2021 Contest Judges
Vincent Johnson’s multifaceted approach to ragtime and syncopated piano music is both forward thinking and historically minded. As a pianist, he is dedicated to the oft-forgotten novelty piano style and peppers his performances with renditions of rarely heard compositions. As a stylist, he draws inspiration from the swingy pianists of the first ragtime revival such as Wally Rose, Knocky Parker, Bill Mitchell, and Armand Hug. As a transcriber, he is as likely to be transcribing a syncopated song arrangement from a Duo-Art piano roll as he is to be transcribing the latest compositions of a fellow Southern California ragtimer. As a composer, Johnson combines the format and parlance of historical rags and piano novelties with his own humor and sensibilities to create a personal, unique style. His … And So Fourth! won 1st prize in the 2014 World Championship Old-Time Piano Playing New Rag Contest.
Vincent regularly performs at ragtime clubs and festivals throughout California, and his syncopated compositions, which number over 100, have been formally programmed by pianists from Manhattan to Hungary. In addition, he has contributed liner notes to the releases of California-based ragtime musicians such as John Reed-Torres, Will Perkins, and Anthony Sarginson. Johnson’s debut CD My Pet, featuring novelty piano solos, was released in 2013. In 2017, Canadian pianist Max Keenlyside recorded “Invincible Syncopations: The New Ragtime Music of Vincent Matthew Johnson” for Rivermont Records, featuring seventeen compositions including “Tiffany Lamp Rag” and “Milk and Honey”.
Sue Keller began her ragtime obsession in 1974. Since then, she has treated audiences to her piano and vocal performances throughout the world. Her appearances have ranged from the grand opening of Faneuil Hall Marketplace in Boston Harbor, to the fabled Mikado nightclub in Tokyo, across the continent of Australia, and even to the Great Wall of China.
Back in the USA, Sue has been recognized as one of the world’s top ragtime pianists. She was the music director of the prestigious Scott Joplin Festival in Sedalia, Missouri for 7 years and a director and officer of the World Old-Time Piano Championship in Peoria, Illinois for 14 years. She still judges contests from time to time and appears as a major supporting cast member in the award-winning independent movie, The Entertainers.
Sue has been untiringly active in promoting the ragtime form. Her recording projects have employed a unique and exciting digital process. Her first project produced in this manner, KeLLeRIZED, released in 1992, included both contemporary and traditional ragtime, old-time, novelty, and stride piano pieces. Over the course of 14 CDs (and counting), Sue often mixes exciting vocals together with both traditional and unique repertoires. In recent history, a growing number of her live performances have been videotaped and she has become the most filmed performer of ragtime in You-Tube history promising to influence the genre for generations to come. Sue is currently working with Jeff and Anne Barnhart on a Max Morath compilation.
In addition to Ragtime & Stride Piano, Sue also specializes in early Blues, the Christmas genre, the music of Johnny Mercer and Laura Nyro. But there doesn’t seem to be any end in sight. Sue is currently working with the Peregrine Theatre Ensemble in Provincetown, MA, as rehearsal pianist and band member for RENT and CARRIE. This year’s offering is THE FULL MONTY, and she has been cast as an irascible piano player.
Terry Parrish has been a player, collector and historian of ragtime music for over forty years. Beginning with years of piano lessons in grade school, he later developed a passion for rag, blues and early jazz after listening to his dad’s LPs and being given an old player piano in High School. He and his brother rebuilt the player and as luck would have it, found some original rag rolls that he became fascinated with. From these he learned his first rags, including Black and White, Cannon Ball, Maple Leaf and Wild Cherries Rag. He began to collect rag rolls and sheets and over time learned hundreds of rags and early jazz tunes.
Terry and his group, the Elite Syncopators, have played at many ragtime festivals over the years and have recorded CDs for Jazzology and Stomp Off. Terry has been a judge at the Old-Time Piano Playing Contest twice before and is very much looking forward to returning to this year’s competition in Oxford!