From Lara Downes: Billie Holiday and me


Saturday mornings, when I was a kid, were spent at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, with a rigorous schedule of what we called “Saturday Classes”: theory, solfege, sight reading, music history, chamber music, composition, and more. This regimen started shortly after I started piano lessons at 4, and by the time I was 7 those classes had prepared me to write an opera based on Charlotte’s Web, which got its first and only performance that year at the conservatory. And which was, by the way, the pinnacle of my career as a … [Read more...]

From Lara Downes: Success and Surprises

Christopher Lara convo Artist Sessions

[From Greg: Among much else, this is a killer guide to how to promote a concert in our new age, how to develop an audience. The old ways, as Lara notes, don't work in new situations. So we have to do something new. She does it!  [I'll add that I saw Chris O'Riley play the DC-area show on the tour Lara describes, and I loved it. He played his new Liszt album, and took Liszt where he belongs, way over the top. Most pianists tame Liszt, consciously or not. But not Chris! And, though he didn't say this publicly, he out-Liszts Liszt in his version … [Read more...]

From Lara Downes: New sheriff in town


On the musical frontier, all around the country, there's a new sheriff in town. Increasingly, many performing musicians, including several of my close friends and colleagues, are taking charge and instating a new order in the dual role of performing artist and concert presenter, in communities nationwide. People like cellist Zuill Bailey, who's building a nationwide franchise of imaginative chamber music festivals, transforming towns from El Paso, TX to Sitka, AK with a vision of bedrock-deep community engagement. Like pianist George Lepauw, … [Read more...]

From Lara Downes: Walking the walk

LD Artist Sessions

When I walked onstage at Yoshi’s San Francisco last Wednesday night, it was with a completely new version of butterflies in the stomach. This time, after a lifetime of going onstage as a concert pianist, I was going on as a concert presenter, welcoming the audience as Artistic Director to the very first program on my new series The Artist Sessions. I was launching the series with the West Coast release party for my new CD Exiles' Cafe, and I'd invited the genre-bending Quartet San Francisco as my guests, along with a co-host, Rik Malone from … [Read more...]

From Lara Downes: Letters from the front (part one)

korngold poss1

I have a personal/mission statement on my website, that says: Where I want to be is out here on the front lines making the world safe for classical music, one note at a time. True, every day. And out here on the front lines, life is fast and furious, and unpredictable. Sometimes very noisy. I was thinking about what to write about for Greg's blog today, and I thought that really I should write just about that. The sound and fury of the musician's life. Just the day to day, in all its beautiful, crazy-making complexities, in these … [Read more...]

From Lara Downes: Here at the Exiles’ Cafe

lara photo blog

[From Greg: I'm happy to introduce the first of our guest bloggers. Lara Downes seemed like a perfect choice, because she'd already emailed me about some classical CD covers she likes, and because the explosion of comments on her own CD image almost cried out for a response from her. I'm happy that she made one — in a very friendly, companionable way — and I'm delighted to think we might hear from her from time to time about all of her work. She's a fine example of an entrepreneurial classical musician.] Well, I've been enjoying the lively … [Read more...]