical musician?
A: Nina Simone, always and forever. But you know, she was a classical pianist too!
Q: Favorite quote?
A: “Perhaps the mission of an artist is to interpret beauty to people – the beauty within themselves” – Langston Hughes
Q: What do you see as the future for radio?
A: The beauty of radio is the breadth and depth of the community it can build. Radio can catch you with a moment of music that you hear passing by, and make you stop to listen. It can change your day and change your life. The relationships we have with the voices and music we hear on the air are profound and meaningful, and they can be an incredible source of comfort and connection. I see the flow between the airwaves and the digital space as a kind of circular perpetual motion. We can create new dimensions around the music, start conversations, share stories and ideas, get to know each other in a multi-layered way. I’m so excited to take on the role of Resident Artist for KDFC and KUSC, to be part of defining a new era in making classical music and the arts a vital part of peoples’ lives all over California.