Arts Guild Class of 2022
Pictured left to right: Adam Shoenfeld '92, Tasha Williams-Arroyo '92, John Sebastian '62, Maggie Harding '07 and Rita Baragona P'92 '95. (Not pictured, Dick Boak '68)
- John Sebastian ’62
- Dick Boak ’68
- Adam Shoenfeld ’92
- Tasha Williams-Arroyo ’92
- Maggie Harding ’07
- Rita Baragona P’92 ’95
Greenwich Village native John Sebastian’s contribution to modern music is unparalleled. The multi-instrumentalist singer-songwriter has graced a wide spectrum of styles through his 60 years in music. John’s performances on records for Bob Dylan (“Bringing It All Back Home”) and The Doors (harmonica on “Roadhouse Blues”) are the stuff of legend.
John was the co-founder of the Lovin’ Spoonful, often referred to as the American Beatles, who scored an incredible seven huge hits from 1965 to 1969, including “Daydream,” “Summer in the City” and “Do You Believe in Magic.”
After the Lovin’ Spoonful disbanded in early 1969, John went solo and, by August of that year, was immortalized for his performance at the Woodstock Music and Art Fair and in the Warner Bros. movie Woodstock. The film chronicled his impromptu performance before an audience of 400,000 on August 16, 1969.
In 1975, John’s self-penned solo hit, “Welcome Back,” became the theme for the perennial sitcom Welcome Back, Kotter. The song soared to the top of the charts to again weave his music into the fabric of our popular culture. His songs have been covered by hundreds of artists and he continues to write, tour, record, and make significant contributions to modern culture and is long considered the spokesperson for his generation.
(Photo courtesy of Jim Shea; biography courtesy of johnsebastian.com.)
Illustrator, woodworker, author and musician Dick Boak ’68 “nearly lost his eyesight at the age of six, and he has concerned himself with visual details ever since.” As a Blair student, Dick was well-known for his creative writing and his exquisitely detailed pen-and-ink drawings, a talent he continued to cultivate as an art instructor at the Blair from 1972 to 1973 and at the Stowe School in Vermont, where he taught subjects ranging from illustration to architecture to soccer.
In 1973, Dick discovered C. F. Martin & Co., a renowned maker of acoustic guitars. Hired in 1976 as a design draftsman, Dick embarked upon his 42-year career, helping to conceptualize and bring to life more than 100 signature guitar collaborations with the top musical talents of our time. His six acclaimed books capture the stories of his collaborations with Eric Clapton, Paul Simon, Joan Baez, Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, Jimmy Buffett, Mark Knopfler and many others. Retired since 2018, Dick has continued working as a freelance pointillist illustrator, archiving for his esteemed neighbor Mario Andretti, building 10 acoustic guitars in his workshop and recording two CDs of primarily original music.
Professional guitarist, songwriter and producer Adam Shoenfeld ’92 is one of the nation’s premier studio musicians. Based in Nashville, Tennessee, he specializes in modern country music, and his guitar musicianship has been featured on over 400 albums, including those by superstars Luke Bryan, Keith Urban, Blake Shelton, Rascal Flatts and many others.
As lead guitarist for music duo Big & Rich, Adam performed on the band’s debut album, “Horse of a Different Color,” which reached the top of the Billboard Country Albums Chart, and has played on every Big & Rich album to date, co-authoring many of their hits, including "Real World" and "High Five."
After lending his signature sound to the song “Hick Town” on country star Jason Aldean’s debut album, Adam secured the position of musical director and lead guitarist on every other Aldean release to date. For the last nine years, Adam has balanced studio work with touring with Tim McGraw’s band. A seven-time nominee for the Academy of Country Music’s Guitar Player of the Year, he has played on over 45 number-one songs, including Faith Hill’s hit, “Mississippi Girl.” His critically acclaimed solo debut album, “All the Birds Sing,” was released this January.
During her time at Blair, performing artist Tasha Williams-Arroyo ’92 distinguished herself in productions of Our Town and Grease, as a performer and choreographer for the Blair Academy Dancers and as stage manager for a variety of productions. After studying performing arts at Fordham University, she embarked upon a successful career in local and regional theatre and television, scoring roles as an actress, singer and dancer, starring as Ruth Younger in A Raisin in the Sun and as Mrs. Muller in Doubt, a role for which she won the NJACT Perry Award for Outstanding Featured Actress in a play. She recently portrayed Deloris Van Cartier in interACT Theatre’s Sister Act-The Musical, and she is the proud recipient of interACT’s Audience Favorite Award in 2017 and 2019. As the resident director of youth productions for interACT Theatre Productions, she runs a drama camp for children, and in her free time, the versatile artist performs with her band, Flip Da Skrip.
Jewelry artist Maggie Harding ’07 first drew the attention of her fine arts teachers at Blair, who noted that she was “a natural” with “superb” talent, excelling in her drawing, ceramics and art portfolio classes. Falling in love with metalwork and textiles while studying in Florence, Italy, Maggie matriculated at Skidmore College, graduating with a degree in studio art in 2011. After college, she embarked upon a career selling batik textiles that were often enriched with lace and hand-embroidery before transitioning her art back into metalsmithing. Today, working out of her studio in Saratoga Springs, New York, Maggie lovingly crafts each piece of artisanal jewelry by hand using silver, gold and gemstones. She is a featured designer at the Silverado Jewelry Gallery of Saratoga.
Consummate artist and beloved former art department chair Rita Baragona has influenced countless students with her passionate commitment to teaching art. Joining Blair’s faculty in 1989, she inspired a generation of students with lessons in painting, drawing and the importance of art in one’s life in addition to serving as The Romano Gallery’s curator and assistant director. Devoting herself to expanding the quality and breadth of the art department, Ms. Baragona propelled the program to be competitive with fine arts programs across the country during her 24 years at Blair. She continues to be affiliated with the School, painting campus scenes to commemorate faculty and staff with 25 years’ of service to Blair.
A graduate of Carnegie Mellon University and New York University, she has been a professional artist since 1972 and has held 12 solo exhibitions at the Bowery Gallery in New York City. These shows have been positively reviewed in the NY Fine Arts Examiner.com, Art in America, The New Criterion and the New Republic, among others. In Art in America, Jed Perl wrote, “What a nature painter must do is impose some human logic or private poetry on the natural world….By this measure, Rita Baragona is a very interesting painter.” She remains an active member of the arts community, exhibiting her paintings in single and group shows throughout the United States, including the Dutot Museum in Pennsylvania and Fairleigh Dickinson in New Jersey. This season, her work can be seen at Wright University in Ohio, the Gamut Gallery in Pennsylvania and Blair’s Romano Gallery.