15 Questions for Pianist Lara Downes

Photo Credit: Jiyang Chen

15 Pianist Questions: This is a list of questions we’re asking pianists as part of a series. Some of the questions may have been borrowed or altered from some other questionnaires. Just a fun way to get to know current performers.

In this list, we're getting to know Lara Downes.

  1. What did you play on your very first piano recital?
    Not sure if it was my very first recital, but on one of my earliest recitals, probably age 6, I played "Für Elise," and my mom tells a funny story: I got lost somewhere mid-piece, but instead of stopping or getting upset, I just repeated the theme MANY times until I wound my way out of it and got back on track!
  2. If you could have dinner with a composer, who would it be?
    Leonard Bernstein, without question. Runner up: Clara Schumann. SO MANY QUESTIONS...
  3. If you weren't a musician what other job would you have?
    Producer, writer, radio host, advocate, activist. Wait, I already have all those jobs! So--actor, fashion icon, activist...I want Tracee Ellis Ross' job. Which I think is being Tracee Ellis Ross.
  4. Do you have any built-in musical associations, like a smell or a color that you associate with a key, a note or a piece?
    I see images in my mind when I play music, or really more like mood boards--it's hard to explain. It's kind of a visual world I go into, but a bit abstract.
  5. Dogs or cats?
    Dogs please
  6. What is your musical guilty pleasure?
    I love Bruno Mars and I probably wouldn't go to the gym if I didn't have him music on playlist. Also, anyone who hasn't heard Because I'm Me by the Avalanches needs to take care of that asap.
  7. You've traveled and toured, what's your favorite restaurant?
    Soooo many. But I really love the Grand Central Oyster Bar in NYC, Peche in New Orleans, Flour and Water in San Francisco, and Ottolenghi in London. And one of the most memorable meals I've ever had was at Ristorante La Greppia in Parma.
  8. What's your favorite food?
    Lobster, black licorice, cherries, the cardamom buns at Fika in NYC, cookie dough ice cream, arugula, peanut M&Ms
  9. If you had to cancel a concert and could choose any pianist to step in for you, who would it be?
    Arthur Rubinstein
  10. Who is your least favorite composer?
    Pleading the fifth.
  11. If you had a superpower, what would it be?
    Teleportation so I would never have to set foot in an airport, and time travel so I could have those dinners with Lenny and Clara.
  12. What is your pet peeve?
    Pomposity and/or lack of humor.
  13. Are you an introvert or an extrovert?
    Definitely an extrovert except when there's a full moon.
  14. Is it easier to play in a recording studio or in front of an audience?
    Audience! I feed on human energy in the room with me. I'm very fortunate, though, that my producer Adam Abeshouse is an amazing human who gives me as much human energy as a roomful of people, so the recording studio feels warm and alive when we're working together.
  15. Who is the most famous person you know?
    Judy Collins. We've just recently gotten to know each other and recorded a song for my next album, and she may just be my spirit animal.