SEDALIA’S RAGTIME FESTIVAL HERITAGE
(America’s Ragtime Reunion)
This year’s annual Scott Joplin Ragtime Festival will be the 33rd in a row and the 35th since the inaugural event in 1974. The heritage of this internationally respected event has now become part of our national musical culture as it celebrates
America’s music...classic ragtime.
When community leaders came together 42 years ago to hold the first series of concerts, symposia, contests and an idyllic ragtime in Liberty Park afternoon we only dreamed of the legacy that would be that first event. So many of the second, third and even fourth generation performers gathered for that first “family reunion” here in Sedalia and all were thrilled that Eubie Blake, a first generation ragtime original, could still perform and entertain with the best of them.
After two initial festivals, energy waned and finances failed, but the dream of an annual event was just too well established; so, all the accumulated ephemera and artifacts and all the documents of the festivals were gathered
into an archive to keep the heritage alive.
Then, in 1982, a group of community leaders again had the vision. First, they again sought a postage stamp commemoration for Joplin to be issued on the first day from Sedalia. That campaign was successful and a third festival was soon organized around that June 9, 1983 cancellation ceremony. It has continued annually since that date.
Hundreds of performers have participated, with many young talents going on to real fame as composers and entertainers. Beginning in 1989, a prestigious Outstanding Achievement Award in Ragtime has been presented to deserving recipients. Compositions have been commissioned, artists in residence have been sponsored, and untold pieces of vintage sheet music have changed hands at these annual events.
But above all, these Sedalia festivals celebrate the musical genius who gave us the Maple Leaf Rag . And, they bring a remarkable group of talented performers, and those who appreciate their talent, together in an annual reunion, here,
in a place where America’s music began.
The Scott Joplin International Ragtime Foundation is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to promote an understanding and appreciation of Joplin’s contribution to ragtime music, along with the historic importance connected with Sedalia, Missouri.