Thursday, May 29, 2008

Ragtime Undergoing Another Revival?

A question arises from me on the issue of what really constitute a “ragtime revival” and whether ragtime is an underground phenomenon like it did during the late 1800s before it exploded into scene in the early 1900s as a true rival with 1900 being the pivotal point in time when more pianists were doing and composing ragtime crediting many of the black rag timers who piqued their interests in this new music genre of the time.

Of course, nowadays I don’t think we have this “underground” phenomenon since there are many venues or festivals that take place every year in the United States for many new and old ragtime enthusiasts, and those who hear it for the very first time.

But at what point would the revival of ragtime constitute a true revival and not something that is perennially dormant only to come out when called? Would it be the number of ragtime sheets being composed be a good way to gauge the interest in ragtime? What about CD's? Or the rising number of newer and/or younger rag timers whether it’s the piano, a band, a guitar rag timer playing Maple Leaf Rag, or a banjo? Or would the rising number of ragtime festivals being held around the United States be a good gauge to determine the “revival” question? Perhaps a revival or a long, slow awakening is underway in the form of an electronic format via the internet such as using YouTube to watch and listen to ragtime being played? Or increasing number of blogsites and websites that revolve around Ragtime?

I posed a similar question in Yahoo’s Ragtime newsgroup “Elite Syncopations” and one remarked that there were more older people in the audience (live performance I suppose) than younger ones. That may be the perception but are many of these older people internet-savvy enough to download midi ragtime files or go to YouTube and punch in “ragtime” in the search engine and see the numerous pages of videos of people playing ragtime (mostly on pianos)? Who would that audience most likely be on the internet, the younger audience or older ones?

As for the number of ragtime festivals it has grown over the years with a few of them being around for more than 2 decades such as Sedalia’s Scott Joplin Ragtime Festival to celebrate their 28th anniversary this year. And recently we have the Rocky Mountain Ragtime Festival which held it’s last festival in 2005 (13th anniversary) and no longer but that doesn’t mean it won’t come back. Then we have the numerous more “recent” festivals that are becoming more established such as the ever so popular and growing Sutter Creek Ragtime Festival which will celebrate their 10th anniversary this summer. And then the smaller ones such as the Eau Claire Ragtime Festival celebrating their 10th anniversary and so on. How many of these festivals are there in the United States that celebrate Ragtime annually in the form of festivals or hosted in an era Main Street like atmosphere with familiar ragtime pieces being played that can be heard in the distance?

How do we know for sure that Ragtime is really on the upswing and that more people are appreciating it more with each passing year? And lastly but not least is how do we get the rest of the people’s attention or in this case the world’s attention about Ragtime, a timeless era and music that will never (hopefully so) go out of style.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Deafness and Ragtime Piano

You know, as I stumble along in life while I practice my ragtime piano playing I come to realize the prospect of coming across another deaf or hard of hearing ragtime pianist who are in the same boat as me as being quite slim. Not that I'm in despair over this but pretty much seeing that this to be the fact. But I could be wrong about and I hope I am because it'd be a bit far-fetched to really believe that I am the only deaf/hh ragtime pianist out there? Can't be. Naw. But if it it's so, then why? I'm sure there are those with varying levels of hearing loss are pianists but what about ragtime pianists? What is the number of ragtime enthusiasts who play the piano? It'd be interesting to see the numbers.

So far, I've managed (almost) to memorize two pages of Zez Confrey's novelty "ragtime" piece "Black and White Rag." Barely two weeks but practiced every other day on it. The third page should come along nicely soon enough. I'm in no hurry but I'm putting the time (3 to 4 hours a day) into practicing my ragtime pieces. And I'm enjoying it, too.

As for my videos, they'll be coming soon. I have not made any yet but I plan to put up videos of the Maple Leaf Rag, Original Rag (with improvisation that I think you'll enjoy), The Entertainer, Black and White Rag, Ragtime Dance, The Cascades and few more. Until I fully re-memorize the pieces and my "rustiness" is gone I'll proceed to put them up. Maple Leaf Rag will likely be the first one up. Just be patience folks.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Ragtime Musical Performance with available interpreter

Here's a chance to see a play called "Ragtime" and the theatre is provind sing language interpreters for those who may require one.

