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Oxford Hosts World Champion Old-Time Piano Playing Contest

piano contest 1Before the blues and jazz genres emerged in the 1920s from deep within the Mississippi Delta, another genre was sweeping the nation with wide popularity­––ragtime. Often regarded as the first music style developed in the US, ragtime music is characteristic of bright, cheery, waltz-like melodies, most often played on the piano.

While today this style is almost obsolete, one contest is dedicated to keeping the genre alive and well. The World Championship Old-Time Piano Playing contest is an annual event held over Memorial Day weekend where aspiring pianists come to compete and learn, as well as educate people about old-time piano music.

After 41 years, the contest moved from Illinois to Oxford, Mississippi in 2015. The contest will be held in the Nutt Auditorium on the Ole Miss campus May 26-30, headed by UM professor and previous contest judge Ian Hominick.

Players will compete in two divisions, Regular and Junior. Prizes include 5 thousand dollars and trophies. There are seven spots still available in the Regular Division.

There are also three separate contests. The New Rag Contest, where aspiring composers present original tunes; there are five slots still available. The Cutting Contest, where up to 20 players compete head to head for the prize money with the audience as judge; there are still 15 slots available. There are no entries in The Duet Contest yet.

Throughout the years, the contest has provided more than 50 thousand dollars in prize money, to more than 500 piano players from across the US and foreign countries.

The contest’s budget for prize money, trophies and other expenses is supported by the admission fees charged during the contest weekend and through community contributions.

Contestants who have registered so far are not only from the US, but also include Jack Graham from Britain, Don “Four Arrows” Jacobs from Mexico, and Anita Malhotra debuting from Canada.

Besides the contest, participants can share in other various activities including workshops, a sing-along variety show, a double-decker bus tour of historic Oxford, the Ring of Ragtime on the Square, a chance to play in the Old-Time Orchestra and guest artist concerts featuring “Blind Boy” Paxton with Adam Swanson, plus Brian Holland and Sue Keller.

Individuals are encouraged to come tap their toes to the old-time beats and enjoy a few forgotten ragtime tunes during the contest.

For more information, including the contest entry form, detailed schedule, or to donate visit oldtimepianocontest.org and follow them on Facebook and Twitter @WCOldTimePiano.

Cambria Abdeen is an intern with HottyToddy.com, and is a current student at the Meek school of Journalism and New Media. Cambria can be reached at cambria.abdeen@yahoo.com.

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