Free piano concert features Debussy program

Classical pianist Richard Dowling will perform a concert of Claude Debussy music on March 19 at 10 a.m. at the Rockdale Auditorium, 903 N. Main St. in Conyers. The hour-long concert is free and open to the public

Classical pianist Richard Dowling will perform a concert of Claude Debussy music on March 19 at 10 a.m. at the Rockdale Auditorium, 903 N. Main St. in Conyers. The hour-long concert is free and open to the public

The Conyers community and surrounding residents can take advantage of a rare treat -- a free classical music performance in the heart of Olde Town Conyers.

Award-winning international pianist Richard Dowling, who resides in both Houston and New York City, will make a stop at the Rockdale Auditorium, 903 N. Main St. in Conyers, at 10 a.m. March 19 to play an hourlong show as part of the Piatigorsky Foundation's annual concert series.

Based in New York City, the nonprofit Piatigorsky Foundation presents classical music concerts in non-traditional settings such as schools, churches, hospitals and retirement communities.

The Olivia Haydel Senior Center in Conyers is the host for the concert. Senior Center Director Susan Morgan said presenting the show locally and on a weekday morning is best for the seniors. Many don't want to venture into Atlanta at night to see a concert because of mobility or vision issues, she said.

Morgan emphasized that the concert is open to the public and that all members of the community are invited and encouraged to attend.

"The whole idea behind it is so that they can bring concerts to people who might not otherwise hear it," Morgan said. "We hope that it makes it an easier situation for people to get to."

Morgan said other Piatigorsky Foundation musicians, including a violinist, a cellist and a vocalist, have performed for the seniors over the last several years. She said the musicians not only play the music but also discuss their repertoire. They tell stories about the composers and the pieces they are playing and conduct a question-and-answer session at the end.

"It's a very friendly learning experience that you don't get if you went to a normal concert," Morgan said, adding that the musicians even pose for photos. "The foundation is very good to us and they really want to get classical music out to the communities."

Dowling, one of more than two dozen musicians who perform through the Piatigorsky Foundation, said he plays between 40 and 50 concerts annually for the nonprofit. The pianist said he and the foundation's founder Evan Drachman, a cellist, "clicked" the first time they played together in 1994 and that he has been active with the foundation since.

Drachman established the Foundation in 1990 to honor his late grandfather, world renowned cellist Gregor Piatigorsky.

Dowling said Drachman is like a brother to him and he plays at least half of his concerts with him.

"It's become... an important chunk of my life," said Dowling.

In addition to his work with the Piatigorsky Foundation, Dowling travels throughout the U.S. and abroad, to locations such as Asia, Australia, Africa and Europe, performing about 30 concerts which include solo recitals, and guest soloist roles in concerto performances with orchestras. He also appears at jazz/ragtime festivals.

Dowling has recorded more than a dozen albums of classical, chamber, ragtime, jazz and popular music. His performances have been aired on Public Broadcasting Service's "Debut" and on National Public Radio's "Performance Today."

He holds a bachelor's degree from the Moores School of Music at the University of Houston, a master's degree from Yale Universit, and a doctorate in musical arts from the University of Texas at Austin.

In addition to his performing, Dowling owns sheet music stores in Houston and New York.

Dowling said for the Conyers concert, he'll play a Debussy program, in honor of the French composer's 150th birthday. He calls it "Around the World with Claude Debussy" because it features works that refer to various cities or countries.

"We go on an imaginary cruise ship and we talk about what to listen to and the pieces and a lot of people get it," said Dowling, who added that while people are familiar with French impressionistic art work, they know little about French impressionistic music. "I explain it and the audiences have been surprisingly receptive."