2023 Performer Biographies
Christina Austin is a lifelong musician and classically-trained pianist who discovered Ragtime when she was 12: A book of Scott Joplin rags had found its way into her family home library of music and she was instantly hooked. She works as a freelance pianist in Athens, GA, doing primarily accompaniment work with voice students, church gigs, music theatre, opera and the like, but will take any opportunity she can to sneak in some Ragtime. She also maintains a thriving YouTube channel filled with her performances of classical music, ragtime, duets, and a large library of vocal accompaniment tracks. In her spare time Christina enjoys playing Dungeons & Dragons, video games, and the scritching of Australian Shepherds. She is thrilled to be attending her very first Ragtime Festival as a performer and looks forward to many more in the future! www.instagram.com/pepper_thyme/
Jeff Barnhart, an internationally renowned pianist, vocalist, arranger, bandleader, recording artist, ASCAP composer, educator and entertainer, constantly appears as a soloist, band pianist, and with smaller groups—most notably Ivory&Gold® with his talented wife, flutist/vocalist Anne Barnhart—at parties, festivals, clubs and cruises throughout the world. Anne and Jeff now offer a wildly successful Road Scholar Program on the history of Ragtime, Tin Pan Alley, The Birth of Jazz and the Blues (Program #8009).
Jeff has played dual piano with such jazz luminaries as Ralph Sutton, Neville Dickie, Louis Mazetier, John Sheridan, Brian Holland. Jeff has recorded over 120 full-length albums. Reviewer/pianist/composer Jack Rummel recently summed up the reason for Jeff’s popularity, averring, “When it comes to talent, speed, versatility, creativity, mastery of multiple genres and just plain entertaining zaniness, Jeff Barnhart stands alone.”
Brandon Byrne is a pianist, composer, and columnist for The Syncopated Times. His original pieces include several piano rags, a string quartet, and three settings of the Catholic Mass. Brandon holds a Basic Diploma in Music Ministry from Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit and works as a church music director. He lives in rural Michigan with his wife and two sons. "Brandon's unique compositions display unparalleled gifts and hidden virtuosity. His music reflects the past and challenges the future. His playing will touch your soul." —Max Morath
Danny Coots began playing drums at the tender age of 6 years old. Since then, he has studied with Nick Baffaro, Rich Holly, Alan Koffman and Jim Petercsak in percussion. Danny attended The Crane School of Music and St. Lawrence University and University. He eventually served as adjunct faculty at St. Lawrence University, Clarkson University and Potsdam State University from the 1970s into the 1990s. He continued traveling and performing with David Amram, Ray Shiner, Daniel Pinkham, Herb Ellis, Will Alger, Jack Mayhue, Speigle Wilcox, Mimi Hines, Phil Ford, Bob Darch, Pearl Kaufman and Arthur Duncan.
In 1996 Danny moved to Nashville, Tennessee and has lived there ever since. Danny has recorded extensively in Nashville, New York and L.A. and has appeared in over 100 countries. He has played on over 100 recordings, one of which won a Grammy in 2005. After moving to Tennessee, Danny joined the Jack Daniel’s Silver Cornet Band for 5 years and helped found the Titan Hot Seven. During this time he played and recorded with Dick Hyman, Houston Person, Bob Wilber, Johnny Varro, Jeff Coffin, Tim Laughlin, Harry Allen, Dave Hungate, Bill Allred, John Allred, Randy Reinhart, Ron Hockett, John Cocuzzi, John Sheridan, Dan Barrett, Vince Giordano… to name a few. dannycoots.com/
Richard Dowling Hailed by The New York Times as “an especially impressive fine pianist,” Steinway Artist Richard appears throughout America in solo recitals, at music festivals, and as soloist with orchestras. Chopin, Debussy, Gershwin, Gottschalk, Ravel, and ragtime figure prominently in his repertoire. Reviews praise him as “a master of creating beautiful sounds with impeccable control of colors and textures,” as “a musician with something to say, the skill to say it and the magnetic power to make you want to listen,” and for giving “a superb recital that left the audience craving for more at the end.” In 2017 Mr. Dowling performed all 53 piano works of Scott Joplin by memory in two recitals at Carnegie Hall. His Complete Joplin 3-CD set was nominated for a Grammy. Max Morath says, “Dowling’s mastery of the Joplin rags invokes a tenderness that charms us and a technical command that inspires our admiration.”
