Richard Davis Lane to be Built in
Darbo-Worthington Neighborhood
A Bridge between People
Top: Richard Davis, shortly after he
was named an NEA Jazz Master
Above: The land where Richard
Davis Lane will be built.
“To commemorate Richard Davis’ great contributions to Madison, to racial healing and to American music, the Worthington Park
Neighborhood Association voted on February 12th to recommend that a new street proposed for the neighborhood be named
Richard Davis Lane,” said Wilder Deitz, a jazz musician who calls Madison home. “Madison’s Common Council recently
approved a measure to name a new street in the Darbo-Worthington neighborhood after Richard Davis. Davis, 87, is a longtime
Madisonian and professor emeritus of bass at the University of Wisconsin where he taught from 1977 until his retirement in
2016. Construction on the street is due to start later this year. The annual Darbo-Worthington Peace Walk and Block Party, held
this year in late August, will feature a musical celebration of Davis’ work and legacy.”

In announcing the street naming, Deitz emphasized three achievements of Davis’ that make him worthy of the honor.

“As a performer, Davis has played alongside a who’s who of modern music, including such varied artists as Sarah Vaughan,
Bruce Springsteen, Igor Stravinsky, Leonard Bernstein, Van Morrisson and Frank Sinatra,” Deitz said. “As teacher, he has
contributed immeasurably to the advancement of bass playing through his professorship at the University and his Conference
for Young Bassists, which continues to convene annually (Davis also ran the Black Music Ensemble, a beloved UW institution
that inspired the creation of an afterschool program of the same name at East High School). Finally, while in Madison, Davis has
worked tirelessly to promote racial healing through various groups and workshops. His Institutes for the Healing of Racism
continues to push for an end to racial inequality and oppression, both locally and nationally.”

Davis has been laying low since his retirement, dealing with some health issues. Nonetheless, Davis is the epitome of cool
wearing none of the ego that being named a National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master might bring out in other people on his
sleeve. While definitely “street-wise,” Davis also has a fondness for all people, willing to stand up for fairness and people’s
rights no matter what the circumstance.

And he was characteristically humble when discussing the honor.
By Jonathan Gramling

Ever since the state of Wisconsin installed a pedestrian and bike bridge across E. Washington
Avenue near Hwy. 30, two areas of the Darbo-Worthington community have been cut off from
each other because the access road that served the area was turned into a dead-end when the
bridge was built. People have had to drive several blocks out of their way to get from Webb
Avenue to Darbo Drive. It has been a hindrance to anyone who lives or works in the area. It even
caused the closing of the McDonald’s that had been on the corner for decades and now stands
vacant.

All of that is set to change in the coming year as the city of Madison takes steps to build a short
one-block street to connect Webb and Darbo. And it seems only appropriate that the new street
will be called Richard Davis Lane after musician and educator Richard Davis who has
connected isolated people to each other through his work at the University of Wisconsin-Madison
and the Madison Institutes for the Healing of Racism, which he founded in the early 2000s.
Having Richard Davis Lane named after me feels real good,” Davis said. “I don’t know how they rated it or how they selected me. But most of the people whom I
know who have received that honor are Vel Phillips, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Thomas Jefferson and John Adams. I don’t know why I was selected.”

The reasons for the honor are many for Davis has influenced several generations of bassists through the Foundation for Young Bassists.
“I can’t say how many kids have gone through the Foundation, but it’s been quite a few
hundred,” Davis said. “They are bassists from around the state and beyond, ages 3 to 18. I’
ve had notable students come through the Foundation. The one I remember the most at this
time is Dan Chmielinski. He’s 21-years-old now and graduated from Julliard. He’s on top of
the competitive world in New York. I went to his graduation at Julliard. He started when he
was three-years-old. That’s what we promote. The earlier they start, the better. He asked
his mother if he could play bass when he was two-years-old. She said, ‘Wait a year.’ When
he was three-years-old, he said, ‘I’m ready.’ And he was. Isn’t it something?”

And as a professor in the UW-Madison School of Music, Davis has impacted the teaching
of bass for years to come.

“Some of them are very high professionals,” Davis observed. “Some of them are bass
professors and orchestra players. I don’t know if you know the name Peter Dominguez, but
he was one of my first in 1977 when I first came here and he’s still with me with the
Foundation. He teaches at Oberlin College. He’s been there for a while. Before that, he was
at Michigan State. I have about 4-5 professors. Andy Raciti is at Northwestern and plays
with the Milwaukee Symphony. One is in Texas. I forget what symphony he plays with. But
they are all over the place.”

And perhaps one of his proudest achievements has been the formation of the Madison
Institutes for the Healing of Racism, which was held in his home until 2016. It is an Institute
that has been set up to operate for years to come while fulfilling Davis’ passion for social
justice.

“It’s been 19 years of heavenly bliss helping people get through racism and issues,” Davis
said. “That’s been very successful. I held the sessions in my home since it got started until
just this past year where we held it at the Goodman Community Center. I attend the first
two sessions. And I have very good facilitators who have stepped in. Tehmina Islam, one
of our facilitators, is the first person of color to become a midwife in this state. My
facilitators are with me all of the time.”

In October, Davis is going to be feted at the Overture Center where former students and
colleagues will gather to honor Davis and his accomplishments. The tribute will end with
the performance of Caroline’s Song, a piece he wrote for his long-time companion Caroline
Loniello who died in 2017.

“Caroline’s Song will be played on tape,” Davis said. “I will just be sitting in a space
listening. It’s my voice. Laurie Lang recorded it right here in this room. She brought a
recorder over and took the sound off of a video and added my voice to it. That is how it will
end. After that, no other ending will be necessary.”

Through Richard Davis Lane, Davis will continue to connect us for generations to come.