Bill Jones: “Looking At The Page And Listening To It”

The English teacher/poet William Jones – often called Bill Jones – plays a distinctive role in the story of Towson-Glen Arm. During the 90’s Jones taught English at both Towson High and Dulaney High School, the two schools that the majority of the TGA artists attended. While teaching at Towson High and Dulaney, Jones became a major influence for the scene’s many outre writers and even some of its musicians and multi-media artists. Few other educators created as much of a buzz as Jones did among the TGA cognoscenti – for many students, past and present, his unconventional approach and the wildly creative atmosphere fostered in his class room were just as metaphysically action packed as any of Towson-Glen Arm’s visceral live music concerts and bizarre performance art spectacles.

There was an intense bond of respect between Bill Jones and Towson-Glen Arm. Jones has said that the TGA artists he worked with in his English classes compromised “a very special group” and he even referred to TGA poet Alicia Rabins as “a phenomenon”. Jones’ support of the TGA movement’s seminal literary works played an important part in inspiring him to organize and curate one of the scene’s most legendary events: the first Towson High School Coffeehouse talent showcase.

The first THS Coffeehouse was held on May 22nd 1994. Among the student performers featured that night were TGA artists Alicia Rabins, Diego Ramos, Claire Mysko, Daphne Davis, and Dave Willemain who gave an outrageous dramatic/comedic reading of his stories ‘Dunk-A-Balls’* and ‘The Routine’ accompanied by the instrumental improv music of Scott Gilmore and Spence Holman. The performances at this event (mostly poetry readings) were video taped in their entirety by Violet LeVoit. This tape is the most comprehensive existent video documentation of a non-music TGA event, and it is perhaps most notable for featuring the only known recording of a spoken word performance by Dave Willemain.

To understand why Bill Jones was a powerful force in the development and legacy of TGA the best thing to do is let the man speak for himself. Below is a spirited and entertaining interview with Jones that was originally published in the 1993 edition of Towson High’s Colophon literary magazine. Additionally there are also a few photos of Jones as he appeared during the TGA’s scene’s heyday in shots taken from Towson High School yearbooks:

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Bill Jones working with student Caroline Mitten at Towson High School circa 1994

Bill Jones working with student Caroline Mitten at Towson High School circa 1994

Bill Jones' 1994 Towson High yearbook photo

Bill Jones’ 1994 Towson High yearbook photo

*a recording of Dave Willemain’s powerful THS Coffeehouse reading (with an introduction by Bill Jones) can be found here: https://nunsliketofence.bandcamp.com/track/dave-willemain-feat-scott-gilmore-spence-holman-dunk-a-balls

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