If ragtime had a season, it would be Spring. I’m not sure why – maybe the blossoming and blooming of a billion life forms makes more sense set against a jaunty rhythm – but whatever the reason, it’s been a busy time to be a Martin.
In March, I had a blast in Starkville, MS at the Charles Templeton Ragtime Jazz Festival. It was pretty much a dream gig for me: amazing lineup, gracious-to-a-fault hosts, posh accommodations, friendly faces, great pianos, and good money. I can’t speak highly enough of the event, masterminded by Stephen Cunetto and the folks at Mississippi State University Libraries. If you ever get a chance to attend, take it. It’s wonderful.
A special treat was meeting Dave Jasen, the foremost scholar of ragtime music on the planet. Many, many nights of my youth were spent reading his books on the subject of ragtime. His words were often the last that would pass through my eyes before sleep took me, and so it was terrific fun to meet him. He lived up to his reputation as an iracible, vulgar teddy bear – I’m pretty sure he dropped more F-bombs in front of the southern ladies than we dropped in WWII – but it was the great honor of my life to have him say, “I hate you!” when he heard me play. A good, good man.
After Mississippi, I switched gears and put on my filmmaking cap. Ten years ago I started dreaming up my own Star Wars movie, which has materialized into a massive effort known as Star Wars: Hunt for the Holocron. I flew down to Texas in April to oversee some of the final photography on the project, and was delighted with the work we were able to accomplish thanks to artist Dan Harp and his incredible spaceship models.
Here’s a picture of me in director mode:
Now it’s back to ragtime, with my next appearance scheduled for this weekend at the World Old-Time Piano Playing Championship in Peoria, IL. It’s a new venue this year – the Four Points Sheraton downtown – and I have to try and defend my current title as reigning champion! We’ve got former champions in attendance, including Ethan Uslan and Bill Edwards, who no doubt want to unseat me and own the trophy. So, to prepare, I have followed a strict regimen of procrastination that has thus far looked like so:
- Choose my pieces at the absolute last minute.
- Learn three of the six pieces and decide just to “wing” the rest.
- Forget to get my name engraved on the trophy.
- Have nothing to wear because my old outfit doesn’t fit anymore.
…at this point I pull a Han Solo and go, “Never tell me the odds.” But if I were a bet on the craps table, let’s just say the House would be smiling right now.
After Peoria, I have a week to recuperate and learn some new tunes. From June 6-14 I’ll be traveling through Missouri performing at the Scott Joplin International Ragtime Festival and, for the first time ever, the Blind Boone Ragtime Festival in Columbia, MO. June 16th I’m playing at a wedding reception, and then July 11th I’m performing at Walter Reed Medical Center for the wounded veterans and their families.
Somewhere in here I have a 40-hour-a-week job, a wife, and a move to a new apartment at the end of June. Whew.
It’s a busy time to be a Martin.