2021 Judges & Guest Artists

Tom McDermott

“ …Tom McDermott plays the fastest, wildest ragtime, Brazilian and stride piano you’ve ever heard.” –  New York Times

Tom McDermott is one of New Orleans’ premiere piano players and composers. He grew up in St. Louis, where he earned a Masters’ Degree in Music, wrote music journalism for the morning paper, and soaked up the sounds of ragtime and traditional jazz that flourished there in the 1960s and 70s. In 1984, spurred by his love of James Booker, Professor Longhair and Dr. John, he moved to New Orleans, a trip enabled by a gig at the World’s Fair.

Tom has been quite busy the last 30 years. For much of the 1990s he was a Duke of Dixieland, which took him to Europe, Asia, South America and all over the States (including Carnegie Hall); he recorded several albums with the Dukes, including a tribute to Jelly Roll Morton with the fabled raconteur Danny Barker.

In 1995, after arranging a tune for the Dirty Dozen Brass Band album “Jelly,” he co-founded the modern brass band the New Orleans Nightcrawlers. During his stay with the band they recorded three albums, two for the Rounder Records label.

Tom has written for the theatre (the Obie-award-winning off-Broadway show, “Nita and Zita”), and appeared in bit roles in the movies (“He Said She Said”).  In the New Orleans-based HBO series “Treme,” he played  himself five times in three seasons and had 10 pieces of music used on the soundtrack. His original music has also appeared in Showtimes’ “The Knick.”

He has recorded 17 albums as a leader, including 85 original tunes. His music has been heard frequently on NPR, i.e. “All Things Considered”, “American Routes”, and “The Moth.”  A group he co-led with clarinetist Evan Christopher, the Danza Quartet, appeared on NPR’s New Year’s Eve show “Toast of the Nation” on 2008-2009.

Tom is known for his eclecticism, and is just about the only New Orleans pianist to stretch from the mid-19th-century music of Louis Moreau Gottschalk to the funky New Orleans piano today. He has a great love of Brazilian music (17 trips there so far), the Beatles, European classical music, early Duke Ellington, and much more.

Tom’s latest CD, an album of Scott Joplin, was reviewed in 2019 in the Wall Street Journal.  “Scott Joplin’s rags have long fascinated musicians,” wrote Larry Blumenfeld. “With his own immersion, Mr. McDermott has broadened the possibilities and rekindled a spark.”

Sue Keller

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.

Adam Swanson

Adam Swanson is one of the world’s foremost performers of vintage American popular music, including ragtime, early jazz, the Great American Songbook, and more. He holds a bachelor’s in classical piano and a master’s in musicology from the Peabody Conservatory of Johns Hopkins University. Although he is only twenty-six years old, Adam has been a featured performer and lecturer at ragtime and jazz festivals across the United States, and he is the only four-time winner of the World Championship Old-Time Piano Playing Contest. He made his New York debut in Carnegie Hall at the age of nineteen, where he performed with Michael Feinstein. Adam has performed at the Cinecon Classic Film Festival in Hollywood and the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., as well as in Hungary and Switzerland. He has worked with such musicians as Toronto’s John Arpin, former rock star Ian Whitcomb, and legendary 1950s recording artist Johnny Maddox, who is one of Adam’s greatest influences. Adam performs every summer at the historic Strater Hotel in Durango, Colorado. Visit Adam online at www.adamgswanson.com.

Terry Parrish

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!