A native of Southern California, Bill Edwards discovered ragtime when he was six years old, and hasn’t been able to leave it alone since. He started his professional career in California in the late 1970s then resided in Durango, CO, through the first half of the 1980s, where he took up residence at the famous Diamond Belle Saloon at the Strater Hotel. Bill has lived and worked in Northern Virginia since 1986, applying his vibrant personality and passion for ragtime and history to his stage performances.
For many years Mr. Edwards was a featured entertainer at the Fish Market in Alexandria. Since 1996, Bill has been applying his particular penchant for the music on his website, which includes biographies of over 350 ragtime era figures. He has attended all of the major US and Canadian ragtime festivals and competitions, particularly the World Championship of Old-Time Piano, for which he holds the 1991 title, having been there every year since 1987. Bill was a featured performer in the 2012 multi-award-winning documentary about the competition, The Entertainers, and the Artist in Residence for the Scott Joplin Ragtime Festival in 2014.
Bill frequently accompanies silent films at events where he plays and has presented seminars on over 25 ragtime-related topics. Mr. Edwards has 44 different CD titles and over 20 published compositions available for your enjoyment, a detailed book on the life of composer and publisher E.T. Paull, and an upcoming encyclopedia on over 530 female composers of popular music from the ragtime era. In 2016 he was awarded the lifetime achievement award in the field of Ragtime Research and Performance by the Scott Joplin International Ragtime Festival, an event for which he has been the director of symposiums for several years. That veteran ragtime performer Max Morath handed him this honor made it all that much more special. He also continues to play at the Diamond Belle each summer, a connection to his ragtime roots.
You can find out more than anyone would ever want to know about Bill and Ragtime at http://ragpiano.com
Eve Elliott, Renowned pianist Eve Elliot caught the Ragtime fever after hearing its wild jangling strains for the first time in 2018 at an LA bar. With great effort she managed to triumph in the 2022 Old Time Piano Playing Contest and has since appeared at the West Coast Ragtime Festival. In addition, Eve plays a weekly Ragtime residency with fellow pianist John Reed-Torres. When she’s not playing piano for various dance and jazz bands around LA, Eve dawdles from one musical endeavor to the next. She leads an all-girl Greek folk band on accordion called the Galamatas. She writes satirical, overly-complicated music for her band Boinkasaurus. In her off time, she enjoys singing Bach chorales and Sacred Harp songs with friends. Eve is thrilled to be playing the Joplin Festival this year, and deeply honored to be in the company of the great musicians who keep the Ragtime tradition sparkling.
Hailed in the press as one of the best concert pianists in the world, Frederick Hodges has established a reputation specializing in late romantic music as well as Ragtime, Broadway, and Hollywood musicals of the first half of the twentieth century by America’s best composers, such as George Gershwin and Cole Porter. He maintains a busy concert schedule of stage, television, radio, and film appearances around the globe. Additionally, he is a much sought-after silent film accompanist for both live performances and DVD.
He performs regularly at the Hollywood Heritage Museum, the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum in California, the Cinecon Film Festival in Hollywood, The TCM Classic Film Festival in Hollywood, The San Francisco Silent Film Festival, and at silent film festivals around the country. He also performs at music festivals around the country, such as the Sacramento Music Festival, the West Coast Ragtime Festival, and the Sedalia Scott Joplin Ragtime Festival. www.frederickhodges.com.
Brian Holland is an internationally renowned pianist, composer, recording artist, and entertainer who has enjoyed a musical career spanning more than 35 years. His career flourished when he discovered the World Championship Old-Time Piano Playing Contest. In 1999, he won his third title and was retired as undefeated. He has since returned three times to serve on the judges panel, most recently in 2014.
