Tom Brier is the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Scott Joplin International Ragtime Federation. The award was presented in absentia at the 2023 Festival in Sedalia on June 3.
The hallmark of Brier's piano-playing style is an aggressive left hand that attacks the lower half of the piano keyboard in staccato, machine-gun-like octave passages. He alternates these voicings with a variety of other sounds: walking bass ("boogie"), single-note figures, and widely-spaced chords – often both arpeggiated and unarpeggiated tenths.
Born in Oakdale, California in 1971, Tom was exposed to ragtime in his earliest years when his parents purchased a player piano. His parents found him a music teacher when he was five, and very shortly, he was composing and notating his own piano pieces. By the age of 11, he had composed and written the scores to some two dozen rags.
His first "serious" ragtime piece was the "Pine Cone Rag" of 1982, when Brier was 11 years old. Three years later, he began attending gatherings of the Sacramento Ragtime Society. The 14-year-old prodigy amazed everyone within earshot with his articulate renderings of the ragtime classics, and with his own highly original piano compositions.
Tom performed at his first West Coast Ragtime Festival in 1989. He has been a headliner many times since, astounding onlookers with his machine-like precision, sensitive interpretations of more lyrical pieces, and nearly flawless sight-reading technique. While pursuing his ragtime "education," Brier also achieved a college education at the California State University at Turlock, obtaining his Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science in 1993.
He is also know for his collection of original pieces of ragtime sheet music, with a collection numbering over 1,000. And, since 1982, he has composed and printed complete, notated scores to over 100 original ragtime compositions. To date, Brier has released seven albums: Rising Star (1994), Generic (1997), Pianola (2000), Dualing at the McCoys (with Nan Bostick, 2002)’, Skeletons (2003), Rewind (2006), Blue Sahara (2009), and Constellations (2012).
In 2016, Tom was injured in a devastating, rear-end auto collision. The accident cost him his ability to write, walk, speak, and play piano. He currently resides with his parents in Oakdale, and is receiving ongoing therapy. Tom's family is hopeful that he will continue to improve and his friends hope that he may one day return to composition.
Many videos of Tom’s performances can be found at this YouTube site: https://www.youtube.com/@Keeper1st
The following tribute is from Larry Melton's nomination of Fred Hoeptner for the award:
It is my privilege to nominate Fred G. Hoeptner, LaCresenta, California for the 2022 Scott Joplin International Ragtime Foundation's Lifetime Achievement Award.
Though Fred is an Environmental Engineer by profession he has been leaving large contributions in the field of ragtime and popular music and culture since 1955 when, in cooperation with the late P.J. Schmidt, in Pasadena, California, he assisted in formation of the Rose Leaf Ragtime Club and has served as its treasurer since then. It continues to meet monthly.
In the late 1950s he created an audio recording about American folk-singer Goebel Reeves, “The Texas Drifter,” steel guitarist Leon McAulliffe and Anglo-American western swing musician “Bob “Wills.” That resource now resides in the Fred Hoeptner Archive of the Southern Folklife Collection of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.
Like his early audio taped interviews, everything Fred has contributed is of great value and authenticity. I believe all of these achievements are more than significant to support this nomination many times over.
He has composed approximately 25 rags of significant musical substance beginning in 1960 with "Sedalia," which was issued as a piano roll. In 2000 "Dalliance—A Ragtime Frolic" won the $500 first prize in the Joplin Foundation composition contest. In the 1997 contest "Farewell to Paradise" won honorable mention among 43 entries and was commercially recorded on CD by pianist Brian Keenan. Anne and Jeff Barnhart, on flute and piano, recorded his composition “Aura of Indigo” on their CD “Romances in Ragtime.” In 2003 he privately published a folio of earlier compositions Conceptions in Ragtime with foreword by Glenn Jenks. In 2014 "Lucille's Rag Arabesque" won second prize in the composition contest at the Blind Boone Ragtime and Early Jazz Festival. More recently his compositions have appeared on two of the CDs of contemporary ragtime commissioned and produced by Danny Matson on Rivermont label. In 2017 pianist Kylan DeGhetaldi performed a "theme set" devoted to compositions played at the West Coast Ragtime Festival. In 2020 pianist Morten Gunnar Larsen performed "Lucille's Rag Arabesque" at the virtual West Coast Ragtime Festival.
