The Youth Movement
We’re not totally unaware that we’ve just created a long series of lists that trumpet the power of America’s least sympathetic set of operators: rich, white men. But hey, let’s be honest about how our preppy town with a hippie heart works. The only thing more insulting than portraying the world as a male-dominated money game is pretending not to do that by peppering these kinds of assessments with token representatives of groups we wish had more say-so. Here’s the good news: Things are getting better. Take a look at this list of young movers and shakers who, if they’re not exactly a multi-ethnic rainbow, are plying their trades in different fields that are likely to make a lasting mark on our community.
Tony Bennett (Photo by Matt Riley)
1. Tony Bennett
UVA Men’s Basketball Coach, age 43
At 43, Tony Bennett is a bit older than the rest of the people on this list, but he bears a different weight of responsibility than his peers in the form of the $1.7 million a year he gets from UVA to revitalize its hoops program. Don’t hate him because he’s rich. Bennett is at the front of a new wave of college basketball coaches who do things the right way. What does that mean? It means, among other things, that he lives and breathes basketball without letting it break down his moral fiber on the recruiting trail. Bennett is still the NCAA’s all-time leader in three point field goal percentage and he spent three years in the NBA with the Charlotte Hornets, so his players can’t challenge his authority on those grounds. And it’s a safe bet he could still trash half of his guards in one-on-one.
He prioritizes teaching, discipline, and defense, and so far his teams have overachieved. The jury is still out on Bennett’s recruiting ability, and in his results-based world, he won’t have too much time to make his case. Have some patience.
UVA takes its hoops seriously and has seen its fair share of high-profile coaches, but with the exception of the Ralph Sampson years, the record book tells the story of a program firmly rooted in the ACC’s second tier. Bennett set school records for wins at Washington State (26) in back-to-back seasons before coming to Charlottesville, and our West Coast sources tell us we still don’t know what we got.
2. Collean Laney
General Manager at The Jefferson Theater, age 32
The acts that hit the stage of the Jefferson aren’t the only reason the historic theater has become the top draw in our community. Since 2011, Collean Laney has been the guiding force behind making sure that playing and attending shows there are a memorable experience. “It really does take a village,” said Laney, who currently leads 40-plus part-time and two full-time staffers.
Laney said hard work is the key to getting ahead in the dog-eat-dog world of the music industry. Sometimes the work involves less glamorous tasks, like changing toilet paper rolls or ousting unruly patrons, but the rewards comes in indelible moments, like bringing a cup of tea to Wanda Jackson and ending up talking about sweaters.
Laney “caught the bug” for the entertainment business after an internship with the New York Times Arts & Leisure event series, then moved up the ranks at LiveNation’s Broadway touring division, and upon her return to Charlottesville, rose quickly to an upper management position at Starr Hill Presents/Redlight Management. She is one of only a handful of female managers at the music company. The typical challenges of the entertainment business feel seamless to Laney, who presents an unassuming figure in her trademark concert tee and “granny” sweater. “This doesn’t feel like a job to me,” she stated with aplomb. “I came here to book weddings and stayed focused on my goals.”
Michael Allenby (Photo by Tom Daly)
3. Michael Allenby
Co-founder of The Artist Farm, age 36
Charlottesville is fast becoming a music industry town. The presence of Coran Capshaw and Redlight Management has meant that musicians will come here to play in the hopes of getting discovered at venues that wouldn’t exist without his influence. But the music industry abhors stasis, and it’s only a matter of time before the apprentice steps up to challenge the master. That ageless premise is playing out in many music business subplots in town, but few as remarkable as the rise of Michael Allenby and The Artist Farm. Having cut his teeth at Red Light at the bottom of the totem pole, Allenby has learned his lessons well and struck out on his own course, establishing himself and his company as a diversified music management firm with a story to tell.
