Winter Speaker Series 2024: John Davis Virtual

January 20, 2024 2:00 pm - 4:00 pm At the Museum and Virtually on Vimeo

Searching for Blind Tom

“Pianist John Davis has made a mission of uncovering music by 19th century Black pianists, including enslaved persons, whose work had a direct impact on the blues, jazz, rock and R&B artists that came in their wake…” (Time Out New York). Join John for a lecture and performance about his quest to unearth the forgotten keyboard works of the once-enslaved musician and America’s first Black superstar performer, Thomas Wiggins.

In-Person tickets for this lecture are sold out. You can still join us virtually on Vimeo.

Lecture recording will be available to subscribers and ticket holders. 

About our Speaker

Pianist, recording artist, writer, archivist, curator, musical sleuth, and recipient of The 2022-2023 Rome Prize, John Davis has excavated and disseminated a previously buried African American roots music. Davis is perhaps most associated with three critically acclaimed recordings on the Newport Classic label:  John Davis Plays Blind Tom, a top-ten seller in Classical Music at Tower Records and; Marshfield Tornado: John Davis Plays Blind Boone, a repeat #1 record on the Ragtime chart at; and Halley’s Comet: Around the Piano with Mark Twain & John Davis, “played powerfully and with a rich palette,” according to The New York Times. 

The bedrock of Davis’ grassroots pursuit of forgotten Black culture is his personal collection of rare 19th-and early 20th-century printed African Americana. This archive of rare books, sheet music, and ephemera, widely respected in the antiquarian world, is the source for many of the ideas and materials that have filtered into his concerts, recordings, and literary contributions to African-American Lives, the African-American National Biography, and Stress and Coping in Autism, all published by Oxford University Press.  In 2017, Davis’ collection became the basis for Bamboula! Black Music Before the Blues, an exhibition he conceived and curated in 2017 at Brown University’s esteemed John Hay Library. Davis’ cutting-edge career has been featured on CNN; CNN-International; ABC Radio National (Australia); BBC World News; NPR’s Performance Today, All Things Considered, Here & Now, On Point, and The Takeaway; PBS’ Life 360; The Today Show on NBC, ABC’s Good Morning America; and in a program-long interview of him on ABC’s Nightline Up-Close. Among the countless print publications in which he has been profiled are The New York Times, The New Yorker, The Oxford American, The Independent  (London), and Scientific American.

Davis photo credit: John Halpern

Ways to Save

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Museum Member Subscription: $100 per person
Non-member Subscription: $125 per person
Deadline to Subscribe is January 13, 2024

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Among many benefits, Museum members save on Winter Speaker Series tickets.

Our Generous Supporters:

Presenting Sponsor

Series Sponsors

Johanna Becker
Dr. Joe Chazan
Mary Jennings
Susan and Bob Kieronski
Chas Miller & Birch Coffey
Santiago & Maureen Neville
Edwina Sebest
Cynthia Sinclair

Series Supporters

Eleanor Doumato

Speaker Accommodations

Catering Sponsor

Winter Speaker Series Committee

Johanna Becker, Chair
Cristin Searles Bilodeau, Director of Community Engagement
Eleanor Doumato
Joseph Gallichio
Toni Green
Susan Kieronski
Santiago Neville