The World Championship of Old-Time Piano Playing began on the back platform of an old railroad caboose in Monticello, IL in 1975, the brainstorm of The Monticello Railroad Museum's founder and contest emcee Ted Lemen. Capitalizing on the box office success of the movie "The Sting," this small gathering of music-lovers quickly blossomed necessitating a move to larger facilities. After 41 years, most recently in Peoria, IL, this contest and festival has moved to a new home in Oxford, MS at The University of Mississippi, affectionately known as Ole Miss.
Held annually to coincide with Memorial Day weekend, this event has become truly international in scope, boasting the largest, most comprehensive competitive events for pianists steeped in the musical genres of ragtime, traditional jazz and blues. Students up to age 18 can compete for cash prizes and trophies in the Junior Division while the Regular Division contestants vie for trophies and larger prizes in excess of $5,000. There is also a Senior Division for competitors age 60 & up as well as a New Rag Contest. Performers compete in period costume, are interviewed before each round, and show their incredible musical skills in an attempt to advance to the Finals. Complete rules and guidelines are posted on the event web site.
Smaller contests precede the main competition. These include a New Rag Contest and Duet Contest and a "Cutting" Contest. Workshops by acclaimed guest artists and the world's greatest sing-along are held around the competitions with a guest artist concert concluding the weekend's activities. Off-site excursions, catered events and afterglow parties on the historic Oxford Square add a refreshing dimension to the festivities.
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 on Memorial Day weekend. To capture the flavor of this event, visit "The Entertainers" trailer on line. For a fun-filled five days of fabulous music, join us for this year's World Championship. Find us on Facebook or Twitter for regular updates.
All-event and day passes are available for purchase on line at the event web site. Passes include admission to all competitive events plus the sing-long and workshops. Tickets for catered events and excursions are also available for separate advance purchase on the web site. Order forms may be requested by contacting the artistic director Ian Hominick.
Guest artists include three-time champion Adam Swanson, Sue Keller, Tom McDermott & Terry Parrish. We'll see you in Oxford May 21-24, 2020 for the 46th annual Contest. This much fun ought to be against the law!