• May 23, 2024
  • Rydr
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Annual contest celebrates fifty years with performances, workshops

Since its inception as a fundraiser for the Monticello, Illinios Railway Museum in 1975, the World Championship Old-Time Piano Playing Contest has hosted more than 1,200 piano contestants from across the United States and abroad.

Held annually to coincide with Memorial Day weekend, this event boasts the largest, most comprehensive competitive events for pianists steeped in the musical genres of ragtime, traditional jazz, and blues. The Contest provides an opportunity for pianists to compete and learn in a stimulating atmosphere, and to educate people about old-time piano music written prior to 1940.

Celebrating its fiftieth anniversary in 2024, contestants of all ages will be converging at Oxford to vie for trophies and cash prizes totaling a record $10,000 at the University of Mississippi, the Contest’s home since 2016. The event will be emceed by founder Ted Lemen.

There are four primary contests: a New Rag Contest for aspiring composers premiering new ragtime compositions; the Junior Division featuring pianists ages eighteen-and-under; the Regular Division for the seasoned performers; and the Senior Division for those pianists over sixty.

Special guests this year include jazz icon Judy Carmichael, host of NPR’s Jazz Inspired, along with guitarist Larry Koonse; award-winning entertainer Todd Robbins, Investigation Discovery Channel host and magician; three-time champion Julie McClarey, a veteran of Branson and Nashville musical venues; and the only four-time champion, Adam Swanson, who has performed at music festivals world-wide and serves as co-emcee for the event.

In addition to the contests, there are workshops, various catered events with live music including a Silent Movie Luncheon, and after-hours events each evening featuring lots of pianists as well as big band music. The exclusive off-campus venues this year are at the Powerhouse Community Arts Center, and Thursday night at the Mad Hatter. The on-campus events will take place at Nutt Auditorium unless otherwise indicated.

If you love ragtime, jazz, blues, honky-tonk, boogie, or novelty songs from the days of Tin Pan Alley, then you’ll have the time of your life in Oxford this Memorial Day weekend. For a fun-filled four days of fabulous music, visit www.oldtimepianocontest.com and purchase tickets for this year’s World Championship. To capture the flavor of this event, check out their YouTube Channel for past performances, and check their Facebook for regular updates.

All-event tickets, day passes, and individual event tickets are available for purchase online from the event web site and at the door, as space permits. There is something for everyone during this family-friendly weekend.

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