This wonderful groundbreaking music is all but forgotten and its story remains untold. This Is Ragtime: The Birth of American Music offers a long-overdue look and listen to America’s first truly original popular music. From its often controversial roots in slave dances, minstrel shows and the bordellos of the late 19th Century to its explosion into the pop music scene in the 20th Century, Ragtime provided the foundation for Tin Pan Alley Pop, Jazz, and even Rock & Roll. This documentary tells the whole story and recreates the music of Ragtime’s legendary composers such as Scott Joplin, Jelly Roll Morton, Irving Berlin and Eubie Blake. The program features new performances by some of today’s top musical entertainers including Jazz master, Wynton Marsalis and Ragtime virtuoso and Eubie Blake protégé, Terry Waldo.
William Nix - Chairman
Charles Hobson - Producer
This Is Ragtime: The Birth of American Music is dependent on grants, and private and corporate donations for funding. Help to support this important musical documentary project with your tax-deductible donation through our 501(c)(3) non-profit fiscal sponsor, The International Documentary Association.By credit card / PayPal click here:
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The International Documentary Association is an organization that provides support services to 3,000 members in 50 countries. Fiscal sponsorship is a legal and financial arrangement which allows IDA (a 501(c)(3) tax exempt non-profit organization) to confer its nonprofit status and financial oversight to documentary projects. IDA provides this service to projects that meet the fiscal sponsorship requirements and that are in line with their mission statement. To find our documentary on IDA's website, http://documentary.org/fsp/3669
This Is Ragtime: The Birth of American Music will be a 90-minute television music/documentary for the PBS series, Great Performances. The documentary will be based on Terry Waldo’s award-winning book, This Is Ragtime and will feature live concert and on-location recreations of the original music as performed by today’s greatest interpreters of Ragtime. These segments will be interlaced with narration, fascinating talks with musicians and historians, photos, and rare historic film footage.
Our program will tell the intriguing story of Ragtime from its beginnings in slave music and the “red light districts” through its various revivals during the twentieth century. Evolving from diverse European and African sources, it first appeared in 1897 and immediately became a “syncopated rage.” America went “Ragtime Mad.” This new music endured for twenty years as the nation’s favorite form of "pop." And as George & Ira Gershwin stated in their first collaboration: “The Real American Folk Song Is a Rag.”
The program will illuminate the lives and contributions of the original creators, primarily African Americans. The roster of geniuses includes: the reclusive Scott Joplin, composer of “Classic Rags” and syncopated operas worthy of comparison with the European masterworks; New Orleans Creole composer Jelly Roll Morton who defined the style of Ragtime that ultimately became known as “Jazz;” Baltimore native and son of ex-slaves, Eubie Blake, who ignited the Harlem Renaissance and “The Jazz Age” when he brought Ragtime to the Broadway stage; and Irving Berlin, writer of the snappy ragtime lyrics and music that led to his crowning as the “King of Tin Pan Alley.” These and other great American composers created a body of music that expressed as never before the spirit, vitality, and inventiveness of American life.
This Is Ragtime: The Birth of American Music
will be produced by veteran award-winning documentary producer, Charles Hobson of Vanguard Documentaries, Inc., Will Nix of Creative Projects Group, and Janice Lee and Terry Waldo of Waldo/Lee Music Productions Inc. With this production we hope to document and save a big part of our musical heritage for future generations. And especially for young audiences today, we hope to provide them with a rare opportunity to experience this wonderful music and connect to the roots of the American music they hear today.
Why Ragtime? Ragtime is the largely unrecognized bedrock of our musical heritage. It is a vibrant, innovative, endlessly rich musical form. No sound film performances exist from the ragtime era (1897 to 1917) and no documentaries on ragtime are currently available. While Ragtime has been cited in some TV shows on Jazz, it has been dismissed as just a formal, written-down, non-improvised music that predated “real” Jazz. Whereas, in fact, Jazz was originally a variety of Ragtime.
Terry Waldo, the premier Ragtime performer and historian, is in a unique position to present this music and its story. He is the living link to the old masters of this music--he is the protégé of the legendary Eubie Blake; he has played and recorded with several members of Jelly Roll Morton’s bands; and he has performed with many of the famous Ragtime and Jazz revivalists from the 40s and 50s including Turk Murphy. He knows the “soul” of the music as few others do.
Program Distribution In initial discussions, PBS’s Great Performances has expressed interest in including This Is Ragtime in their program series. Other potential collaborators include foreign TV networks, including the BBC, Arte (Franco-German) and Denmark Radio. We will also develop a variety of ancillary products including a book, DVD, and music CD.
