Dad was a storyteller. He loved ragtime music, but I often wonder how much of his love was because of the music itself, and how much was because of the stories.
(Warning: gross oversimplification ahead.) Ragtime is unusual–though not unique–in that during its original heyday, there was very little formal scholarship. Few of the musicians and other prime movers of the genre had any interest in writing about ragtime. The history and culture of ragtime was shared and recorded almost entirely orally. By the time ragtime scholarship really kicked off during the ragtime revival of the forties, many of the primary sources–human and otherwise–had been lost.
That’s a great space for a storyteller. There’s so much room for elaboration. Interpolation. Dramatic enhancement.
Dad loved it. The music, yes. But the stories, too. The research. The “what if” scenarios.
And, of course, the newcomers. Because a storyteller needs an audience. New fans and new performers keep the music alive; they hear the stories and then create their own.
Dad couldn’t play a note, but he delighted in introducing ragtime to the next generation.
(Thanks to Oliver Moore for giving permission to post this performance from the 2019 Scott Joplin Ragtime Festival. It’s not the most spectacular or technically demanding piece he played that week, but I like it. And, not-so-incidentally, Oliver will be at the West Coast Ragtime Festival in November. Come hear him!)
Dad would have loved Oliver. And he would have loved to find a way to introduce more people to ragtime. The younger the better–if they grow up listening to ragtime and playing ragtime, some of ’em are going to stick with it.
We’ve been awed by the donations in Dad’s memory to the Scott Joplin International Ragtime Foundation. And we’re thrilled to be able to put those donations to use in a highly appropriate way.
The Ragtime Kids program will seek out talented junior high and high school age ragtime performers and researchers and encourage their development.
There’s more information about the program at the link above.
And, because this is an advertisement–thinly disguised as a blog post, though it may be–a reminder that donations to the Larry Karp Memorial Fund are still more than welcome. The contact for contributions is firstname.lastname@example.org.