The American pianist, Lara Downes, began her piano studies at age five at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. She pursued her advanced studies in Europe at the Hochschule for Music in Vienna with Hans Graf and in the Concert Class of Rudolf Buchbinder at the Music Academy in Basel, and with John Perry and Lilian Kallir in the USA.
Since making noteworthy debuts in 1988 at both the Queen Elizabeth Hall in London, the Vienna Konzerthaus as soloist with the Wiener Kammerorchester and the Salle Gaveau Paris, Lara Downes has performed throughout Europe and the USA, making her New York debut at Weill Recital Hall, Carnegie Hall in 1995. Recent appearances have included recitals from the Caramoor Center for Music and the Arts to the Festival International de Musica in Costa Rica. Highlights of the 2000-2001 season included performances at the Edgewise Festival in California with the Kronos Quartet and Philip Glass, the world premiere of a new solo concert work by legendary jazz composer Benny Golson at New York’s Lincoln Center, and a featured appearance on National Public Radio’s Performance Today. She has also appeared at the Kennedy Center, the American Academy Rome, San Francisco Performances, the University of Vermont Lane Series, the Montreal Chamber Music Festival, the El Paso Pro Musica Festival, and the University of Washington World Series, among many others.
Lara Downes has attracted attention as one of the most exciting and communicative young pianists of today's generation,. A captivating presence both on and offstage, critically acclaimed Steinway Concert Artist she is redefining the solo recital format with visionary, cutting-edge performances at prestigious concert venues worldwide. Lauded by NPR as "a delightful artist with a unique blend of musicianship and showmanship" and praised by the Washington Post for her stunning performances "rendered with drama and nuance," Lara presents the piano repertoire - from iconic favorites to newly commissioned works - in new ways that bridge musical tastes, genres and audiences.
Lara Downes’ unique performance style, praised as “a voyage of discovery” (Sacramento Bee), infuses repertoire both iconic and unfamiliar with passion, profound musicality, intellectual insight and humor. Her current recital projects include THE AMERICANS, “an American-vernacular celebration, rendered with finesse” (Seattle Times); LONG TIME COMING, a tribute to the musical legacy of Duke Ellington; DIASPORA, a recital of music inspired by the experience of exile; and 13 WAYS OF LOOKING AT THE GOLDBERG, a set of 13 new variations reimagining J.S. Bach’s magnificent Goldberg Variations (BWV 988). Her diverse performance works have received support from the NEA American Masterpieces program, the Barlow Endowment, and American Public Media’s Classical Music Initiative.
Lara Downes’ chamber music appearances include collaborations with other noted soloists and ensembles, including violinists Rachel Barton Pine and Lara St. John, cellists Zuill Bailey and Denis Brott, the Miami String Quartet and Alexander String Quartet, and the Brubeck Institute Jazz Quintet. Commissions and premieres of new works for Lara have come from composers Aaron Jay Kernis, David Sanford, Benny Golson, Eve Beglarian and Dan Coleman. She has worked across disciplines with collaborators including former U.S. Poet Laureate Rita Dove, choreographer David Grenke, video artist Glenda Drew and director/choreographer Mindy Cooper.
In addition to the excitement Lara brings to the concert stage, her commercial recordings have met with tremendous critical and popular acclaim. Her debut CD, “Invitation to the Dance”, was called "a magical little recording" by NPR, and her second release, “American Ballads”, was ranked by Amazon.com among the four best recordings of American music ever made. Her most recent recording, “Dream of Me”, was praised for "exquisite sensitivity" by American Record Guide. Ian addition, she has been heard on NPR's Performance Today, WNYC's New Sounds, and WBGO's Jazz Set. She will be featured in an upcoming documentary produced by WQXR, due out in 2011.
Lara Doiwnes' busy performance career is strongly impacted by her commitment to expanding and developing new audiences for the arts. She has served as director of UC Davis ArtsBridge since 2003. Since 2004 she is Artist in Residence at the Robert and Margrit Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts at UC Davis, where she is strongly committed to introducing the arts music to K-12 students through her performance work, presenting a full range of outreach activities ranging from advanced master-classes to introductory K-12 programs in conjunction with her concert appearances. She is the founder and artistic director of the Mondavi Center Young Artists Competition, host and co-curator of the Studio Classics series, and the founder and President of the 88 Keys Foundation, a non-profit organization that fosters opportunities for music experiences and learning in America's public schools and provides pianos through private donations to K-12 public schools.
Lara Downes is a Steinway Artist.