OHA Annual Meeting: Spotlight on Richard Davis “My 80 Years with the Bass”

The Saturday night awards dinner will feature an oral history interview with Richard Davis, who was named a 2014 Jazz Master by the National Endowment for the Arts, the highest honor that the United States bestows on jazz musicians. Davis is Professor of Bass, Jazz History, and Combo Improvisation at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Dr. Regennia N. Williams, Associate Professor of History at Cleveland State University and OHA Council member, will conduct the interview.

A virtuoso musician and an award-winning educator, Davis brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to his work. For more than fifty years, he has drawn enthusiastic audiences in Japan, Europe, Russia, South America, Puerto Rico, Cuba, The West Indies, Hong Kong, Israel and United States. One of his most recent CD releases, The Bassists: Homage to Diversity (King Records) was recorded in Japan. This recording was inspired by experiences related to diversity dialogue. His second CD with King Records So In Love was assembled with the idea of embracing the oneness of humankind and to commemorate the events of 9/11/2001. A new CD will present the music of Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn. Davis has long been active in the development of programs for students at the pre-collegiate and post-secondary levels. Among other projects, in 1993 he founded the Richard Davis Foundation for Young Bassists, Inc., which brings in masterful bass instructors/performers to teach young bassists ages 3-18. In 1998, he created the Retention Action Project (R.A.P.) to nurture multicultural understanding on campus by bringing together university representatives and social-change activists from around the country. In 2003, he added to his University curriculum a course in “Racism, Racial conditioning and the Oneness of Humankind” through the FIGS program (First Interest Groups) for first year students. Davis also takes his message beyond the university via his nonprofit Institute for the Healing of Racism.

In recognition of his accomplishments, Davis has received numerous awards and honors, including the University of Wisconsin’s Hilldale Award for distinguished teaching, research, and service; the Spencer Tracy Award for Distinction in the Performing Arts (Wisconsin Historical Society); and the City of Madison’s Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Humanitarian Award.

Dr. Regennia N. Williams is an Associate Professor of History at Cleveland State University. She is also and the founder and director of “Praying: African American Faith Communities: A Documentary and Oral History” project and the Initiative for the Study of Religion and Spirituality in the History of Africa and the Diaspora (RASHAD). In 2013, she conceived and directed “Come Sunday @ 70: The Place of Duke Ellington’s Sacred Jazz in World History and Culture, c. 1943-2013,” a project that included scholarly presentations and performing arts activities. Her current oral history research is related to the Civil Rights Movement and school desegregation in Cleveland, Ohio.

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