Before Jazz, Swing and Rock & Roll, there was... Ragtime.

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.

Contact

Creative Projects Group
William Nix - Chairman
818-763-0374
wnix@thisisragtime.com

Vanguard Documentaries
Charles Hobson - Producer
347-725-1677
chobson@thisisragtime.com
Waldo/Lee Music Productions
Janice Lee - Producer
917-940-1375 / 212-362-5922
jlee@thisisragtime.com

Waldo/Lee Music Productions
Terry Waldo - Producer
646-342-6257 / 212-362-5922
twaldo@thisisragtime.com

Donate

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:

You can also donate by check. Please make the check payable to International Documentary Association (IDA), writing “This Is Ragtime” in the Memo. Mail to IDA, c/o Fiscal Sponsorship, 1201 W. 5th Street, Suite M270, Los Angeles, CA 90017.

All donations are legally tax deductible and contributions over $250 will receive a receipt from IDA.

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

Description

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.

Scott Joplin

 
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.

About Us

TERRY WALDO -- Music Supervisor, Featured Performer, Writer/Producer

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 -- Producer

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 -- Producer

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. Formerly worked for Janus Films, was a producer for Heartbeat Media, and Special Projects Director-Producer for the City of Hartford.

WILLIAM NIX -- Executive Producer

William Nix is the Chairman of the Creative Projects Group, a creative incubator for the development and production of motion pictures, television programs, music, interactive videogames, live entertainment, multimedia installations and events.

Will was the Executive Producer of Firedancer, a film about the Afghan Diaspora in the U.S. and the first Afghan feature film to be submitted for Oscar consideration, that had its world premiere in Kabul and its U.S. premiere at the Tribecca Film Festival in New York and served in the same capacity on the companion documentary, Return to Afghanistan www.returntoafghanistanthemovie.com , that premiered at the U.N. Film Festival in New York in October 2007. He also served as both production counsel and Executive Producer for the Spanish language documentary feature, !Ya Basta! that premiered at SXSW in March 2007, which focused on the abduction phenomenon in Mexico. Serving as Executive Producer, he is currently in pre-production on a "globally collaborative" feature entitled The Prophet www.theprophet.com that is slated for production by award-winning animators, narrators, composers and musicians from around the world during 2012-2013, and release in 2014, and also as Producer of a companion biographical feature film based on the life and works of Kahlil Gibran www.thegibranfilm.com. He is developing a transmedia production entitled Voice of the Child, with composer/lyricist/filmmaker, Odette Springer and he has a series of other projects in development, including a documentary entitled Paparazzi, that takes a 360-look at the publicity and fame media.

He is a lifetime voting Member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS), and a Member of the Academy of Television Arts and Science (ATAS), the National Academy of Recording Arts and Science (NARAS), the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences (AIAS), the Producers Guild of America (PGA) and a documentary and feature film producer who actively serves on Award Nominating Screening Juries for both the International Documentary Association (IDA) and AMPAS. Further background and details available at www.creativeprojectsgroup.com

Advisors

WYNTON MARSALIS -- Featured Musician and Advisor

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.

MITCHELL BLOCK

Mitchell Block is president of Direct Cinema Limited in Santa Monica. Block produced the 2011 Academy Award and multiple Emmy Award- nominated documentary film, Poster Girl. He conceived, co-created and is an Executive Producer of the 2008 PBS Emmy Award-winning 10-hour documentary series Carrier and the companion documentary feature, Another Day in Paradise. From 1998-2005, he was a consultant on short and feature nonfiction projects for HBO/Cinemax. He’s been teaching independent film producing at USC’s School of Cinematic Arts since 1979. He was an Executive Producer of HBO's 2001 Academy Award-winning film, Big Mama. No Lies, which he produced and directed, was selected in 2008 for the National Register of Historical Films. Other films selected since 1973 include: American Graffiti, Badlands, Mean Streets and The Sting. He is a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, a founding member of BAFTA-LA, and a life member of the UFVA and IDA. His films have been shown in over 60 countries and are distributed globally by HBO and National Geographic. His personal works are in the media collections of several thousand schools and libraries. Mitchell Block has handled the distribution and marketing of hundreds of documentary, live action, animated short films, and documentary features; 25 have won Oscars and 71 have received Academy Award nominations. For more information: www.imdb.com/name/nm0088753