Brian has played with some of the hottest jazz bands in the US: Titan Hot Seven, Wally’s Warehouse Waifs, The Holland Rhythm Company, and others. He has traveled all over the world performing his creative styles of jazz, ragtime, stride, boogie, and blues. Holland has fourteen recordings solo and ensemble to his credit, and garnered a Grammy nomination for his work with Bud Dresser on their album: Ragtime, Goodtime, Jazz.
Valerie Kirchhoff (aka "Miss Jubilee") is a vocalist and bandleader born and raised in St. Louis. She has been performing professionally for over 15 years and is a beloved staple of the local music scene. Valerie grew up singing in church and school choirs, and discovered a passion for early jazz and blues while in her teens. Wanting to hear more of this kind of music around town, she formed her own band in 2007, and has been entertaining audiences ever since. Valerie champions the female blues singers of the 20s and 30s, with a particular focus on the lesser-known singers from St. Louis. Valerie has performed across the United States and Europe and performs weekly in her hometown. miss-jubilee.com/
Ethan Leinwand is a St. Louis-based pianist who specializes in barrelhouse blues. A mostly self-taught pianist, he is a student of the music, and delights in bringing this lost art to life. His unique repertoire stretches from ragtime to boogie-woogie and tells the story of blues piano. Through performances across the United States and Europe (as well as an active YouTube channel), Ethan has gained world-wide recognition as a leading exponent of barrelhouse blues piano.
Ethan was born and raised in Middletown, CT and graduated from Wesleyan University in 2005. He began his music career in 2009, performing in bars, restaurants and nightclubs in New York City. He moved to St. Louis, MO in 2014 - a town with deep piano blues and ragtime traditions - and began collaborating with vocalist Valerie Kirchhoff (Miss Jubilee, The St. Louis Steady Grinders), among others. He can be seen performing weekly in his hometown, and is a regular at ragtime, boogie-woogie, acoustic blues, and folk festivals. http://www.ethanleinwand.com/
Royce Martin is a pianist and composer who recently graduated with a degree in Film Scoring from Berklee College of Music. With a passion for an array of styles ranging from Western Classical to Hip Hop, Royce’s original compositions take the shape of a cornucopia of musical influences, giving them their own unique feeling.
In 2017, Royce was named a Rising Star by the St. Louis Post Dispatch and just three short years later in 2020, he was met with national attention when he was tapped to provide the original music for the Fresh Prince of Bel Air Reunion Special on HBO-Max. While Royce is no stranger to the limelight, he remains humble with the understanding that he is but a novice to the masters from whom he draws inspiration. Royce continues his journey in search of a sonic sweet spot — where his skillset meets his artistic vision.
William McNally The New York Times calls him “a hot item” and “powerful,” and the Santa Barbara Independent called him a pianist, “...with great sympathy and insight.” William McNally is a two-time winner of the World Championship Old-Time Piano Playing Contest, and three-time winner of their New Rag Contest. He now serves as their Contest Coordinator, and he has since taken on the role of the Scott Joplin Foundation’s Ragtime Kid Program Director.
Recently, Dream Shadows was released to high acclaim: reviews in Fanfare Magazine—two of them—called the recording “highly natural and persuasive...his prismatic range of touch and tone allows him to trace out the shifting moods of the music—from the sentimental to the nonchalant to the smashing—with unusual sensitivity...the disc is so good, from beginning to end, that it’s hard to know what to highlight...a treasure!” McNally’s “serious classical” CD with works by Brahms, Reger and Busoni was lauded by the New York Times as “effortless...fascinating...mercurial... and intelligently curious.”
His album of the complete solo piano works of Arthur Schutt, paired with novelty works by Vincent Matthew Johnson, also includes the premiere recording of four works by Art Tatum, and will be released this fall. He completed his doctorate at CUNY’s Graduate Center, where he studied with Ursula Oppens and wrote a ragtime-focused dissertation. He has served on the faculties of Texas State University, Queens College, and Temple University. www.williammcnally.com/
Peacherine Orchestra Hailed by the press as “the premier American ragtime ensemble”, the Peacherine Ragtime Society Orchestra (PRSO) is rapidly becoming the leading professional ragtime orchestra in the United States. Formed by young virtuoso Andrew Greene at the University of Maryland, the PRSO recreates the syncopated stylings of a bygone era – ragtime, theater and dance music, as well as underscoring classic silent films using Mr. Greene’s collection of over 15,000 musical selections.
