Lara Downes

Lara Downes is among the foremost American pianists of her generation, a trailblazer both on and off the stage, whose musical roadmap seeks inspiration from the legacies of history, family and collective memory. As a chart-topping recording artist, a powerfully charismatic performer, a curator and tastemaker, Downes is recognized as a cultural visionary on the national arts scene.

Downes' forays into the broad landscape of American music have created a series of acclaimed recordings, including America Again, hailed by The Boston Globe as "a balm for a country riven by disunion."

With a fierce commitment to arts advocacy, Downes enjoys creative collaborations with a range of leading artists, including multi-instrumentalist, composer and singer Rhiannon Giddens, cellist Yo-Yo Ma, pianist Simone Dinnerstein, folk icon Judy Collins, writer Adam Gopnik, and former U.S. poet laureate Rita Dove. Her close partnerships with prominent composers span genres and generations, with premieres and commissions coming from Jennifer Higdon, John Corigliano, Stephen Schwartz, Paola Prestini, Clarice Assad, Michael Abels, and many others.

Julia Bullock is an artist who dares you to find new adjectives. The soprano is often described as "radiant," an overused word that actually describes her surprisingly well. Onstage, she's a shapeshifter, ranging from elegant and commanding to bewitching, provocative and dangerous – but consistently intelligent and nuanced. Offstage, she can be goofy.

The first time I saw Helga Davis, she was wearing a column of white satin, standing in a pool of white light, shining. She was singing Judy Collins' "Wings of Angels," a song about grief and loss, but also about the power of love to transcend time and place, life and death. She was magnetic. You could have heard the softest whisper of an angel's wing in the spellbound silence.

Anthony McGill is a musician's musician. You might remember his performance with Yo-Yo Ma, Itzhak Perlman and Gabriela Montero at President Obama's inauguration in 2009. You might have seen him leading the clarinet section at the New York Philharmonic, or as a soloist on stages around the world.