His impeccable scholarship has informed and inspired us. He has given lectures on historical aspects of ragtime: "Ragtime Emerges from the Shadows in Music and Word" at the West Coast Ragtime Festival in 2012, at the Joplin Festival in 2014, and an updated version at the Sutter Creek Festival in 2017; and “From Rag to Ragtime: Exploring the Etymology” at the Joplin Festival in 2017.
He wrote comprehensive reviews of Scott Joplin Ragtime Festivals for Joplin Foundation and other newsletters each year from 1999 through 2019 missing only two years.
In 2004 his article “Crittenden’s Rag” appeared in the American Music Review, a biannual publication by the H. Wiley Hitchcock Institute for Studies in American Music. It revealed his serendipitous finding of the word “rag” in a newspaper headline from 1881 in the Kansas City Star archive at the Kansas City KS public library. It extended “rag’s” documented currency back ten years from the previous earliest attestation.
Climaxing approximately ten years of research, Fred’s paper "Etymology of 'Ragtime': Role of 'Tag,' 'Rag,' and 'Bobtail' (The Rabble) and the 19th Century 'Fancy Rag Balls,'" 15,000 words, was published in the journal Comments on Etymology (January, 2021). It was the first study to track the word "rag," as a descriptor of a musical ball and later a piece of music in a syncopated style, from its 1829 origin; and the word "ragtime," as a musical genre, from its January, 1896 first published appearance. Scott Joplin biographer Dr. Edward Berlin complimented his essay as follows: "You've achieved something monumental; no one else has come close to even attempting what you've accomplished."
In addition to his many contributions to musical compositions and research, I can personally attest to his generous support and encouragement of ragtime events and projects and his willingness to help any way he can, especially by adding his appreciatively smiling presence to audience events throughout the years.
I have read often and hear of Fred’s joy of back packing and hiking the wilderness areas of our country. When I listen to a Fred Hoeptner composition, I hear or feel the essence of his title but I also imagine him drawing inspiration from a panoramic mountain vista or a scenic coastal ocean view.
My friend brings us the gentle joy of his humanity and the glorious beauty of the natural world through his gift of composing lyrically syncopated music and researching it for our edification. I feel Fred Hoeptner is long overdue for this award.
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Cultural events across Missouri are taking center stage as
part of the new Horizons initiative created by Missouri Humanities, Missouri Arts
Council and Missouri Division of Tourism.
Horizons is designed to encourage in-state travelers and out-of-state visitors to
experience culture, art and the humanities at Missouri events, festivals and institutions.
“Missouri is rich in history and culture,” said Ashley Beard-Fosnow, executive
director of Missouri Humanities, “and we want people of all ages and interests to
learn more about how people, the arts and different traditions helped shape our state.
Horizons is designed to do that by encouraging people to find new experiences.”
As part of the pilot year of the program, nine organizations were selected to
participate in Horizons and to receive $10,000 grants from Missouri Humanities to
support cultural events that are open to the public and meet other selection criteria.
Organizers are encouraged to promote their activities to audiences who live more
than 50 miles from the event location.
Many of these programs feature artists who celebrate Missouri’s cultural traditions
through song, artistic expression, history demonstrations and other interpretative
“Our goal is to generate more interest in Missouri as a hub for cultural activities and
for our residents and visitors to have an increased appreciation for the arts,” said
Michael Donovan, executive director of the Missouri Arts Council. “The events
featured in Horizons are a source of local pride for the areas in which they’re held and
our organizations want all Missourians, and visitors, to feel that sense of community.”
Events on the Horizons calendar resume in 2023 with:
• Pony Express Museum Family Festival, Feb. 20, in St. Joseph
• Dogtown Irish Festival and Parade, March 17, in St. Louis
• Dogwood Azalea Festival, April 13-16, in Charleston
• Cinco De Mayo, May 5-6, in Kansas City
• Twain on Main, May 27, in Hannibal
• For the People Pow Wow, May 27-28, in Jefferson City
• Scott Joplin Ragtime Festival, May 31-June 3, in Sedalia
• Old Time Music Ozark Heritage Festival, June 2-3, in West Plains
Bluegrass Festival, set for Sept. 23-24 in Carl Junction,
“While these events are the stars of the show, there’s much to explore in the host
communities,” said Stephen Foutes, director of Missouri Division of Tourism.
“Visitors will find great local dining, art and history museums, beautiful outdoor
spaces, and perhaps a renewed appreciation for all Missouri has to offer.”
