A former Cornellian made a successful return to Ithaca on Monday night, entertaining a crowd of students with the help of an empty stage and an acoustic guitar. David Linhart ’99, lead-singer and guitarist of the Massachusetts-based reggae band The Uplifters, gave a solo performance in Willard Straight Hall’s Memorial Room as a part of the Lauren Pickard ’90 Emerging Artist Series.
Linhart was chosen as the featured performer for the series, a program created in memory of a 1990 Cornell graduate who died suddenly during an epileptic seizure several years ago. Pickard, who devoted much of her time at Cornell to her work as a volunteer and a student employee in Willard Straight Hall, left provisions in her will to “do something for Cornell,” according to Catherine Holmes, associate dean of students for the office of student activities.
“The series was established in Lauren’s name, and the goal is to try and identify some up-and-coming performers and people who are trying to make it as artists,” Holmes said. She has known Linhart since he lived in Just About Music (JAM) during his freshman year.
“David was a volunteer on the Willard Straight Hall Program Board (WSHPB) for most of his time at Cornell,” Holmes said. “He ran the Coffeehouse program and we were hoping that [David Linhart] would be a name that people still remember,” she said.
Though Linhart says that he focuses primarily on his role in The Uplifters, he released his new solo CD, Lines Into Circles, on Monday night at the performance. He describes his solo music as “Nick Drake meets Nat King Cole in 1960s Brazil.”
“The Uplifters is my sense of social service,” Linhart said. “Reggae music has been more than just the music. It’s gospel music, and people expect it to say something.”
Consisting of five former Cornell students and one former Ithaca College student, the members of The Uplifters met during their college years and have remained together ever since. Linhart explained that they hope to use the profits from their beginning success to help advance the global cause for human rights.
“We want to say things with the music itself and be able to speak truth,” Linhart said. “We say in The Uplifters that revolution is a lifestyle, not a war.”
Linhart’s Haitian background has caused him to take interest in Zanmi Lasante, a healthcare clinic in Haiti owned by his friend Paul Farmer.
“As money starts coming in, we can turn it over to positive outlets,” Linhart explained. He hopes to aid the health clinic through profits made by The Uplifters.
Linhart credits much of his current success to the resources available to him at Cornell during his four years here. David Conn, lecturer, music, served as one of Linhart’s mentors as he struggled to find his place in the music industry.
“There was a lot of opportunity to play music. I always liked that about Ithaca — that it respects the local music and tries to make a scene for it,” Linhart said.
Linhart’s performance on Monday night was opened by Katie Sawicki, who has been a regular performer at the WSHPB Coffeehouse Series, which features local musicians and other artists on Thursday nights.
Linhart calls his decision to pursue music instead of his studies in the College of Engineering a “leap of faith,” but he has never regretted it. Though his visit only lasted a couple of days, he plans to return to Cornell and give future performances.
“It’s nice to come back to Ithaca, and I’m sure I always will be coming back,” he said.
Archived article by Meghan Barr