RDYB Celebrates 25 Years

As Professor of Bass, Ricard Davis saw, first-hand, how young bassists were arriving at their college auditions less prepared, less advanced, and not competitive for scholarships, than their upper string peers. In 1993, Richard Davis set out on a mission to change that. 

Not accepting the status quo situation, Richard started the foundation to better prepare bassists for entrance into university music schools. What started out in his own basement, as a weekly get-together and small-ensemble coaching session for eager young players, has grown to a 15+ faculty group that welcomes numerous young players each year.

Although the group may have grown in size, the spirit and mission remain the same. 

We have some special things planned for the 2018 Bass Conference: 

To celebrate the 25 years of Richard’s efforts, volunteer executive directors, faculty performance and teaching, student learning, and family bonding

New FILM !

The Rosalind & Alfred Berger Foundation has donated funds exclusively to preserve this moment in history by making a short documentary film. The film will be cataloguing oral histories from bass conference family and friends to capture the impact of the Richard Davis Foundation, and Richard’s teaching legacy.

LIBRARY Archive & Exhibit Feature

Mills Music Library and Memorial Library are partnering with RDYB to present a special exhibit for the month of March. This exhibit digs into the archives to peek back at the last 25 years (or more!) of great bass connections in Madison, WI. You’ll have to see for yourself. Open during normal library hours. 


TBD ! follow on facebook to stay up to date

GREAT location for faculty concert 

Literally ! Our Friday night concert is at Memorial Union’s (800 Langdon St.) Great Hall this year ! “A Concert for Richard”, the conference faculty concert will be on: Friday, March 30 @ 7pm. This concert is free for conference attendees and donors, and a number of tickets will be available to the general public. Reserve yours today – Buy Tickets! 

Save the Date! 25th Annual Richard Davis Young Bassists Conference

2018 Conference Dates  – 25th Annual Richard Davis Foundation for Young Bassists, Inc.

March 30 & 31, 2018

Registration opening soon.

Same time, same place ! See you then!

2017 Conference Recap

Sometimes students and their parents submit information about their participation into their local town newspaper. This letter has been used as a start for families who are interested in sharing the exciting news about their young bassist’s participation in the 24th Annual Richard Davis Foundation Conference: 2017 Student Participation Press Release letter form.

RDYB’s First Ever Teacher Education Class

Calling all teachers interested in learning more about the bass !

The Richard Davis Foundation for Young Bassists Inc. is hosting for the first time ever an opportunity for educators to earn graduate credit by attending the annual bass conference.

This course offering grew out of a presentation at the WI state music educator’s conference two years ago, where RDYB alumni Ben Ferris assembled a panel of ‘bass experts’ including Richard Davis to answer questions of public school teachers related to the bass. Despite it being the first session of the day (7 am on a Friday) the panel discussion was packed to standing room only. Teachers had a lot of questions about the bass ! The Wisconsin Center for Music Education and Wisconsin School Music Association wanted to continue offering this opportunity for their member teachers and thought of the Richard Davis Foundation as the perfect venue for the class.

The fact that for many young people, their primary means of music education at an early age is through their public school, combined with the frequent situation where their orchestra or band director does not have a large knowledge of bass pedagogy or instrument set ups usually puts young bass players in a school group at a disadvantage, overcome in later years as they find a private lesson teacher or go to college. Giving teachers the knowledge and tools to set their young bass players on the right track is right in line with the mission of the Richard Davis Foundation.

Long before the idea of adding on a graduate course to the annual conference for young bassists was even an idea, Richard Davis regularly did run-out calls at the request of teachers who were at a loss for how to bring their struggling bass players up to speed with the rest of their orchestra. School teachers have also informally participated in the bass conference to watch their students or to learn more about the bass in years past, despite there not being any set aside curriculum for them.

For this new offering, curriculum developed by RDYB alumna, Liz Clawson will be used for a class taught by John Kennedy. Kennedy, similar to Ferris, has taught courses in his home state of Michigan, where he is a member of the ASTA and MSBOA. A public school teacher himself in addition to an accomplished bassist, Kennedy is no stranger to the challenges of teaching bass in the public school, and therefore is a natural fit to lead the first RDYB for teachers course this spring.

