Saturday, October 17, 2020

John Malveaux: Lara Downes and NPR Music Announce Amplify With Lara Downes, A New Video Conversation Series With Leading Black Musicians

The bi-weekly series, created and hosted by Downes, will offer intimate, personal
conversations with visionary artists of color making art that is both in, and of,
this time of transformation, turmoil, representation and reflection
Guests to include Rhiannon Giddens, Anthony McGill, Helga Davis,
Davóne Tines, and Sheku Kanneh-Mason and family
Series premieres Saturday, October 17 on NPR
and NPR’s YouTube and social media platforms

OCTOBER 16, 2020 - NPR Music and Lara Downes announce the launch of AMPLIFY With
Lara Downes, a new bi-weekly series of intimate and deeply personal video conversations with
visionary Black musicians who are shaping the present and future of the art form, premiering
Saturday, October 17 on, YouTube, and social media platforms.
Created and hosted by pianist and artist/citizen Lara Downes, and co-produced by NPR Music’s
Tom Huizenga, this series invites viewers to experience raw, revealing, and open-hearted
conversations reflecting on how artists are responding and creating in this time of profound
challenge and change. Downes and her guests—initially including MacArthur Fellow vocalist
and multi-instrumentalist Rhiannon Giddens, 2020 Avery Fisher Prize-winning clarinetist
Anthony McGill, multidisciplinary artist Helga Davis, and boundary-breaking vocalist Davóne
Tines, with other guests such as Sheku Kanneh-Mason and family to follow—connect and
reflect on highly relevant themes ranging from music and mission, legacy and lineage, to
transformation and change.

Says Downes of the series: “In this time of our collective reckoning about historical inequities in
American life and art, I’m excited to amplify the voices of extraordinary artists of color, shining a
bright light on a diverse and rich future that is, in the words of James Weldon Johnson, ‘full of
the hope that the present has brought us.’”

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, a Billboard Chart-topping recording artist, a
producer, curator, activist and arts advocate positions 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 inaugural Artist Citizen in Residence for the Manhattan School of Music, as well
as 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 clubs
and intimate venues including Joe’s Pub, National Sawdust, Yoshi’s, and Le Poisson Rouge.
Downes’ fierce commitment to activism and advocacy see her working with organizations
including Feeding America, the ACLU, 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

For more than a decade, NPR Music's robust music journalism and award-winning original video
programming has delighted millions of music fans from all genres. NPR Music collaborates with
NPR's news magazines, public radio Member stations and the passionate listener community to
celebrate exceptional music and discover emerging artists. Visit to find the
complete Tiny Desk concert series, music feature stories, extensive archives of performances,
interviews and music reviews. Connect with NPR Music on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

AMPLIFY With Lara Downes
Every other Saturday on, YouTube, and social media platforms

Schedule of Initial Guests

October 17:
Rhiannon Giddens—singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, Artistic Director of
the Silk Road Ensemble

October 31:
Anthony McGill—principal clarinet of the New York Philharmonic, 2020 Avery
Fisher Prize winner, and activist 

November 14: Helga Davismultidisciplinary artist, actress, singer, composer, and host of
WNYC’s “Helga” podcast

November 28: Davóne Tines—bass-baritone, innovator, composer, co-creator of The Black

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