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Oxford to Host 43rd Old-Time Piano Playing Contest

Three time world champion, Daniel Souvigny, plays piano for event attendees at concert prior to championship in May. Photo Credit: Alexandria Paton

The Old-Time Piano Playing Contest and festival will take place at the end of May in Oxford, bringing with it many ragtime enthusiasts. However, ragtime music is not the only style that will be heard. Throughout the competition styles other than ragtime music are often incorporated like blues, traditional jazz, honky tonk, boogie woogie and the list goes on.
“Things that perhaps the younger generation see in movies and TV shows, but never really had a first-hand experience. But it’s a fun kind of music,” said Hominick, associate professor of music at Ole Miss and artistic director of the World Championship Old-Time Piano Playing Contest.
The competition initially began in Illinois in 1975 where competitors would play pianos which had been set on the end of a train caboose. The competition moved to Oxford, Miss. from Illinois two years ago and is the only comprehensive ragtime contest in the country. 
“The primary reason why people come is to hear a lot of unknowns really, but a lot of people that do make the circuits that are really trying to get that champion or world championship,” Hominick said.
Competitors come from all parts of the country and range in age from 10-78. Daniel Souvigny is just 16 years old and is already a three time world champion. Hominick says he considers Souvigny to be a prodigy.
“Most performers are worried about, am I going to make that jump or worried about a certain spot coming up. He’s not. He’s got that all worked out so that his mental focus is on the presentation of the music itself,” Hominick said.
Souvigny recently gave a concert in Oxford to highlight the upcoming festival. His show featured a broad spectrum of what someone might hear if they were to attend the May competition. Souvigny says he hopes to see more young people and families at the events.
“It’s very nostalgic this competition,” said Souvigny. “A lot of our audience is getting older and older and it is getting harder and harder for them to travel. But, it would be great to see more young people and families coming to this event. The more young people that come, you know, the longer this contest is going to live on with an audience.”
Ultimately, it’s up to Mississippi music lovers to keep the contest going.
“[The competition] has been in Illinois for 41 years; 42 was here in Oxford; 43 is in Oxford, and I suspect that it will live or die in Oxford,” Hominick said.
Souvigny says he plans on always being a part of the competition in some form.
“This contest has been such a huge part of my life, ever since I was young,” Souvigny said. “Even if I don’t come to compete in five or 10 years. I’m pretty sure that I will be here as an attendee, as an audience member. Just to enjoy it.”
The first event is set for May 25. Tickets information and the schedule of events are located on the competition website.

Story contributed by Meek School of Journalism and New Media student Alexandria Paton: ajpaton@go.olemiss.edu

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