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Today is January 27, 2020

World Championship Old-Time Piano Playing Contest & Festival

By Sandra M. Buckley

World Championship Old-Time Piano Playing Contest & Festival

This Memorial Day weekend, visit Oxford for a toe-tapping, family-friendly time at the World Championship Old-Time Piano Playing Contest & Festival.

Music fans from around the world will come to Oxford May 23-26 for the 45th Annual World Championship Old-Time Piano Playing Contest & Festival, which takes place at the University of Mississippi and locations around the historic Oxford Square. “This is the only comprehensive competitive event for this style of music anywhere,” said Ian Hominick, professor of piano and assistant chair of the Department of Music at the university. “It is one of a kind.”

The competition’s categories include junior, regular and senior divisions as well as a New Rag Contest and Duet Contest – with participants in each vying for cash prizes and trophies. “Contestants come from coast to coast as well as Great Britain and France,” said Hominick. Event guests can also attend workshops by guest artists, silent movies with live piano accompaniment, an old-time sing-along and much more. 

While traditional jazz, honky-tonk, blues and boogie styles are celebrated at the event, ragtime is the central theme as it is a uniquely American music form that defined an era from the late 1800s to the early 1900s. This old-time piano music gets its name from the term “ragging” or “ragged time,” which describes its broken-up rhythm style. The upbeat music is considered to have evolved from African American spirituals and European classical music. “It eventually led to traditional jazz,” Hominick explained. One of ragtime’s most famous composers, bluesman W.C. Handy, spent much of his time in the Mississippi Delta and credits the area as his musical inspiration. 

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