The course will parallel the young bassists program and is therefore being held on the same weekend, same time and place as the young bassists conference (April 14-15, 2017). The course’s curriculum will include a mix of playing, teaching, Q&A, observing and reflecting.

Registration is now open and is available to both prospective teachers (college students) and to current teachers. The course is only asking for a donation (suggested $250 or $100) and will be a separate fee from the enrollment fees for graduate credits. A representative of the WI Center for Music Education will be a the conference to enroll teachers in graduate credit if they want that.

Questions can be directed to Catherine Harris, Executive Director at rdbassconference@gmail.com .

Worry no more!

Over the past few months, since Richard Davis, founder of the Richard Davis Foundation for Young Bassists Inc., announced his retirement from the University of Wisconsin School of Music in May 2016, I have steadily been getting nervously inquisitive emails of students and alumni of RDYB as to the future of the Richard Davis Foundation for Young Bassists Inc.

Rest assured, there will be an annual Richard Davis Foundation Bass Conference in 2017 – Same time, same place and unquestionably same sharing of all things bass. Registration open as of December 1, 2016 for the conference which is April 14-15, 2017 this year.

When the UW School of Music (now the Mead Witter School of Music) and the UW Office of Diversity hosted a retirement party for Richard in September 2016, Richard said he did not want the party for the simple fact that although he is retiring from his full-time professor duties at UW, he is not in any way planning on slowing down in his other areas of activity. At the event, fresh off a plane from a week of performing in Europe, Richard started off his speech by saying, “I’m not retiring, I’m just reorganizing!”. Retirement to the professor is truly only a word; his varied performing, teaching (outside of the university), outreach and racial healing work will all continue into the foreseeable future.

A number of articles have recently reflected on Professor Davis’ career at UW and his teaching not only of the bass, but of a first-year interest group “FIG” on the oneness of human kind, the Black Music History Class (4 different classes taught in a sequence, 1 per semester), the Black Music Ensemble and the Madison, WI Institutes for the healing of racism. I recently interviewed Professor Davis to learn a bit more about his experiences in teaching both at UW and after, which will be detailed in a future blog post.

Recent articles include:

Interview on WORT
Bio on School Of Music website
UW School of Music facebook post
College of L&S News
Isthmus article (pre-retirement, 2014)
UW Alumni ON Wisconsin Magazine (preretirement)

2016 Conference Registration Deadline Extended

If you are still thinking about registering for the 23rd annual Richard Davis Foundation Bass conference, it’s not too late!

The posted deadline of March 1, 2016 for conference enrollment has been extended to March 15.

There are still recital spots available, however participants who wish to have a piano accompaniment should register no later than Monday, March 7, in order to ensure that your accompanist will have time to practice your recital pieces.

Questions or concerns can be directed to rdbassconference@gmail.com

For the up to the moment developments, sneak peeks, and announcements, “like” our page on Facebook !

2016 Featured Alumni

This year Robin Kesselman will be featured as a distinguished alumni for the Richard Davis Foundation’s 23rd annual bass conference! We are very pleased that he can make it back after graduating college and moving on into the professional world of being a performer. We’re looking forward to the expertise in orchestral bass playing, and energy he will bring to the conference both as a teacher and as a performer !

Get to know Robin a bit, by reading his bio below: 

Robin Kesselman, 2016 RDYB Featured Alumni

Robin Kesselman was appointed Principal Bass of the Houston Symphony Orchestra by Maestro Andrés Orozco­Estrada. He has performed as Guest Principal Bass with the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, travelled internationally with both the Philadelphia Orchestra and the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and appeared with the National, Atlanta, and Baltimore Symphonies.

