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Charles Templeton Ragtime Jazz Festival returns to MSU

March 24, 2012


Mississippi State University welcomes back the 6th annual Charles Templeton Ragtime Jazz Festival. The event takes place this Friday, March 30 and Saturday, March 31, featuring nighttime concerts at Lee Hall’s Bettersworth Auditorium as well as daytime tours and sessions at the Templeton Music Museum in Mitchell Memorial Library. Performers this year include Jeff Barnhart, Brian Holland, David Jasen, Carl Sonny Leyland and Martin Spitznagel.

“This signature festival features some of the most talented pianists around in a setting that has come to be known for its warmth, hospitality and uniqueness,” festival coordinator Stephen Cunetto said. “Having grown up in Starkville and being a child of the Golden Triangle Area I have often heard there is not much to do in Starkville. This festival is just another example of one of the wonderful cultural events we have in our community. We certainly want this festival to continue to grow and prosper but the only way it can is with the continued public support.”

Festival coordinator and Library Dean Frances Coleman said the festival is an important part of our musical heritage because in the fast pace world we live in it is easy to get caught up in where we are today and not think about where we have been. 

“Understanding our musical heritage helps us understand how all of these music forms and genres are connected,” Coleman said. “As one genre faded, another became popular but essentially grew out of the former. It great to be able to trace the roots of our musical heritage and to see what was happening in our country during these times.”

Chip Templeton, one of the festival organizers, said he is looking forward to this year’s performers.

“This is probably the best group of performers we’ve ever had,” Templeton said. “They just have a lot of fun together and they have great chemistry.”

Templeton said he hopes the community will come out and support the festival and enjoy themselves.

“It’s great entertainment,” Templeton said. “People can find out a new way to experience music –– a way they’ve never thought about before.”

Planning committee member Lyle Tate said one exciting thing this year is having both Barnhart and Holland at the same festival.

“They both travel and play so often that having them in one place together is difficult,” Tate said. “Their chemistry and dynamic on stage is amazing, and we’ll get to experience that Saturday night.”

Tate said ragtime is really the “root” of American music, and so much of what we know today –– even hip-hop and rap –– can be traced back to ragtime.

“Keeping this music alive and learning each year about how ragtime has shaped different genres throughout the years is
exciting and important,” Tate said.

As in previous years, Tate said, organizers hope people will find an open, fun and relaxed festival atmosphere.

“They can visit with other music enthusiasts and with our visiting artists,” Tate said. “The festival is a unique time for people to experience some extraordinarily talented performers and to get to visit and talk with them between sessions. Also, festival-goers can play alongside the artists during the after-hours events after each evening’s concert.”

Tate said public support is huge in making the festival possible.

“If the Starkville community members and a handful of ragtime enthusiasts from around the country didn’t come to the festival, our artists would be playing for empty rooms,” Tate said. “The Starkville community continues to be wonderful cheerleaders for the festival by attending the events, by volunteering in different aspects throughout the weekend and by spreading the word about just how great this music and the festival really is.”

Tate said he is personally excited to meet Spitznagel and to hear him play.

“This is his first visit to the Templeton Festival, and from watching his You Tube videos, he’s going to be an exciting, dynamic addition,” Tate said.

According to a MSU release, the 2012 schedule includes four returning artists and one making his first appearance. Barnhart, one of the returning artists, is a pianist, vocalist, arranger, band leader, recording artist, composer, pedagogue and entertainer. He appears regularly as a soloist and band pianist for international parties, festivals, clubs and cruises. When not performing, Barnhart has recorded as both a pianist and vocalist on more than 75 full-length albums.

Holland has been a ragtime, jazz and stride pianist for almost 30 years. He is a classically trained and Grammy Award-nominated performer. The three-time World Old-Time Piano Playing Champion now serves as a judge for the competition. Most recently, Holland has been featured with performances in the African nation of Rwanda and a subsequent recording project on the Mohawk Productions label.

Jasen is among the most highly regarded authorities on ragtime music. He is a collector of books, recordings, piano rolls, periodicals, catalogs and sheet music that cover the gamut of American popular music. Jasen also has served as an adviser to the Templeton Festival since its inception.

Leyland said he was inspired to go to the piano after discovering boogie-woogie at age 15 and began on a path that became his life’s purpose. Whether solo or with the Carl Sonny Leyland Trio, his play typically involves a spontaneity that provides many happy surprises.

First-timer Spitznagel is often praised for his virtuosic technique, sophisticated touch and sparkling repertoire. He has been a featured performer at the Scott Joplin International, Indiana and West Coast ragtime festivals, as well as at New York’s Ragtime-Jazztime Festival. Spitznagel won the World Old-Time Piano Playing and Scott Joplin Foundation’s “Train Town Rag” Composition contests in 2007 and 2010, respectively.

In addition to the MSU Libraries and Templeton Music Museum, the festival is sponsored by the Starkville Area Arts Council, Rotary Club of Starkville and Greater Starkville Development Partnership. In part, additional sponsorships also are provided by the Mississippi Arts Council and National Endowment for the Arts.

To view the performance schedule and purchase tickets for the individual programs –– or entire festival –– visit For additional ticket or schedule information, contact Tate at 662-325-2559 or

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