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May
29
2024
Antioch School

Blues musician, writer and actor Guy Davis will take the stage at the Antioch School Scholarship Gala on Friday, April 21, at the Foundry Theater. (Submitted photo)

Guy Davis to headline Antioch School Scholarship Gala

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The Antioch School will hold its Scholarship Gala fundraising event at the Foundry Theater on Friday, April 21. Headlining this year’s gala event is a name that may be familiar to many village music lovers: Grammy-nominated blues musician Guy Davis is set to take the stage at the Foundry Theater.

A New York-raised musician, storyteller and actor with a long recording career and a host of credits on television, in film and on the stage — and the son of the late actors Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee — Guy Davis was also a regular performer in the lineup of the annual African American Cross-Cultural Works’ Blues Fest. The music festival was a mainstay in the village for nearly 20 years, and held its final event in Yellow Springs in 2016, with Davis headlining.

Antioch School Development Coordinator Chris Westhoff told the News that he was able to bring Davis on board for the gala partially because of their past work together: Both worked with the state of Maryland’s Folklife Center, Common Ground on the Hill, and Davis later collaborated with Westhoff on an educational residency in Bellefontaine, Ohio, public schools. In 2021, Westhoff cast Davis in the role of Jim Casy in a production of “The Grapes of Wrath” presented at the Holland Theatre by Mad River Theater Works; Westhoff is managing director of that theater company.

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But it was Davis’ connection to Yellow Springs — and specifically to the late Faith Patterson, who founded the Blues Fest — that Westhoff said clinched the musician’s appearance at the gala.

“When I told him that Faith Patterson — who he knew so well from [the Blues Fest]  — had at one time worked at the Antioch School in the kindergarten, he put the dots together that, by supporting the event, he would be supporting a legacy of people that he cared for and believed in,” Westhoff said. “And he would have an opportunity to come back to Yellow Springs, which is a place he loves.”

In addition to performing at the gala, Westhoff said Davis is slated to hold an educational residency at the Antioch School, exploring Piedmont and Delta blues stylings with students.

“It’s a great program that I’ve seen him do [with other students,]” Westhoff said. “By exploring those musical stylings, there are history lessons, there are sociology lessons, there’s geography.”

Westhoff added that, though Davis’ residency at the Antioch School will be brief, he hopes the educational experience will be a “first engagement” in the village, and that a future collaboration with Davis in coming school years will be open not only to Antioch School students, but to students in Yellow Springs Schools as well.

A private institution that has served students in Yellow Springs and the Miami Valley since 1921, the Antioch School is often referred to as the “oldest democratic school in the country.” Founded by then-Antioch College President Arthur Morgan, the Antioch School’s approach to education has long aimed to ensure that students have the agency to explore learning on their own terms under the guidance of their teachers.

“[Students] have significant choice in how they use their time throughout the day … and we think that play is the most natural form of learning,” School Manager Nathan Summers told the News. “We really respect the importance of play in children’s lives — we respect childhood in general.”

The Scholarship Gala, an annual event since the 1990s for the Antioch School, underwent a name change this year; previously, it was known as the “Auction Gala” in reference to the silent and live auction portions of the event. Westhoff said the shift in moniker followed a desire to make clear the gala’s objective.

“We rebranded it this year to make the purpose [of the event] expressly clear,” Westhoff said. “We’re seeding the scholarship fund for next year’s school families.”

This year’s gala will follow a similar format to those in years past, with a silent auction of items including hotel stays, gift certificates for regional restaurants, museums and experiences — including tickets to the upcoming Nelsonville Music Festival — and handcrafted art by regional artists, among others. A live auction will be held for larger-ticket items, including vacation packages. The event will be catered by Current Cuisine, with a menu featuring such hors d’oeuvres as pulled pork sliders, deviled shrimp dip and hush puppies with Creole-inspired mustard dip. Emporium Wines, which co-sponsors the gala with WYSO, will provide wine for the event.

Serving as emcee for the gala will be Mike Larsen, a stand-up comedian and former TV writer for “The Drew Carey Show,” “Ellen” and, most recently, “Real Time with Bill Maher,” among others. Having studied political science before his Hollywood break, Larsen returned to politics in 2008 when he served as communications director for then-California Congresswoman Jackie Speier.

In 2020, Larsen, who now lives in Plain City, Ohio, ran for office himself, aiming to challenge Republican Rep. Jim Jordan for the Fourth District U.S. House seat. Ultimately,  Larsen lost the Democratic primary race that year, and incumbent Jordan held his seat.

“He didn’t win, but he put up a good fight, and that’s how we met each other,” Westhoff said of Larsen.

As with Davis, Westhoff said he was able to get Larsen on board for the gala due to having worked with the comic and writer in the past: Following the election, Westhoff and Larsen put together a series in Bellefontaine, the Roots Comedy Ramble, that blended comedy with roots music, and Larsen also served as narrator for the same production of “The Grapes of Wrath” that starred Davis.

“I thought [Larsen] would be a good choice to emcee and give us some laughs — and that way, I don’t have to do all the talking,” Westhoff said.

“We’ve really tried to create a community-building event that also gives us the necessary financial infusion to support our scholarships,” Summers added.

More than half of Antioch School students receive financial aid for tuition from the scholarship fund, he said, with scholarships disbursed based on need. He added that a long-term goal for the school is that there be no financial barriers to enrollment for prospective students who might benefit from or prefer the school’s play-based, student-led pedagogy.

“We would like every family who wants to be at the school to be here, regardless of their financial position,” Summers said. “We’re not at that place yet, but our fundraising is essential to us reaching that goal.”

The Antioch School Scholarship Gala will be held Friday, April 21, 7 p.m., at the Foundry Theater. Tickets are $75; reduced-price tickets of $55 are also available for those who request them. For more information, and to purchase tickets, go to antiochschool.org.

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One Response to “Guy Davis to headline Antioch School Scholarship Gala”

  1. Butt Naked Free says:

    I saw Guy Davis at a Blues Fest in Yellow Springs years ago and it was THE very best live performance I’ve seen in my life! He’s Great! Great storyteller; great singer; great Blues Man! Wow! Loved the “Butt Naked Free” CD I think I wore it out!

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