"RAGTIME" Musical Performance at Manatee Players
The Manatee Players are thrilled to announce that "Ragtime" performance will be signed for the deaf and hard of hearing on Thursday, May 22, 2008! RAGTIME is a nostalgic and powerful portrait of life in turn of the century America. It’s based on E.L. Doctorow’s distinguished novel RAGTIME.

The location is at 102 Old Main Street, Downtown Bradenton.

Tickets are now on sale! $23 includes facility fee, $11 for student/teacher (be sure to inform that you are deaf and need sign language interpreter). For more information, contact Box Office at 748-5875. Sign Language Interpreting Services provided by VisCom.

Check out for more information.

Also from the Manatee Players website,

The Manatee Players are thrilled to announce that one performance of each show this season will be signed for the deaf and hard of hearing! This is in the positive response from the signed production of BIG RIVER last season. Dates for these Thursday evening performances are:

OKLAHOMA - September 13
NOISES OFF - October 18
SWING - November 15
THE WIZARD OF OZ - December 20
CATS - January 31
BEST SELLER - March 13
ALL SHOOK UP - April 17
RAGTIME - May 22

Sign Language Interpreting Services provided by VisCom

Tickets for these performances can be reserved by calling the Manatee Players’ Box Office at 941-748-5875. All performances are at the Riverfront Theatre, 102 Old Main Street in downtown Bradenton.

Go to the Photo Gallery section to see aerial photographs of the new Manatee Players Performing Arts Center under construction at the corner of 3rd Avenue West and 7th Street West in downtown Bradenton!

Location of these plays are in Bradenton, Florida which is about 50 miles south of Tampa. Check out the Google map for directions.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Welcome to Ragtime Piano!

Welcome to my blog, Ragtime Piano! I will soon add more details and graphics to this site as I move ahead. I have been playing the piano since I was seven but over my adult years it has been an off and on affair with my piano playing (due to having a crappy piano) and other interests that have gotten in the way of my playing ragtime. Right now, I have a slightly "better" piano (still crappy, tho) and I have gone back to playing ragtime piano 2 to 3 hours a day and re-memorize the many of my Scott Joplin favorites and other ragtime pieces.

Just to let you I'm not your typical ragtime pianist. You see, I have a hearing loss (moderate-severe) ever since birth and I wear a hearing aid in my right ear while my left ear is basically no good. Despite that I seem to be one of the very few, if any, deaf ragtime player and through this blog I will make an effort to make myself known as one. Though I have played at a few public events in the past I plan to make myself available to the public once again. Currently I am playing and memorizing a popular ragtime piece called "Black and White" by George Botsford (1908). Listen to the piece here. Or review the entire music sheet in electronic format for your perusal. I am also in the process of playing Jelly Roll Morton's "Finger Buster" which is an extremely fast Jazz piece but that one will take awhile while I get my piano playing affairs in order and to speed but first it's the "Black and White" piece and others I'd like to get a hands on such as "Dizzy Fingers" by Zez Confrey.

I expect to make videos of myself playing some of these pieces as a way to keep myself enthused and motivated. Meanwhile you can help me out in my quest to improve my ragtime repetroire and goal to attend a Ragtime festival and get a better piano by going to my Cafepress store "Deaf Ragtime" and order one of the many ragtime products. In fact, the button you see at the top is one of the many ragtime products you can buy.

So, now it comes down to this. If a deaf or hard of hearing person like me can play ragtime piano, so can you! Even if you're not deaf.

UPDATE: Here's a YouTube version of "Black and White Rag" by Marty Mincer, ragtime pianist. This is what I'm working on just recently and I'm doing well so far. Just to give you an idea what the finger action looks like for those who want to see the piano playing visually.