Outside of the orchestra Kesselman frequently performs as a soloist and chamber musician as well as giving masterclasses around the country and abroad. During the 2016 – 17 season, the Houston Symphony will feature him as a soloist performing the Koussevitzky Concerto for Double Bass. Recently, he was also featured as a soloist at Carnegie’s Zankel Hall as a part of the Curtis Chamber Orchestra’s residency with Krzysztof Penderecki performing his Duo Concertante. In the summers, Kesselman has attended such festivals as the Pacific, Sarasota, and Aspen Music Festivals, as well as being a prizewinning fellow at the Tanglewood Music Center. Also, he served as guest faculty for the summer residency of the Youth Philharmonic of Colombia.

A native of Wheaton, Illinois, Robin grew up in a musical family. His parents are choral directors and his sister is a soprano. He began his undergraduate studies at the Colburn School of Music before completing his Bachelor of Music degree at the University of Southern California in 2012. He went on to receive his Artist Diploma from the Curtis Institute of Music in December of 2014. Kesselman’s primary teachers have been David Allen Moore, Harold Robinson, Edgar Meyer, Paul Ellison, Chris Hanulik, and Virginia Dixon.

Example Schedule

Ever wonder what it is that students actually do at the Richard Davis Foundation bass conference?

Wonder no more – below is an example of a schedule a young bassist might receive. All students have customized schedules, carefully laid out by an expert clinician who has been working with young bassists for over 30 years.

Students are placed into warm up classes, bass orchestra parts, and their  quartet/trio/quintet with others who are around the similar age and playing level -based on the information that students provide in their registration forms.

Independent of the aforementioned placement factors, students maintain a high level of freedom in their schedule, to choose to attend sessions which interest them, whether that is playing or watching masterclasses/recitals, choosing which special topic class they’d like to go to, or what flex time option they’d like to participate in.

Although core curriculum stays the same basically from year to year, new classes, teachers, music, and class themes are brought fourth every year. Students who attend years in a row are guaranteed a different experience every time. As students grow in their abilities and their interests change or mature, they will always find something new to take home with them.

Click link below to see an example of a student schedule:

RDYB Example Student Schedule (Click Here)

RDYB at WMEA Conference

WSMA 2015 Conference Attended by RDYB

On October 30, 2015 RDYB presented at the WMEA (Wisconsin Music Educators Association) Conference hosted by WSMA (Wisconsin School Music Association) as a guest of Ben Ferris’s panel on teaching the bass.

The distinguished panel, including Ben Ferris, Carl Davick, Brad Townsend, Richard Davis, Brian Melk and Catherine Harris answered questions to an attentive audience of school music educators from across the state of Wisconsin.

There was a large turn out to this early morning event, the first in the day for the Friday segment of the conference, so much so that the room had to be converted and people packed in. The attending teachers asked questions about the purchase and maintenance of a bass, how to teach their current bass students, and how to transfer skills from electric bass to bass guitar, bowing and fingering.

The event was insightful in that demonstrated the continuing need to fulfill the mission of RDYB, and perhaps expand programming to include a teacher training seminar.

2015 Conference Wrap-Up

21233_1087895947893952_7477598460017882355_nThank you so much to everyone for making an exciting, learning-filled weekend of bass! Hopefully everyone made it home safe, and has had some time to review their favorite learning experience of the weekend. Congrats to everyone who participated.

Thanks to all of the folks who have documented this conference through video and photo – it is fun to have a documentation of this great weekend! A friendly reminder – Please ask permission from the performers who  you may post videos or pictures of on the internet. We’d like to give proper credit where credit is due, including composers and performers. A side note – not all students or parents have signed photo release forms, and therefore may not want their name or pictures posted. If you have a great photo or video that you’d like to share, please contact the foundation through email and we can post it on our youtube channel, Facebook or website after asking the people involved.

Another way families have shared their young bassist’s participation in the program is through their local papers- families have sent in press releases to local news outlets included with a picture for publication. Here is a template document to get you started!  (don’t forget to send us a copy if they make it to the paper!)

Press Releases and Program Documents:

Want to share this experience with your local community? Press releases for local newspapers are available by CLICKING HERE.

Didn’t get a program, or would like to send one to a friend who couldn’t attend? Programs from FRIDAY CONCERT & SATURDAY CONCERT. Programs from the Student recitals, Friday and Saturday also available (2015 Student Recital).