Akron native and former U.S. Poet Laureate Rita Dove will join pianist Lara Downes for “American Again: My Promise Project,” a concert this Sunday, Feb. 5, 3 p.m., in the Akron-Summit County Public Library Auditorium, 60 S. High St., Akron.
Dove will read her poem, “Testimonial,” which inspired Downes to create “My Promise Project,” a national series of performances and community engagement programs that explore American identity, diversity and promise by connecting poetry, music and history.
Co-presented by The Lippman School and Tuesday Musical, the concert is part of Downes’ two-day visit to Akron that includes working with Lippman students.
Open to the public, the concert will showcase music from Downes’ new album, “America Again,” selected by NPR as one of 10 Classical Albums that Saved 2016. A timely reminder that America is a nation of diverse voices and experiences, America Again features music by American composers past and present, male and female, white and black and brown, straight and gay, rich and poor: Leonard Bernstein, Aaron Copland, Duke Ellington, Florence Price, Scott Joplin, Angélica Negrón, David Sanford, Dan Visconti, and others.
Tickets are $20 for general admission and free for students in pre-K through college. Patron tickets that include a post-concert reception with Downes and Dove are $40 for general admission and $25 for students. Tickets are on sale in advance at www.laradownesconcert.brownpapertickets.com and at the door as long as seats are available. Parking is free in the adjacent deck. For more information, call The Lippman School at (330) 836-0419.
This is Downes’ second visit to Akron and The Lippman School, and a return to her roots. Her mother, Ruth Downes, was a Jewish civil-rights lawyer from Akron whose family was close to Lippman founder Jerry
Lippman and his wife, Goldie. Her father was from Harlem. The couple met in San Francisco where Lara and her two sisters were raised until their father died when Lara was nine and the family moved to Europe.
Downes now lives in America and is a Steinway Artist. Recipient of the 2016 Sphinx Medal of Excellence, she also serves as artist-in-residence at the Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts at the University of California-Davis, where she mentors young musicians as director of the Mondavi Center National Young Artists Program.
Dove served as Poet Laureate from 1993 to 1995, and was the first African-American appointed to the position. She is the second African American to receive the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, in 1987, and she served as the Poet Laureate of Virginia from 2004 to 2006.
Dove was born in Akron in 1952 to Ray Dove, a research chemist at Goodyear who was the first African-American chemist to work in the U.S. tire industry, and Elvira Hord, who would share her passion for reading with her daughter. Dove graduated from Buchtel High School in 1970 and from Miami University in 1973. She was a Fulbright Scholar in Germany in 1974 and earned her MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop at the University of Iowa in 1977.
Support for Downes’ visit to Akron comes, in part, from Tuesday Musical’s Barbara A. Feld Educational Experience Fund of Akron Community Foundation and The Lippman School’s Performing Arts Program.