PRSO has repeatedly appeared at leading venues including The Kennedy Center, The Library of Congress, The American Film Institute, and at historic theaters, performing arts centers, colleges, universities, and concert associations across the United States. The PRSO’s work has been featured in documentaries, online video, and on radio and podcast programs across the country. Their website is www.peacherineragtime.com
Director Andrew Greene: Peacherine’s Founder and Director is a leading authority on orchestral ragtime and silent film accompaniment. Mr. Greene founded the Peacherine Orchestra while a freshman at the University of Maryland, hoping to draw attention to this neglected but historically important music.
He is the curator of the John S. Maddox, Arthur C. Ziegler, E.J. McBride, Katherine Lingham, Louis H. Burns, Palm Leaf Ragtime Orchestra, Silver Cornet Ragtime Orchestra, and Rochester NY area theater orchestra collections, along with his own personal collection of orchestrated ragtime, silent movie music, theater and dance selections, piano solos, and records. The collection totals over 15,000 selections from 1862 to 1950, with an emphasis on the music of 1880 to 1929. Mr. Greene has appeared at leading venues including The Kennedy Center, The Smithsonian Institution, The Library of Congress, The American Film Institute, and has traveled across the United States to perform, conduct, and lecture on the music of America’s past.
Jerron “Blind Boy” Paxton was born in 1989 but his talent rivals the greatest. He plays in the true songster tradition: ragtime, hokum, old-time, French reels, Appalachian Mountain music and blues and more.
Paxton hails from an African American Jewish family with mixed Creole /Choctaw Indian ancestry who moved to South Central Los Angeles, where Jerron grew up. He is a highly capable multi-instrumentalist who picks banjo and guitar, plays harmonica, piano and other instruments, including the fiddle, his first instrument.
Frank Matheis, publisher of thecountryblues.com said, “The virtuoso is a joyous entertainer, humorous with a smooth vernacular, dazzling wit, a terrific storyteller, exuding an affable excitement. He’s witty, fast rhyming, poetic, fun, exciting and wonderfully skilled as a musician and a fine singer, he is the continuation of a proud tradition.”
“For me, music is not an academic experiment. I play it the way I feel like it, because it should be an expression of how I see things. I am just learning to have a good time so that the audience can have a good time. Music shouldn’t be forced. It’s upsetting to me that so much music is technique, just skill and not enough feeling. I am happy to play so that the audience feels like I am in their living room. I want people to be enjoying themselves”.
Blind since age 16 with peripheral vision problems that allow him some sight, Paxton cannot drive and is legally blind, but has enough sight to get around and he can see enough to seem unaffected by his vision problems. Phil Wiggins refers to Jerron Paxton as “a musical genius” and offers his blessing on Jerron taking the helm he once held. www.facebook.com/JerronBlindBoyPaxton/
Will Perkins has been performing at ragtime and jazz festivals since the age of 14. His love for traditional jazz and ragtime piano has led him to perform at music festivals around the United States and beyond. Will has been a featured performer at the Bohem Ragtime and Early Jazz Festival in Kecskemet, Hungary, and at the Buenos Aires Ragtime Festival in Argentina.
He has also performed at West Coast, Scott Joplin, and many other festivals around the country. When Will isn’t playing the piano, you will probably find him working on them. After graduating with degrees in Piano Technology from North Bennet Street School in Boston, Will started his own piano service business in Idaho. In 2022, he sold his business and accepted a position to work with world-renowned piano rebuilder and Fazioli dealer, Rick Baldassin in Salt Lake City, Utah. willperkinspianos.com/
David Reffkin is director of the American Ragtime Ensemble and a leading authority on ragtime orchestration and performance. He was a recording engineer on the Grammy-winning Red Back Book album of the NEC Ragtime Ensemble and later played with them. He hosted The Ragtime Machine radio program for 30 years, with interviews and reviews appearing in The Mississippi Rag, win the Best Ragtime Journalist award. As a professional violinist, he is a soloist and a member of various ensembles, as well as a conductor, arranger, and music contractor.
