The dawn of a new era in the arts at the university

Pianist Bruce Levingston will perform a concert Sept. 22 at the Gertrude S. Ford Center for the Performing Arts to celebrate the establishment of the University of Mississippi Institute of the Arts. Photo by Michael Poliza

OXFORD, MISS. – Pianist Bruce Levingston and special guest artists will perform the first performance honoring the University of Mississippi Institute of the Arts at 7:30 p.m. Thursday (Sept. 22) at the Gertrude S. Ford Center for the Performing Arts.

Levingston and other prominent artists honor the new organization, which is being created to highlight and support the university’s Faculty of Art and Art History, Faculty of Music and Department of Theater and Film.

“I am grateful to world-renowned pianist Bruce Levingston for his commitment to the arts and his generosity in performing the Dawn of the Arts concert on September 22 to honor the University of Mississippi Institute of the Arts,” said Nancy Maria Ballach , chair of the music department and director of the institute.

“The evening will feature music, theatre, film, sculpture and visual arts, all curated by Bruce Levingston. There has never been a better time to experience and explore the arts at UM.”

The new institute was made possible by a generous donation from longtime university supporters, alumni Jan and Lawrence Farrington. Other major donors are also pledging to promote it.

“It’s a special pleasure to play here as tonight is the opening concert for the 20th anniversary season of the beautiful Ford Center for the Performing Arts,” said Levingston, Chancellor’s Artist-in-Residence for the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College and Lester Glenn recipient Fant Chair. “The university has long been home to some of the country’s finest creatives and continues to be a superb center for the study of art, music, theater and film.

“The new institute will be an important catalyst for the arts. The arts programs are simply outstanding at the university, thanks to the respected faculty and talented students who come here. The arts here are thriving and evolving more than ever. We will celebrate this exciting era in our artistic programs with performances by Handel, Schubert, Chopin, Debussy, Rachmaninoff and more.”

Levingston is often invited to perform at notable venues around the world, said Lee M. Cohen, dean of the College of Liberal Arts.

“As such, this concert will be a special opportunity for friends of the University, as well as members of the Oxford community, to see one of the world’s most respected pianists perform locally,” Cohen said. “We are honored to have him perform for us while shining a light on the wonderful arts programs we support at the University of Mississippi.”

A native of the Mississippi Delta, Levingston has long supported artists in the state. Even while performing regularly at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center and the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden, the pianist never loses sight of home.

His 2015 book Bright Fields: The Mastery of Marie Hull highlights the distinguished artist’s sensitivity to the rich but complex history of her home state. His 2019 album Citizen features works by Mississippi-born composers K. Price Walden and William Grant Still.
Levingston’s solo albums have been critically acclaimed and he is one of the most streamed classical music artists in the world, with more than 11 million plays on Spotify, Apple Music and YouTube.

His album “Heavy Sleep” was named one of the “Best Classical Recordings of the Year” by The New York Times, which called the record “exquisite”. All About The Arts notes: “Bruce Levingston’s masterful playing of this music reaffirms his position as one of America’s great pianists.”

“Bruce Levingston’s phenomenal talent and countless accomplishments are a tremendous source of pride for the university and our entire state,” said Provost Glen Boyce. “We are so grateful for his role as an ambassador for the arts in Mississippi and as a vital member of our campus community.

“Having one of Mississippi’s and our nation’s cultural greats continue to bring teaching excellence and national stature to Ole Miss greatly enhances the learning opportunities and life-changing experiences we offer our students.”

Tickets for Dawn of the Arts are $40, $30 and $20, available at the UM box office or by calling 662-915-7411.

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