Musicians gather for Ragtime Jazz Fest at MSU

By Sheena Barnett/NEMS Daily Journal

America’s oldest genre of music is getting a celebration and revival at the Charles Templeton Ragtime Jazz Festival.
Musicians from across the country – and even across the pond – are gathering at Mississippi State University in Starkville for the sixth annual festival. The event features panels and concerts honoring ragtime jazz. There will be intimate “Talk @ Piano” concerts during the day, and more formal concerts at night.
For festival director Lyle Tate, the “Talk @ Piano” concerts are a highlight.
“It’s an opportunity for artists to share for an hour or so,” Tate said. “It’s an hour about themselves at the piano, right at the audience. It’s very laid back and casual. It’s a chance for the audience to ask questions and make requests.”
The ragtime festival welcomes newcomer artists as well as those who have previously performed at the event.
Artists include Grammy-nominated ragtime musician Brian Holland; English pianist Sonny Leyland; pianist, vocalist and bandleader Jeff Barnhart; and pianist Martin Spitznagel.
“One really exciting and unusual aspect this year is having Jeff Barnhart and Brian Holland in the same festival,” Tate said. “They’re a dynamic duo; they play well off each other.”
Spitznagel and Leyland performing together at the Friday night concert, with Barnhart and Holland performing together Saturday night. Each musician will have his own “Talk @ Piano” concert, too.
“It’s a really unique festival in this part of the country. There are a number of these festivals like this all over the U.S., but in the Southeast it’s not something you’ll easily find,” Tate said. “Ragtime is really the source of all American music. It really keeps the roots of American music alive and active and exciting.”

WHAT: Charles Templeton Ragtime Jazz Festival, featuring Brian Holland, Jeff Barnhart, Sonny Leland and Martin Spitznagel

WHEN: Events begin at 9 a.m. Friday and 9:30 a.m. Saturday, with concerts at 7:30 p.m. each night.

WHERE: “Talk @ Piano” concerts and panels at Mitchell Memorial Library on MSU campus. Concerts at Lee Hall’s Bettersworth Auditorium.

COST: $50/all events badge, $30/Friday-only badge, $30/Saturdayonly badge, $10/Friday night concert, $10/Saturday night concert

INFO: (662) 325-2559 or

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