We’re excited to announce the third season of Amplify with Lara Downes! Produced in collaboration with KUSC, KDFC, NPR Music, and Lara Downes, Amplify is a monthly webseries featuring Lara’s revealing and open-hearted conversations with Black artists and cultural leaders about this new age of cultural renaissance. Guests this season include composer Terence Blanchard, comic W. Kamau Bell, James Beard Award-winning chef Kwame Onwuachi, National Book Award-winning poet Robin Coste Lewis, linguist and author John McWhorter, pianist Gerald Clayton, multidisciplinary artist Samora Pinderhughes and conductor Jonathan Heyward.
You can watch each episode as they’re released right here.
Season 3, Episode 8: Allison Russell
Singer songwriter Allison Russell and Lara talk about the musical sisterhood that has brought performers to wider audiences – with friendships, mentorships, and artistic matchmaking that led her to being on stage with Joni Mitchell in sold out shows this Summer.
Season 3, Episode 7: John McWhorter
Linguist John McWhorter joins Lara to discuss the music of Scott Joplin, and how Ragtime paved the way for jazz, as well as much of the evolution of other kinds of music through the 20th Century. They find resonances between now and a hundred years ago, another juncture point when audiences began to cross stylistic boundaries.
Season 3, Episode 6: Samora Pinderhughes
Singer and multi-disciplinary artist Samora Pinderhughes joins Lara for a talk about his work called “The Healing Project” – based on interviews he did with people from all walks of life who have faced trauma and felt they had no voice, and how they and society can become whole again.
Season 3, Episode 5: Gerald Clayton
Lara is in conversation with pianist Gerald Clayton, who sees ripe opportunities for borrowing across genre lines – although he is known as a jazz performer and composer, he thinks broadening our definitions of genre will serve both players and audiences.
Season 3, Episode 4: Chef Kwame Onwuachi
Lara speaks with Chef Kwame Onwuachi about food, culture, and music. Onwuachi’s restaurant Tatania, named for his sister, is in the heart of Lincoln Center in New York City, in the neighborhood that used to be known as San Juan Hill.
Season 3, Episode 3: Terence Blanchard
Lara speaks with Terence Blanchard, jazz trumpeter and composer – notably of a long string of films directed by Spike Lee, and two operas: “Fire Shut Up in My Bones” (the first work by a Black American composer to be performed at New York’s Metropolitan Opera, opening their 2021-22 season) and “Champion,” which is on the Met’s lineup this season.
Season 3, Episode 2: Jessie Montgomery
Musical America’s “Composer of the Year” for 2023, Jessie Montgomery joins Lara Downes for a discussion about her evolution from being a violinist with the Catalyst Quartet to becoming one of the most sought-after composers today, at a time when audiences and programmers are looking for better representation in the concert hall.
Season 3, Episode 1: Samara Joy
Lara Downes talked to Samara Joy, who’s just won 2 Grammy awards for Best New Artist and Best Jazz Vocal album (Linger Awhile), and was the winner of the Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition, about her recent rise to fame and what it means to sing jazz standards in the modern age.
Season Finale: Episode 12 with Ledisi
Episode 11 with Camille A. Brown
Episode 10 with Elaine Welteroth and Jonathan Singletary
Episode 9 with Will Liverman
Episode 8 with Randall Goosby
Episode 7 with Wynton Marsalis
Episode 6 with Tayari Jones
Episode 5 with Carl Rux
Episode 4 with Esperanza Spalding
Episode 3 with Regina Carter
Episode 2 with Rita Dove
Episode 1 with Kris Bowers
Created and hosted by pianist, artist/citizen, and KDFC’s Resident Artist and Host Lara Downes, and co-produced by NPR Music’s classical editor Tom Huizenga, this series invites viewers to experience revealing and open-hearted conversations reflecting on how artists are responding and creating in this time of profound challenge and change.
These video encounters are a clear representation of what Downes sees as, “the cusp of a new inclusion and diversity in classical music.” The one-on-one conversations are with cultural leaders who are forward-thinking and play a pivotal role in defining “a new era with bold vision, powerful mission and the inspiring energy of a transformative time.”
“It brings me great joy to hear from so many viewers that they are finding energy, inspiration and affirmation in these conversations,” says Downes. “Season 2 brings profound perspectives on life and art from a diverse line-up of guests including composers Kris Bowers and Jessie Montgomery, poet Rita Dove, violinist Regina Carter, and author Tayari Jones.”