Jontavious Willis Returns to Walton Arts Center

NORTHWEST ARKANSAS, September 24, 2020 – When multi-instrumentalist and bluesman Jontavious Willis was at Walton Arts Center in 2017, he was opening for Keb’ Mo’ and Taj Mahal. Willis will return to Walton Arts Center on Thursday, Oct. 22 at 7:30 pm, this time as the headliner.

Tickets range from $32 to $52 plus applicable fees and can be purchased by calling 479.443.5600 or by visiting waltonartscenter.org. Willis was originally scheduled to appear as part of the 2020-21 West Street Live Series presented by Neal Pendergraft.

Every generation or so a young bluesman bursts onto the scene and sends a jolt through blues lovers. At the age of 24, Willis has that effect on some people. Yet many fans of Willis regard him as an old soul. His style of playing and his voice touches the very roots of country blues. He brings back the true soul of the music. A newspaper headline once called him a “70-year-old bluesman in a 20-year-old body.”

Willis released his second album, Spectacular Class, in 2019. Through original lyrics written by Willis, the gifted musician created a timeless album that features dynamic vocals and all types of blues: Delta, Piedmont, Texas and gospel. His standout fingerpicking, flat-picking and slide prowess are also on display on the guitar, harmonica, banjo and cigar box.

Hailing from Greenville, Georgia, Willis grew up singing gospel music at the Mount Pilgrim Baptist Church with his grandfather. At the age of 14, he came across a YouTube video of Muddy Waters playing “Hoochie Coochie Man” and was hooked. That’s when he set his course on the blues.

“That’s my Wonderboy, the Wunderkind,” Mahal said after inviting Willis to play on stage in 2015. “He’s a great new voice of the 21st century in the acoustic blues. I just love the way he plays.”

While large-scale performances are suspended through at least January 2021, intermission programming with less than 200 patrons is made possible in part by the Ghost Light Recovery Fund.

The performance will be in Baum Walker Hall to allow for a minimum of four empty seats between parties and every other row will remain empty. These empty rows, with select seats removed, will also serve as walkways to seats located in the center of the theater while reducing contact with other patrons seated in that row.

Walton Arts Center has implemented additional health and safety precautions to protect patrons, staff, volunteers and artists from the spread of COVID-19. These precautions have been approved by the Arkansas Department of Health and include:

  • Patrons will be required to wear face coverings when in the venue, except when consuming food or drink.
  • Concessions including a full beverage menu and pre-packaged snacks will be available for cashless purchase only.
  • Tickets will be emailed to patrons and can be scanned directly from a smartphone to reduce contact.
  • The venue will be cleaned and disinfected before and after each event including the use of disinfectant foggers in the theater.
  • Doors to Walton Arts Center and to the theater will open 45 minutes prior to the scheduled show time. Patrons are encouraged to purchase concessions and use the restrooms when they arrive and then proceed directly to their seats to reduce congregating in the lobby and traffic in the aisles.

Staff members and volunteers will have their temperature checked each time they arrive for work; wear face coverings when interacting with performers, the public or each other and are required to wash their hands or use hand sanitizer at least once every hour while at work.

For a complete list of health and safety precautions that will be in place for this and future performances at Walton Arts Center visit www.waltonartscenter.org.

Support for Walton Arts Center is provided, in part, by the Arkansas Arts Council, an agency of the Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage, and Tourism, and the National Endowment for the Arts. Walton Arts Center is Arkansas’ largest and busiest performing arts presenter. Each year more than 215,000 people from Arkansas, Missouri, Kansas and Oklahoma and beyond attend more than 300 public events at Walton Arts Center, including performances, rehearsals, community gatherings, receptions, weddings and more. Approximately 35,000 students and teachers participate annually in arts learning programs at Walton Arts Center, and almost 250 volunteers donate 28,000 hours of time each year to its operations. Walton Arts Center presents entertainers and artists from around the world including Broadway musicals, renowned dance companies, international artists, up-and-coming jazz musicians and more. As a non-profit organization, Walton Arts Center enjoys the generous support of public sector funding, corporate sponsorship and private donors, allowing audience members to enjoy world-class performances at a great price. To learn more about Walton Arts Center, visit www.waltonartscenter.org.

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