Acknowledged for his editorial work, he wrote the Foreword for the discography Cakewalks, Rags, and Novelties (2003), and helped edit forthcoming books on Brun Campbell (Larry Karp) and the new edition of King of Ragtime (Edward Berlin). David helped create the Scott Joplin Ragtime Festival in 1974, organized and directed the All-Star Orchestra, and in 2006 received the festival’s Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2011, the city of San Francisco awarded him the Mayor’s Certificate of Honor. www.davidreffkin.com/
Dalton Ridenhour, a Missouri native, has been a student of the ragtime and stride piano traditions for 30 years. He has been featured at The Scott Joplin International Ragtime Festival, The West Coast Ragtime Festival, The Bix Beiderbecke Memorial Jazz Festival, The Blind Boone Ragtime and Early Jazz Festival, The Newport Jazz Festival and The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.
Dalton performs locally and internationally with various groups including The Lovestruck Balladeers, Vince Giordano and The Nighthawks, Naomi and Her Handsome Devils, Mike Davis and The New Wonders, Goodbye Picasso, and Mona's Hot Four. He has a solo album, "Eccentricity," on the Rivermont Records label. www.daltonridenhour.com/
Martin Spitznagel: Whether performing the masterworks of Scott Joplin or the score to Star Wars, Spitznagel’s electric performances have left audiences across the world enthralled with America’s first popular music, Ragtime.
Martin discovered ragtime at age 12. By age 14, he’d won a Yamaha Disklavier piano in Calliope Media’s nationwide Crazy for Ragtime competition. His good fortune continued when, in 1998, he met Eastman School of Music pianist and pedagogue Dr. Tony Caramia, who challenged him to “find the surprise” in every performance.
In the years since, Martin has grown into an award-winning composer and sought-after performer. When he’s not at the piano bench (or chasing after his much-more-talented son, Parker), Martin works as a multimedia producer, writer, and filmmaker in Pittsburgh, PA, where he lives with his wife, Jessica. He is delighted to return to the Scott Joplin International Ragtime Festival, and feels privileged to revel in the company of the musicians and music-lovers who have brought him so much joy. spitzfire.com/
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 master’s in musicology from the Peabody Conservatory of Johns Hopkins University. Adam has been a featured performer and lecturer at ragtime and jazz festivals across the United States and abroad, 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, where he performed with Michael Feinstein. Adam has performed at the Cinecon Classic Film Festival and the Kennedy Center, as well as in Hungary, Switzerland, and Australia. He has worked with such musicians as Toronto’s John Arpin, former rock star Ian Whitcomb, and legendary 1950s recording artist Johnny Maddox, who was one of Adam’s greatest influences. He lives in Durango, Colorado, where he frequently performs in the Diamond Belle Saloon at the Historic Strater Hotel. www.adamgswanson.com/
Bryan S. Wright, Ph.D., of Pittsburgh, PA, is a pianist and musicologist based at the University of Pittsburgh where he teaches courses in music history. Classically trained as a pianist from age 5, Bryan enjoys playing a variety of syncopated piano music, from classic and modern rags to piano novelties, tangos, and early jazz. With his wife, Yuko, he has performed across the United States and abroad. He is founder and executive producer of Rivermont Records, a Grammy-nominated label devoted to ragtime, dance bands, and early jazz. Bryan also avidly collects 78 rpm records and hosts a podcast, The Shellac Stack, featuring period recordings of ragtime and early jazz bands. Bryan has released two solo piano albums Syncopated Musings and Breakin’ Notes, and recently collaborated with Brian Holland and Danny Coots for the CD and DVD Live from Buenos Aires. All are available in the Ragtime Store. Visit Bryan online at: http://www.bryanswright.com/