Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Centrum Names New Artistic Director for The Port Townsend Acoustic Blues Festival

Centrum, Washington’s home for creative arts and education, has announced the appointment of Daryl Davis to the position of Artistic Director for the Port Townsend Acoustic Blues Festival.  Davis will work with Centrum staff to identify faculty, develop curriculum, and create artist lineups for 2012 mainstage performances at McCurdy Pavilion, and for the annual “Blues in the Clubs” series.  Davis succeeds Corey Harris, who was appointed Artistic Director in 2009, and completed his tenure in August, 2011.  Established in 1992, the Port Townsend Acoustic Blues Festival is one of the premier gatherings of blues music aficionados in the country, and a destination for students and fans of all ages to study and experience the rich history of the acoustic blues tradition. 

“Daryl Davis’ abilities and experience as a performer, teacher and administrator make him ideal for this role,” said John MacElwee, Centrum’s Executive Director.  “He has been a popular presence at the workshop for many years with very strong knowledge of the program and a proponent of the work we do at Centrum.  We very much look forward to working with him.”  

The son of a Foreign Service officer, Daryl Davis is a native of Chicago, but was raised in Europe and Africa.  He earned a bachelor of music degree from Howard University, where he was a member of the Howard University Choir and Jazz Vocal Ensemble. In addition to being a vocalist, guitarist, keyboardist, and composer, Davis is a celebrated lecturer, actor, and author of, “Klan-Destine Relationships: A Black Man’s Odyssey in the Ku Klux Klan,” the story of his quixotic journey into the heart of the KKK.

As a performer, Davis has worked with Elvis Presley’s Jordanaires, The Coasters, B.B. King, Chuck Berry, Percy Sledge, and many others.  He was the featured pianist on Cephas & Wiggins’ 1992 Grammy Award winning album, Flip Flop and Fly.  In 1985, boogie-woogie pioneer Pinetop Perkins selected Davis to succeed him in the piano and vocal slot of the Muddy Waters Legendary Blues Band.  

Davis’ album, American Roots, received the 2005 Washington Area Music Association Award for Best Roots Music Artist, and the 2006 and 2008 WAMA award for Best Blues Instrumentalist. As an actor, Davis has most recently appeared on the critically acclaimed television show, The Wire.  He is the recipient of the Dizzy Gillespie Bahai Award for Racial Harmony Through the Arts, and the highly prestigious American Ethical Union’s Elliott-Black Award.  His work has been featured on CNN, CNBC, Good Morning America, National Public Radio, The Washington Post, and The Baltimore Sun.

"It is with great honor and pleasure that I have been entrusted with the opportunity to hold the position of Artistic Director for Centrum's Acoustic Blues Festival,” said Davis.  “It is my vision and goal to expand the recognition, acceptance, and knowledge of this musical art form beyond its indigenous region, while preserving the original integrity and style of this great tradition.  While many of the original practitioners have passed on, I will not let their memories fade or their contributions to our great American musical history go unrecognized or be forgotten, but rather live on through the participants who attend Centrum during my directorship and as I invite others to join us in sharing this vision.”

Corey Harris was appointed Artistic Director of thePort Townsend Acoustic Blues Festival in 2009.    During his tenure, the festival drew nearly 200 participants each year from as far away as France and Australia, and featured performances and master classes from Taj Mahal, Nat Reese, John Dee Holman, David Bromberg, and many others.  Harris was profiled in Martin Scorsese’s PBS documentary The Blues, and heralded for his work in connecting the music of the American blues masters to the African griots, the class of traveling poets, musicians, and storytellers who maintain a tradition of oral history in parts of West Africa.

A veteran performer, Harris has appeared and recorded with numerous artists including Taj Mahal, Billy Bragg, Ali Farka Touré, and Wilco. In September, 2007 Harris was awarded a MacArthur “Genius Award” Fellowship.

“We greatly appreciate Corey’s work over the last three years in bringing some fresh voices in the country blues genre to Centrum,” said MacElwee, “and also in connecting the blues tradition to its roots in Africa by inviting African artists to be part of the festival.”

The Port Townsend Acoustic Blues Festival celebrates the tradition of acoustic blues (also known as country blues) and the masters who create and preserve those traditions - through workshops, jam sessions, and public performances in and around Port Townsend, WA.  For more information, visit the home of the blues at Centrum at

Centrum, in partnership with Fort Worden State Park, is a gathering place for artists and creative thinkers from all cultures, and in all phases of their development; for students of all ages and backgrounds; and for audiences seeking extraordinary cultural enrichment. Centrum promotes creative experiences that change lives.

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