Terry Waldo, the protégé of the late Eubie Blake, is a virtuoso ragtime, stride, and blues pianist as well as a vocalist and performer, famous for his dry wit. Terry has produced and arranged over 50 albums including a ragtime orchestra album for BMG. He has performed and composed for hundreds of TV programs and also films including The Naked Dance: The Music of Storyville for PBS. Terry’s music can also be heard on the soundtrack of the recent PBS documentary, Unforgivable Darkness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson. This year Terry appeared and performed one of his own compositions on the popular BBC series, The Code. He also brings extensive TV credentials having worked for the legendary Warner QUBE interactive Television Network where he acted as talent, music director and producer. Terry’s book, This is Ragtime, reprinted by Jazz at Lincoln Center Editions in a new updated and expanded version in 2009 has a new introduction by Wynton Marsalis and is the definitive book on the subject. As Wynton says, “If I want to know anything about Ragtime, I go to Terry Waldo.” His National Public Radio 26-part series, of the same title, fueled the 1970s ragtime revival. Terry’s numerous theatrical credits include his one-man shows, The Naked Dance: The Music of Storyville and Eubie and Me. He was the music director for the André De Shields musical about Louis Armstrong, Ambassador Satch, which opened in London’s West End. Terry has appeared in concerts worldwide, including several shows for George Wein’s JVC Jazz Festival at Carnegie Hall and Jazz at Lincoln Center. Recently he has appeared with the New York Pops at Carnegie Hall where he presented the world premiere of a Eubie Blake concerto. Terry Waldo and Janice Lee (producer) formed Waldo/Lee Music Productions, Inc to develop and produce Waldo’s theatrical, TV, and recording projects. www.terrywaldo.com
Charles Hobson’s distinguished TV career spans four decades. He is the founder and artistic head of Vanguard Documentaries and has worked extensively with PBS and the BBC. Mr. Hobson is an Emmy Award winner and received the Japan Prize 'Special Citation' and the CINE Golden Eagle Award. He has been ranked one of the fifty top producers in the film and television industry by Millimeter magazine and was a Fulbright Scholar (Germany) in 1996. Among his many credits are From Jump Street: A Story of Black Music (a 13-part PBS series), The Africans (a 9-part series co-produced with the BBC), the Emmy Award-winning television series Like It Is (WABC-TV), Global Links (a 6-part series on international development, co-produced with the World Bank for PBS), and Spaces (a 6-part science series, funded by the Department of Education). Hobson and Vanguard specialize in international co-productions, including their recent project, Harlem in Montmartre: Paris Jazz, a co-production with Great Performances/Thirteen/WNET (New York), Ideale Audience International (Paris) and Independent Television Service (ITVS), which began airing August 26, 2009. Charles was honored in February, 2010 by McDonald’s Corporation as one of their 18 Black Media Legends. www.vanguarddocumentaries.com
Janice Lee (Director/Producer) is co-founder of Waldo/Lee Music Productions, Inc in NYC. She has developed and produced many of its projects, including the theatrical shows: Waldo’s 1927 Revue, Eubie & Me, 100 Years of Ragtime, Shake That Thing! and T’ain’t No Sin. She has also produced many of Terry Waldo’s albums including Footlight Varieties, Jas & Blues, Waldo’s Gotham City Band, Classic Waldo, and Let It Shine. She is currently developing an Off-Broadway version of T’ain’t No Sin www.terrywaldo.com
Wynton Marsalis’s name has become almost synonymous with Jazz. He is, in fact, its leading performer and spokesperson. Wynton is recognized not only as a virtuoso trumpet player in all styles of jazz as well as classical music, but also as a composer, dynamic teacher and the Artistic Director of Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York City. Marsalis has been a tireless promoter of classical and jazz music to young audiences all over the world. He has appeared in countless national television, radio and live concert performances and has won numerous awards including nine Grammys and a Pulitzer Prize for Music.
Senator Alan Simpson was elected to the U.S. Senate on November 7, 1978. From 1985 to 1995, Senator Simpson was the Republican whip and Assistant Republican Leader in the Senate. He was chairman of the Veterans' Affairs Committee from 1981 to 1985 and again from 1995 to 1997. He also chaired the Immigration and Refugee Subcommittee of Judiciary; the Nuclear Regulation Subcommittee; the Social Security Subcommittee and the Committee on Aging. From 1997 to 2000, Simpson taught at the Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics, and Public Policy at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and served for two years as the Director of the Institute of Politics at the Kennedy School. Senator Simpson has been co-chair of President Obama’s Deficit Commission, which recently released the Simpson-Bowles Deficit Reduction Plan.