OXFORD, Miss. – Oxford has been called the “New South Arts Mecca,” and the University of Mississippi is taking steps to build on that reputation and ensure support for the arts in the future by gaining the expertise of an internationally recognized pianist.
Bruce Levingston, one of the country’s leading figures in contemporary music, has been appointed special adviser on the arts to the chancellor, effective July 1.
“I am pleased that Bruce Levingston will be playing a part in developing and supporting the arts at the University of Mississippi,” said Chancellor Dan Jones. “He has played an important role in the past few years connecting donors and young artists, and that’s part of what is strongly appealing to me about his background and his interests.”
Noted for his innovative and thoughtful programming, Levingston has performed and collaborated with many interesting artists, including painter Chuck Close, actor-author Ethan Hawke, artist-curator Robert Storr, authors Michael Cunningham, Nick McDonell and George Plimpton, composer-performers Lisa Bielawa and Philip Glass, Colin and Eric Jacobsen and the Brooklyn Rider, and choreographers Jorma Elo and Peter Quanz. His repertoire spans from the Baroque works of Bach and Scarlatti to the Classical and Romantic masterpieces of Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert and Brahms to the most avant-garde works of today.Levingston said he will continue to try to bring interesting, creative people in the arts to the Ole Miss campus, as well as to help raise awareness of the deep well of literary, visual and performing artists that makes up such a vital part of the university’s academic, cultural and campus life.
“A goal is to continue to bring talented people to Mississippi and show other people in the world what amazing things we have at the University of Mississippi,” said Levingston, who has performed at the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts in February 2012 and at Nutt Auditorium in January 2011. “Then they will be able to tell the rest of the world about this wonderful place. I’ve had many friends come here from other places and say how impressed they are with the beauty and depth of Ole Miss.
“Many people know this already and have great respect for it, but it is important for even more people to know this, and part of my role will be to build support and goodwill for the arts at this great university and in our state.”
The other part of his role will be to help raise funds for the arts at the university. His responsibilities will include helping to identify donors and cultivate relationships with them, and helping fund an artist-in-residence or perhaps other visiting professor positions in the humanities and the arts.
Since UM has other successful “in-residence” programs, the most notable being the Grisham Writer-in-Residence, the chancellor wanted to expand on the “in residence” concept.
“It is important to have people who can come through and influence in a positive way, which gives a sense of value to the university,” Jones said. “One of my interests is to have endowed funds for a number of these ‘in residence’ positions across the breadth of the university.”
Levingston said he is excited because, as a native Mississippian who loves Oxford, he has been able to reconnect with his friends and family.
“It is such a beautiful and special place,” Levingston said. “I have many friends here and plan to spend as much time as possible when I am not playing concerts in New York or elsewhere.”
As founding chair and artistic director of Premiere Commission Inc., a nonprofit foundation that has commissioned and premiered more than 40 new works, Levingston facilitates support of young artists and young composers. Many of the world’s most important composers have written works for him, and his Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center world premiere performances of their works have won notable critical acclaim.
The New York Times has called him “one of today’s most adventurous musicians” and praises his performances as “graceful,” “dreamy” and “hauntingly serene.” The New Yorker has described him as “elegant and engaging … a poetic pianist who has a gift for glamorous programming,” while The Washington Post has lauded his “wonderfully even touch” and “timeless reverie, which Levingston projected beautifully.”
Levingston has appeared as a soloist and chamber musician in many international music festivals and his recordings have received critical acclaim. Levingston’s CD “Heart Shadow” was named Album of the Week by New York City’s WQXR. In its review of Levingston’s recent album, “Nightbreak,” the American Record Guide called him “a pianist’s pianist” and praised his “stunning and illuminating performances.”
“I’ve had the opportunity to make my living as a pianist and meet and work with some very interesting people,” Levingston said. “Now I’d like to bring some of them back to Mississippi and share this special place with them and show them what shaped my life and made it possible for me to have a life in the arts. Hopefully, I will be able to give back the same opportunity to another young and upcoming person for their career.”