• Invitation Oxford

Citizen Levingston

Updated: Jun 1, 2019

Written by Allison Estes | Photographed by Rachel Hollings

One of the most celebrated concert pianists in the nation, Bruce Levingston is a staunch supporter of artists and musicians right here in Mississippi.

As you might imagine, a concert pianist of international acclaim is often on the road. Bruce Levingston’s performance schedule includes regular appearances in many of the world’s most prestigious venues including Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, and London’s Royal Opera House at Covent Garden. But when he’s not traveling or at his apartment in New York City, Levingston is at his other home: right here in Oxford.

Despite the demands of his own career, Levingston, a lifelong champion of the arts, is dedicated to artistic growth in his home state. He serves as Artist-in-Residence at the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College and is holder of the L.G. Fant Chair at the University of Mississippi.

Born and raised in the Delta and educated in the United States, Switzerland and Canada, Levingston is truly a citizen of the world. He has collaborated with the likes of composer Philip Glass, prima ballerina assoluta Alessandra Ferri and filmmaker Ken Burns. His work with cultural institutions involves art, dance, film and music. And he received the Mississippi Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts in 2006 and was inducted into the Mississippi Musicians Hall of Fame in 2017.

Levingston is known for his work with living composers, a number of them from Mississippi. His new album, aptly named “Citizen,” was just released in January and highlights the work of two of Mississippi’s most prominent composers, William Grant Still, and C. Price Walden. The back cover of the album features renowned Mississippi artist Marie Hull’s painting “An American Citizen.” The cover art for “Citizen” is by Brooke Alexander, a 2018 graduate of the University of Mississippi.

Here he discusses his most recent tour, the day-to-day, “Citizen,” and where he’s headed next.

Q: In January you performed at the Royal Opera House in London and Teatro Fraschini di Pavia in Italy. What were some of the highlights for you?

A: It was thrilling to perform at the Royal Opera House at Covent Garden with the great artists Alessandra Ferri and Herman Cornejo. Covent Garden is such a beautiful and historical place. The Teatro Fraschini di Pavia was also a memorable venue — it is one of those exquisite jewel-box theaters with magnificent acoustics. All the performances in London and Italy were sold out — 11 in all. The reviews were wonderful and the audiences cheered so I’m pretty happy and grateful!

Q: Did anyone from here attend?

A: I was so honored that some of my dear friends from Mississippi flew over to London for my performances including Patty Lewis, Kathryn Black, Diane Scruggs, Linda Spargo, Dolly Goings and Meredith Creekmore. I was so touched by their presence.

Q: Even at the professional level, people with careers in the arts must continually work at it. What’s a typical day like for you, when you’re not on tour?

A: I practice most days about four to five hours. I run a bit on my treadmill and/or take walks with my dog. I also try to keep up with what is going on around the world by reading many newspapers. Gaining some perspective on the present helps me understand and appreciate the music of the past that I play even more.

Q: What do you love?

A: I love my family, my friends, music (of course!) and the beauty of all nature. And dogs! I love dogs. I probably should have been in the dog issue instead of the music issue of Invitation Oxford!

Q: Your latest album, “Citizen,” just came out in January and was selected by Apple Music-iTunes for its “A-List: Classical” playlist. It has received critical acclaim and includes works by Mississippi composers William Grant Still and C. Price Walden. Please share more about the concept, the theme and the composers.

A: “Citizen” was inspired by a number of figures from Mississippi, beginning with John Wesley Washington, who was a man born into slavery and painted by the important Mississippi artist Marie Hull in 1936. Hull gave her painting the title “An American Citizen” to reflect her belief that Mr. Washington was, and should always have been considered, a full American citizen from his birth. The album also features the work of William Grant Still, an extraordinary African American composer born in Mississippi in 1895, and the work of C. Price Walden, a brilliant young composer who studied at the University of Mississippi and now lives and works in Oxford, whose work I premiered at Carnegie Hall this past spring. Walden’s music is absolutely gorgeous and has received national acclaim. It is a true honor and joy to be able to offer the world premiere recording of this beautiful music. I have also included Price’s touching arrangement of “Amazing Grace” that I played for the opening of the [Mississippi] Civil Rights Museum and used as my encore at my last concert at Carnegie Hall.

Q: The cover of the album is by local artist Brooke Alexander. What can you tell us about her, and the cover art?

A: Brooke Alexander is a brilliant painter who received her M.F.A. from Ole Miss. She is a pupil of the renowned painter Philip Jackson whose work I admire tremendously. One day, I asked Brooke about sketching a piece of art for the cover of my new album and so she sketched my own hand along with a child’s hand reaching up. The resulting artwork became the cover of “Citizen” and has been featured on the top banner of Apple’s iTunes “The A-List: Classical.” I am very honored to have her work on the cover.

Q: You seem to always have some kind of extraordinary artistic endeavor in the works. What’s next?

A: In May I will go to Kenya to play on a special reserve that protects the wildlife and animals of Africa. I love nature and am preparing a program that celebrates the amazing beauty of the special and unique animals there. The great French composer Debussy wrote a piece called “Jimbo’s Lullaby” that depicts a little elephant, which I will play there for the baby elephants along with other magical works.

Artist Brooke P. Alexander created the artwork that appears on the cover of Bruce Levingston’s latest album, “Citizen,”pictured above. Alexander was born and raised in Athens, Alabama. She completed her B.A. in studio art with a minor in English in 2015 from Athens State University. She received her M.F.A. in studio art with a concentration in painting in May 2018 from the University of Mississippi. Her work has been shown regionally and nationally. She currently lives in Oxford and is a visiting assistant professor at the University of Mississippi.

Citizen Album Song List

American Citizen — Nolan Gasser

Summerland — William Grant Still

Mazurka in C-sharp minor, Op. 6, No. 2 — Frederic Chopin

Mazurka in C major, Op. 24, No. 2 — Frederic Chopin

Mazurka in A minor, Op. 17, No. 4 — Frederic Chopin

Reveille (Movement I) — David T. Little

Ride (Movement II) — David T. Little

Reveille (Movement III) — David T. Little

Accumulation of Purpose (Movement IV) — David T. Little

Reveille (Movement V) — David T. Little

Nocturne (Movement VI) — David T. Little

Other — Augusta Gross

Elegy — Augusta Gross

Toward Night — Augusta Gross

Prelude and Chaconne — C. Price Walden

Hymn (This World Is My Home) — C. Price Walden

Amazing Grace — Anon. (Arr. C. Price Walden)

Bruce Levingston, pianist …from Citizen

Amazing Grace:

Bruce Levingston, pianist …from Citizen



Bruce Levingston, pianist …from Citizen

Amazing Grace (anon arranged by C. Price Walden) 


Bruce Levingston, pianist …from Citizen Summerland by William Grant Still



Oxford, Mississippi | United States

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