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Friend of Fred: Jade Simmons

March 11, 2014

In our Friend of Fred series, PT host Fred Child invites a special guest into the studio to share music and conversation.

Called a "musical force of nature," pianist Jade Simmons is one of the most exciting and versatile artists on the scene today. For her work on and away from the stage, Essence magazine featured Jade alongside First Lady Michelle Obama and Olympic gold medalist Gabby Douglas as a part of their Style & Substance Awards, which highlights women who have expanded the definition of beauty and achievement.

Additionally, she has been recognized two years in a row by Symphony magazine, listed as one of Ebony magazine's Top 30 Leaders under 30, named Houston's Best Arts Ambassador by the Houston Press and affectionately labeled classical music's "No.1 Maverick" by arts journalist and music critic Greg Sandow.

Simmons has toured the US extensively and has performed at venues as wide-ranging as Ravinia, the Chicago Sinfonietta in Symphony Hall, the Dallas Symphony in Meyerson Symphony Center, New York's Town Hall, the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, DC, the Kravis Center, Merkin Hall and the Detroit Institute of Arts.

Simmons has also performed in New York's many alternative spaces including Symphony Space, the Harlem Gatehouse, Le Poisson Rouge, Joe's Pub and Brooklyn's BamCafe. She ended 2011 with a holiday performance at the White House.

In February 2013, she made her debut with the Sphinx Symphony Orchestra and went on to receive the Sphinx Organization's Medal of Excellence, granting her a performance in a ceremony at the US Supreme Court hosted by Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

Most recently, in May of 2013 and during the summers of 2009 and 2011 Simmons was the webcast host for the Van Cliburn International Piano competition in Fort Worth, Texas and the XIV Tchaikovsky International Competition in St. Petersburg/Moscow, Russia. As host, she introduced performances and conducted live interviews with renowned figures including Van Cliburn, Leonard Slatkin, Anne-Sophie Mutter, Menahem Pressler, the Takacs Quartet, James Conlon, Fred Child, John Corigliano and Bob Schieffer.

A native of Charleston, South Carolina, Simmons completed her undergraduate work in piano performance at Northwestern University under Sylvia Wang. While there, she co-founded the immensely popular percussion and dance ensemble Boomshaka!.

Simmons also became Miss Chicago, Miss Illinois and ultimately first runner-up at the 2000 Miss America Pageant where she performed Chopin's Etude in C-sharp minor, Op. 10, No. 4, before a live television audience of millions. Simmons holds a Master's degree from Rice University, where she studied as a Provost Fellow under acclaimed pianist Jon Kimura Parker.

On Friday, March 14, at 8:30 p.m. Jade Simmons became one of the rare classical musicians to perform at South By Southwest (SXSW) in Austin, Texas.