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Fred Hoeptner Receives 2022 Lifetime Achievement Award

Updated: 4 days ago

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.  -- Larry Melton

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