VIRGINIA ESKIN

Virginia Eskin is a classical pianist with a large and varied repertoire. She has championed and recorded music written by American composers (Edward MacDowell, ArthurFoote, George Chadwick, George Gershwin and many others); women composers such as Amy Beach, Ruth Crawford Seeger, Louise Talma, Marion Bauer, and Vítìzslava Kaprálová; as well as that of composers who perished during the Holocaust. Virginia has also gained a reputation as a Ragtime specialist and has found and recorded neglected works by American female composers. She created the Ragtime Project comprised of four CDs on the KOCH label, and has appeared at the annual Scott Joplin Ragtime Festival in Sedalia, Missouri. Virginia was a regular guest on A Note to You on WGBH-Boston public radio succeeding Roland Nadeau as the program’s host. She has also appeared as a guest on national radio and television, including the CBS “Sunday Morning” television program. More recently, she created and hosted First Ladies of Music, winner of the Clarion Award in 2007. These one-hour programs, produced by WFMT, Chicago, have been heard on over 100 public radio stations around the world. Virginia has taught and given lectures at colleges and universities throughout the United States and Europe, including New England Conservatory, Boston University, Brandeis, Harvard, Northeastern, Goucher, University of Alabama, American College of Greece (Athens), and the International Institute (Madrid). Virginia has frequently lectured and performed at Elderhostel (now Road Scholar) and has given pre-concert lectures for Boston’s Celebrity Series. And for several years, she has given a series of lectures at Boston University’s Evergreen Series, where she has a large and devoted following. Just as she does on her radio programs, Virginia brings added enjoyment to the experience of music by talking about composers (including women composers, a particular Eskin specialty) and their works and demonstrating musical elements that enhance the listening experience. For further background, please see: www.virginiaeskin.com

MAX MORATH

Max Morath is among those who spearheaded the Ragtime revival of the 1970’s with his 1969 Off-Broadway show, Turn of the Century. Other one-man theatricals followed, including The Ragtime Years, Living a Ragtime Life and Ragtime and Again–which premiered at New York’s York Theatre in 2004. He logged over 5000 engagements in the United States and Canada before retiring as a performer in 2007. He continues to work as a writer, lecturer, and consultant. Morath, a native of Colorado Springs, worked his way through Colorado College as a radio announcer and jazz sideman, earning a BA in English. Graduate studies at Stanford’s NBC Radio & Television Institute sharpened his media skills, and in the early 1960’s for PBS (then NET) he wrote and performed 28 half-hour television programs exploring the birth of Ragtime and American popular music. Moving to New York in 1963, he maintained a parallel career for many years in commercial broadcasting as an announcer, pianist, and writer. Morath appeared on a number of popular commercial TV series including, The Bell Telephone Hour, Today, and Tonight. He authored The NPR Curious Listener’s Guide to Popular Standards (Putnam/Perigee, 2002,) and is represented in The Oxford Companion to Jazz (Oxford, 2000) with the essay “Ragtime Then and Now.” He and his wife, the photographer Diane Fay Skomars, published The Road to Ragtime (Donning,1999.) His recordings remain primarily on the Vanguard label, and include the music of Scott Joplin and other Ragtime pioneers, rags by woman composers from the early 20th Century, songs by popular music icons Hoagy Carmichael, George & Ira Gershwin, Irving Berlin, and those of the revered African-American Ziegfeld star Bert Williams. Morath earned an MA in American Studies from Columbia University (1996.) His graduate thesis on the life and work of songwriter, Carrie Jacobs-Bond, inspired his biographical novel I Love You Truly (Universe 2008.) Ragtime to the Max, his radio series produced by Chicago’s WFMT, was released nationally in 2007. His current projects include a book and a play based on the work of journalist Finley Peter Dunne (“Mister Dooley,”) and a screenplay exploring the life of the legendary African-American pianist/savant John William “Blind” Boone. For additional information go to: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Max_Morath.

