Richard Davis Foundation for Young Bassists Annual Conference
Every Easter Weekend since 1993 young bassists from around the country and their families convene for the Richard Davis Foundation for Young Bassists annual Conference. Every year, the exact structure of classes and content of classes changes based on the interests, skills, and previous knowledge of the participants; the expertise areas of the clinicians; and other factors like number of total students or space available etc., but the weekend is always generally has the same overall structure. The two day conference can broadly be outlined by a series of events to train young bassists and their families on what it is to be a bass player while networking with experienced professionals. Activities throughout the two days include:
- Warm ups
- Master Classes (or group lesson/private lesson)
- Q&A sessions with the ‘experts’
- Special topic classes
- Bass Orchestra Rehearsal
- Bass Orchestra and excerpt
- Small ensemble rehearsal (quartet, trio, quintet etc.)
- Meal time as a group (networking and informal conversation)
- Concerts (Student and Faculty) One important aspect of the bass conference is it’s focus on families.
The bass conference is not just for youths (age 3-18) who play the bass, it is also a very important weekend for families too. Events are designed to be enjoyable and enlightening to teach these young bassists biggest fans. Siblings and parents are involved in the weekend through Q&A sessions, workshops, and performance events of their own.
What to expect:
The conference is held over Easter weekend for two days of intensive and fun music making. The conference runs from 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. on Friday, and from 9:00 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Saturday. Check-in at the Pyle Center starts at 7:30am. Programs differ year to year, however a typical conference starts out with registration: picking up music, checking out merch, unpacking/tuning basses, etc. After a short welcome meeting, students go to assigned classes for warm ups with people that are generally their own age and skill level. Clinicians lead students through a warm up suitable for where they are at in their progression as players. Historically this has ranged in anything from playing the “Jaws” theme on open strings to learn what a chromatic scale is, to Petracchi or Rabbath exercises.
Right away students are given the opportunity to experience a live, solo performance setting to give or watch performances of solo works by their peers. This is happening throughout the morning and is attended by clinicians who give students written feedback.
Following warm-ups, students choose a topic given by a presenter with expertise in a unique area. Past sessions have included slap-bass with Beau Sample, art of the baroque dance with David Murray, and finding your musical identity with Rufus Reid. These sessions are collaborative; guided by experts who channel student interests and enthusiasms into constructive outcomes for the group. Every teaches, everybody learns.
Topic classes are repeated throughout each day, so students can experience a range of special topic classes. In between the special topic sessions, students meet with a small ensemble (usually trio-quintet) for group lessons, master classes, or ensemble rehearsal. Ensemble groups are a chance to build musicianship in a unique and focused way- both individual communication and technique skills are built in the process of a communal musical experience. Individuals learn how to express ideas to other musicians in a way that they typically do not get to do very often in schools.
Each day is concluded with a concert: Friday is the Clinician concert, Saturday is the all conference concert featuring small ensembles and a massive 50+ bass player ‘orchestra’. The faculty concert exposes students to an extremely diverse array of possibilities for how the bass can be used in a solo setting. The student concert is a combination of small ensemble work and a ‘bass orchestra’. After just two days of music making it is amazing how much progress is shown at these concerts.
Informal discussions with clinicians over meals will help to determine your individual needs and interests. Other features include library, bass repair/adjustments, basses and accessories for sale.
Students arriving by car: Street parking may be available, otherwise, the Lake St. Parking Garage is the closest option. The Pyle Center does have limited handicapped parking spots that may be available for conference attendees and their families. Please contact the executive director at least a week before arrival. Students arriving by plane: Please email or call conference organizers with your flight info at least 2 weeks ahead of the conference if a bass-friendly shuttle from the airport to the Pyle Center or your hotel is needed.
You must make your own plans for housing/hotel accommodations.
For the 2022 Conference, we have reserved a block of rooms at a discounted rate with the DoubleTree Downtown.
The room block/rate will only be guaranteed through April 1. Reservations should use the code “RDB” for group rate. Reservations can be made online or by phone, at: 608-251-5511. Alternative accommodations (such as a home-stay) may be available given ample notification (must be before April 1).
A few families in the Madison area can host families or individual students for the weekend. Please contact the executive director no later than April 1, if you are interested in this option. Please feel free to call or email with any questions regarding the application or hotel booking process.
Mealtimes – lunch and dinner – are shared by clinicians, staff, students and families to develop the familial atmosphere of this bass conference. Conference participants may choose not to have meals with the conference, however most families have found the conference more enjoyable when they are not hunting for meals while trying to be a part of a very full schedule.
Lunch and dinner are included as part of the conference meal fees. If there are severe dietary restrictions or concerns please indicate this on your registration form, and the professional catering staff at the Pyle Center may be able to accommodate.
Siblings and Families
This is a weekend for families as well as young bassists. Events are included for parents as well as students. Siblings are invited to bring their instruments and joining together to form a band. No cost for other family members, however families will have to pay for their meals as well. Families are highly encouraged to be an active part of the conference as well, including meals. Meals are an excellent opportunity to get to know other bass players, families, and clinicians. There is no charge for the evening concerts, although name tags will be required, to identify yourself as a young bassist parent or guardian. Siblings are encouraged to bring their own instruments to form a sibling band.
If you’re still having questions or concerns, please contact the executive director.