World Championship Old Time piano playing contest returns to Oxford

Published 10:55 am Friday, May 17, 2024

By Deb Wenger

Guest contributor


Get ready to tap your feet and experience the magic of timeless piano melodies as the World Championship Old Time Piano Playing Contest celebrates its 50th anniversary.

This year, the event includes a lineup of pianists and a record-breaking $10,000 in prizes. The festivities kick off Thursday, May 23 with a concert by the Grammy-nominated Judy Carmichael.

Carmichael is one of the world’s leading interpreters of “stride piano” and swing. Count Basie nicknamed her “Stride” acknowledging the command with which she plays this technically and physically demanding jazz piano style. Judy has been featured on NPR’s Morning Edition, CBS’ Sunday Morning and beyond. She also hosts “Judy Carmichael’s Jazz Inspired” for NPR stations across the country.

Contest Artistic Director Ian Hominick has hosted Judy Carmichael here on her only trip to Mississippi before now.

“Judy is a bundle of energy. Her versatility as a performer will delight the audience as she plays and sings her way through timeless classics,” Hominick said. “Her special guest during the performance will be noted jazz guitarist Larry Koonse from Los Angeles. Judy will remain in Oxford to judge the Contest over Memorial Day weekend.”

For half a century, the World Championship Old Time Piano Playing Contest has been bringing together piano enthusiasts, preserving the rich heritage of ragtime, jazz, and early 20th-century American piano music.

This milestone year is set to be a grand celebration with 33 talented pianists aged 11 to 83 from across the United States, England, France, and Japan.

“It is important that competitors feel they are entering a competitive playing field. The Junior contestants are all excited to get up and perform and they learn so much from the professional pianists that they can use to get to the next level,” Hominick said. “I created the Senior Division a few years back to allow and encourage those over age 60 to enjoy a more realistic experience competing against their peers, rather than someone half their age.”

The pianists will compete in various categories, each aiming to impress the judges and audience with their technical skill, creativity, and passion. The contest runs through Sunday in Oxford with tickets available for all events.

Carmichael’s concert is set for 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, May 23 in Nutt Auditorium on the University of Mississippi campus.