Ragtime Jazz Festival on campus this week

The Gatsby Gala, a 1920s-inspired fashion show, kicks off the 2014 Charles Templeton Ragtime Jazz Festival at Mississippi State.

Featuring members of the university's Fashion Board, the gala will display designs created by majors in MSU's apparel, textiles and merchandising academic program. Ragtime entertainers Mimi Blais and Jeff Barnhart will provide the 1920s-period music, with the MSU Ballroom Dancers performing the Charleston, the Lindy and other dances of the era.

Registration for the March 27-29 festival is now open here. The annual event is sponsored by MSU, University Libraries and Mitchell Memorial Library's Charles Templeton Sr. Music Museum.

General admission fees range from $50 each for all events to $10 each for the major concerts, with lesser amounts for senior citizens and retired MSU faculty and staff members. University students with current identification cards attend free.

Barnhart, an internationally renowned pianist and entertainer, will serve as artistic director. A Connecticut native, he performed in 2012 and 2013, as well as in 2007 -- the festival's first year.

Made possible by the late Starkville businessman and dedicated American music lover for whom it is named, the annual spring-semester event blends major concerts, seminars, silent movies and museum tours. The major concerts take place in McComas Hall's main auditorium, while seminars will be held in Mitchell Memorial Library.

Barnhart said the 2014 festival "is reaching new heights, with a mix of young and experienced performers, a deeper educational content and new outreach programs, including silent films with live accompaniment, visits to area schools and the inclusion of a period-style fashion show."

He extended a public invitation for members of the campus, Starkville and Oktibbeha County, Golden Triangle, and other communities to "come join the fun and learn something about our country's musical roots while being entertained by world-class musicians, all in the incredible comfort of the MSU Library and concert hall."

The list of performers helping celebrate ragtime and jazz -- America's early popular music -- includes:

-- Blais, a Montreal, Quebec-based pianist who was featured from 2007-09. Though acquiring such nicknames over her long career as "the female Victor Borge" and "Celine Dion of the keyboard," Blais has, since the 1990s, become known as "the new queen of ragtime."

-- Martin Spitznagel of Alexandria, Va., whose training in creative writing and filmmaking, among other areas, has given him the skills to perform seemingly everything from the masterworks of Scott Joplin to the score of "Star Wars." He also was at the 2012 festival.

-- Virginia Tichenor, daughter of ragtime scholar Trebor Tichenor and past president of the Sacramento, Calif.-based West Coast Ragtime Society. In addition to solo appearances, she plays with the Tichenor Family Trio and Devil Mountain Jazz Band. She also came to campus in 2007 and 2008.

-- Stephanie Trick of St. Louis, Mo., who is making her festival debut. With a swing approach that included boogie-woogie and late 1920s-era blues, along with music of Fats Waller and Ralph Sutton, she received the prestigious Kobe-Breda Jazz Friendship Award in 2012. Since then, according to one reviewer, Trick "has come to practically dominate the stride piano field."

Frances N. Coleman, dean of MSU Libraries, noted that the festival now is in its eighth year of bringing renowned ragtime and jazz pianists to campus.

"We hope that our hosting of this event not only provides another cultural opportunity for our community and students, but also further promotes the resources found in the Charles Templeton Sr. Collection," Coleman added.

MSU's Templeton Museum is home to more than 22,000 pieces of sheet music, 200 musical instruments and extensive memorabilia from the 1800s to the 1930s. All document what Templeton called a distinctly American approach to the "business of music."

In making the donation in 2006, Templeton observed that his gift was "one of the few collections, if not the only one" covering American music from blues to ragtime to Dixieland, big band, and ultimately, what became the forerunner of modern jazz.

"The interesting part of it is that, as this music evolved, it progressed up the Mississippi River," he said at the time, adding, "Where's a better place to house this collection of music than here?"

The festival is sponsored in part by grants from Mississippi Arts Commission, National Endowment of the Arts, Starkville Area Arts Council, and Greater Starkville Development Partnership.

For more on the Templeton Museum and Collection, visit http://library.msstate.edu/ragtime.

Sammy McDavid | Public Affairs

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