ROBERT SANTELLI

Robert Santelli is the Executive Director of the GRAMMY® Museum, located in the Nokia Plaza of the L.A. Live Complex in Los Angeles. The core mission of the Museum is to explore and celebrate the enduring legacies of all forms of music; the creative process, the art and technology of the recording process; and the history of the GRAMMY® Awards (see: http://www.grammymuseum.org/home). Mr. Santelli is a noted blues and rock historian, and also the author of more than a dozen books on American music, including Greetings from E Street (The Story of Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band) and The Bob Dylan Scrapbook, both on New York Times Bestsellers List. He has also contributed to Rolling Stone, Musician, Modern Drummer, Guitar Player, Downbeat, the New York Times, and New Jersey Monthly, among other periodicals. He started the American Music Masters Series and the Oral History Project, and also developed the UK’s first pop music museum, the British Music Experience, which opened in London in 2009. Currently, he is serving as Co-Chairman of Woody at 100— a partnership between the GRAMMY Museum and the Woody Guthrie Archives, producing numerous events celebrating Woody Guthrie's 100th birthday throughout 2012 across America and internationally. His latest book, This Land Is Your Land: Woody Guthrie and the This Land Is Your Land: Woody Guthrie and the Journey of an American Folk Song was released in March 2012. He earned his Master's Degree in American Studies from USC, with a focus on the intersection of history, politics and culture with popular American music.

PHIL SCHAAP

Phil Schaap is an iconic figure in NYC’s jazz world--a preeminent jazz historian, producer, archivist, and curator. He hosts a daily morning radio program on 89.9 FM New York, WKCR, the radio station of Columbia University, his alma mater. The show, called Bird Flight, is broadcast from 8:20 am–9:30 am on weekdays and devoted to the music of Charlie Parker. Bird Flight has been running since 1981. Schaap also hosts the weekly Traditions In Swing on Saturday evenings from 6-9 pm, which likewise has been on the air for thirty-two years. He is a cousin of sports journalist Dick Schaap. As an educator Phil has taught Jazz at the graduate level at Columbia University and Rutgers University. Schaap continues his academic teaching career at Princeton University and The Juilliard School, while running an adult Jazz education program for Jazz at Lincoln Center (see: http://jalc.org/). Upon becoming Curator at Jazz at Lincoln Center he left a successful career producing, remastering, and writing for record companies such as Universal, Sony, and PolyGram.

His father was Walter Schaap, one of the first jazz historians and discographers. Phil's early career found him managing the Basie alumni band, The Countsmen (featuring alto saxophonist Earle Warren and trombonist Dicky Wells) and doing sound for various Jazz events including George Wein's Newport Jazz Festival. For 17 years Phil ran the Jazz at The West End jazz room on Broadway at 116th St in New York City, booking on a nightly basis such prominent swing-band alumni as Russell Procope's Ellingtonia, Eddie Barefield, Sonny Greer, Benny Waters, "Papa" Jo Jones, Buddy Tate, Vic Dickenson, Big Nick Nicholas, Ronnie Cole, Eddie Durham and "Doc" Cheatham, more modern jazzers such as Lee Konitz and Joe Albany, and blues artists such as Percy France and Big Joe Turner. Since February 2, 1970 Phil has broadcast Jazz on the radio (primarily on WKCR). He's known for his marathon festivals on one artist, birthday broadcasts, and memorials.

From 1984 to 1991, Schaap was the archivist for the Savoy Jazz label. Schaap has been involved with the re-release of many archival recordings on CD, releases of artists including Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Billie Holiday, Benny Goodman, Louis Armstrong, Machito and the Afro-Cubans and Duke Ellington. For his efforts in engineering, production, and liner notes, Schaap has won seven Grammy awards, including three for producing, three for historical writing, and two for audio engineering. The May 19, 2008 issue of The New Yorker includes a nine-page article about Schaap written by David Remnick. The article is a tribute to Schaap's unique, encyclopedic knowledge of jazz history and his lifelong friendships with many of jazz's greatest players, beginning when he was six years old and Jo Jones became his sometime babysitter. Schaap is a Distinguished Member of the Board of Directors Advisory Committee of The Jazz Foundation of America (see: http://jazzfoundation.org/).

SENATOR ALAN SIMPSON

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.

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