If you’ve ever enjoyed the music of the Infamous Stringdusters, or folked-out hard at The Festy Experience, you’ve gotten yourself a taste of what Allenby has in store for our little big town. Guided by an aesthetic he calls “high country living,” Allenby is out to mix the no-nonsense professionalism he learned at Redlight with the motivational modus operandi he used to lure the Stringdusters from Nashville on his way to becoming a pied piper to a whole generation of people who don’t want to see the lines separating folk, Americana, bluegrass and jam band music.
Wes Bellamy (Photo by Nick Strocchia)
4. Wes Bellamy
Teacher at Albemarle High School, age 25
Wes Bellamy is a relative newcomer to Charlottesville, but in his few short years in town, he’s made his presence felt. Originally from a hard knocks neighborhood in Atlanta, Bellamy, a South Carolina State University graduate, came to the city in 2009 to participate in the African-American Teaching Fellows program, a local nonprofit that offers scholarship money to students in the field of education.
Bellamy arrived thinking he’d teach for a few years, go to law school and get into politics, but he quickly abandoned the goal of becoming a state senator for his new calling—teaching. After spending time working with local teens from low-income families through the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, he turned down admission to four different law schools to become a substitute teacher at Monticello High. Last year he took a full time teaching position at Albemarle High School and now he has plans to become a high school principal.
But his professional role doesn’t capture Bellamy’s impact. As a member of the 100 Black Men of Central Virginia, he has used his business acumen and street smarts to raise money to start a nonprofit after-school program called Helping Young People Evolve (H.Y.P.E.), which provides boxing instruction and mentoring to boys. The venture has been so successful that Bellamy is looking to expand its services, offering a tennis program to local girls. More importantly, Bellamy is an unapologetically ambitious black male role model in a city that often loses its best African-American talent.
5. Hebah Fisher
Program Director at Community Investment Collaborative, age 22
Hebah Fisher didn’t envision putting down roots here when she came to Charlottesville from the Middle East, where she’d lived since she was 12, to study at UVA. She graduated with a degree in Global Development Studies in 2011, but instead of heading off for distant horizons, she found her focus locally.
As the president of Student Entrepreneurs for Economic Development, she provided free consulting services to small businesses and NGOs, which launched her into a community-wide discussion about fostering startups in Charlottesville. She’s now the primary staff member at the Community Investment Collaborative, a new nonprofit that is training its first class of local entrepreneurs.
Fisher works with CIC’s startup clients on a weekly basis, facilitating discussions with established business owners who offer insights on various aspects of business management. And that’s just the beginning: CIC will soon offer small loans to help entrepreneurs make their business plans reality.
IF I HAD THE POWER…
Grace Paine (Photo by John Robinson)
Charlottesville High School senior and co-editor-in-chief of the Knight Time Review, age 16
“Although I’m tempted to rattle off a laundry list of acts that would immediately bring about global peace and security (provide every person with access to food, drinking water, and medical care, for example), I want to address this question as realistically as possible. So, taking a look at my own community, I would focus on one issue that every leader must grapple with: education.
Educationalist Ken Robinson once compared our school system to the fast food industry. We have adopted a model of standardization and conformity, he said, rather than customization to individual circumstances. This model does not serve individuals or society well.
If I had the power to change the system, I would focus on transforming our educational system so it both accepts and takes advantage of the diverse spectrum of human talent available to us. Our current system presumes that only one path brings happiness and success—do well in school, get into a ‘good’ college, get a high-paying job. Yet, I know far too many adults who have paid attention to those rules, secured a ‘respectable job,’ and still feel unsatisfied with their professional lives.
The relentless emphasis on standardized testing and standardized learning teaches students that only one type of intelligence is valuable in today’s world. Not only is this untrue, but it leaves many students disillusioned and unable to recognize their own strengths. Human development is not as linear as the system dictates, and our education system should not and cannot be one-size-fits-all.
If I had the power, I would liberate our school system from the pressure to turn out ‘high achieving’ students as defined by the College Board or SOLs. I would give teachers more room to creatively engage their students, and students more freedom to pursue their passions.”