To learn more about Horizons, please visit MoHumanities.org and
MissouriArtsCouncil.org. To find great places to explore in Missouri, check out
About Missouri Humanities - For more than 50 years, Missouri Humanities has been dedicated to
helping Missourians explore the people, places, and ideas that shape our society. Our focus for the
future remains the same; for a more thoughtful, informed, and civil society.
About Missouri Arts Council - The Missouri Arts Council, a division of the office of the
Lieutenant Governor, is the state agency dedicated - as public leader, partner, and catalyst - to
broadening the growth, availability, and appreciation of the arts in Missouri and fostering the
diversity, vitality, and excellence of Missouri’s communities, economy, and cultural heritage.
About Missouri Division of Tourism – The Missouri Division of Tourism showcases Missouri
experiences through compelling storytelling to inspire travel, support healthy communities and
strengthen our economy. The travel industry is vital to Missouri’s economy, generating more than
$12.5 billion in tourism-related spending and supporting more than 255,000 jobs in FY21.
The Scott Joplin International Ragtime Foundation (SJIRF) presents its Eighth YouTube Concert (SSN8) to support artists with limited live music options due to Covid 19. We invite you to tune in Saturday, April 23 at 9PM (eastern) time to view performances by Morten Gunnar Larsen from Oslo, Norway and Bill McNally (Texas) along with SJIRF Artistic Director, Bryan Wright (Pittsburgh, PA) who serves as MC.
While the SJIRF has provided each performer with a small stipend for their time and talent, any ‘tips’ you can offer will be greatly appreciated by the artists. Links to tip on-line using a credit card are shown with the YouTube or Facebook posts….or you can do so by clicking: https://www.scottjoplin.org/donate.html
Or, you can mail a donation to:
Syncopated Saturday Night | Scott Joplin Ragtime Foundation
PO Box 1244 | Sedalia, MO 65302
To view Syncopated Saturday Night 8 on YouTube, copy or click this link:
https://youtu.be/axCsySmRRZE or go to our YouTube home page: https://www.youtube.com/scottjoplin65301
To view this on Facebook: watch it at: https://www.facebook.com/ScottJoplinRagtimeFoundation
For more information on:
Morten Gunnar Larsen http://www.opheliaragtime.com/Morten_Gunnar_Larsen.html
Bill McNally https://www.williammcnally.com/
Bryan Wright: http://www.bryanswright.com/wpdir/
The Scott Joplin International Ragtime Foundation (SJIRF) presents its Seventh YouTube Concert (SSN7) to support artists with limited live music options due to the pandemic. We invite you to tune in Saturday, December 4, 2021 at 8:15 PM (eastern) time to view performances by Paul Orsi and Dalton Ridenhour, along with SJIRF Artistic Director, Bryan Wright who serves as MC.
While the SJIRF has provided each performer with a small stipend for their time and talent, any ‘tips’ you can offer will be greatly appreciated by the artists. Links to tip on-line using a credit card are shown with the YouTube or Facebook posts….or you can do so by clicking u HERE.
Or, you can mail a donation to:
Syncopated Saturday Night | Scott Joplin Ragtime Foundation | PO Box 1244 | Sedalia, MO 65302
To view Syncopated Saturday Night 7 on YouTube, copy or click this link:
or go to our YouTube home page link: https://www.youtube.com/scottjoplin65301
To view this on Facebook: watch it at: https://www.facebook.com/ScottJoplinRagtimeFoundation
For more information on Paul Orsi: https://www.facebook.com/paul.orsi.5
For more information on Dalton Ridenhour: https://www.daltonridenhour.com/
For more information about Bryan Wright: http://www.bryanswright.com/wpdir/
William Robert Long, 73, of Lee’s Summit, formerly of Sedalia, died Friday, July 16, 2021. He was raised and educated in Sedalia. Bill graduated from UMKC in 1970 where he was a member of the Swinging Choraliers, a performance group that made frequent USO tours abroad. He taught in Kansas and Missouri for many years until his retirement. He served as organist and choir director at several churches throughout his career.
Bill was devoted to the Scott Joplin Ragtime Foundation and especially to the Festival itself.
In the early 1980s, the Festival was ONE HUGE TENT at the actual Maple Leaf Club site. He and Frank Mehl were at The Big Tent all day, every day of the Festival. The ragtime performers would pick the time slot they wanted to play and Frank would keep track of this list. Bill Long was the MC every day. He was funny, witty, and had a unique sense of humor!
He served on the Foundation’s Board of Directors for many years and as President in 2000 and 2002. We are saddened to know of his passing.