Local Festivals

Published on May 19th, 2016 | by Brittain Thompson


World Championship Old Time Piano Playing Contest and Festival May 26–30

The World Championship Old Time Piano Playing Contest and Festival is set to be held in Oxford, Mississippi from May 26-30. This is the first time the festival has been held in Oxford with the last 41 years of the event taking place in Illinois.

The World Championship will take place at the University of Mississippi’s Nutt Auditorium and music building as well as at businesses on the Square throughout the weekend.

Contest Coordinator Faye Ballard spoke with us, discussing the details of her involvement and what we can expect from this year’s contest and festival.

“I’m basically the liaison between the contest and the contestants,” said Ballard. “I also make sure that the contestants have turned in proper songs to compete with and escort them to the stage area from the practice room. [I’m] kind of like a “Mary Poppins” but with a larger nursery and older Children.”

Like many involved with the contest, Ballard is a contestant turned organizer.

“I’ve been involved with the contest as a contestant since 1977. I took over as contest coordinator in 2010 when the previous coordinator decided she was ready to retire.”

Ballard explained that the decision to relocated to Oxford was spurred on by previous judge and this year’s “host,” Ian Hominick’s excitement of bringing the festival down south.

“Ian Hominick, who is our ‘host’ for this year’s contest, has been a previous judge in the competition and a part of our organization for many years,” said Ballard. “When he heard that we were planning to relocate, he offered a plan to move us to the campus of Ole Miss in Oxford. We were delighted to take him up on it and can’t wait for everyone to see our new location.”

The contest kicks off Thursday with a Tune-Ups Party at Proud Larrys’ where contestants and guests will play throughout the evening.

“Right now we have 12 regular division contestants and five junior division contestants but our deadline is still open so we hope to still get some more competitors,” said Ballard. “We also have a new rag contest, a cutting contest, and a duet contest that are available.”

The New Rag Contest, where contestants will be judged on how well they perform their original tunes, and the Piano Duet Contest, where competitors pair up to win best duo, will be held in Nutt Auditorium at 4:30 pm and 8 pm respectively on Friday.

Friday night closes out with the Ring of Ragtime event hosted at Local’s, Frank & Marlee’s, and Shelter on Van Buren. Over the course of the evening, pianists will rotate through the three venues playing a few selections each.

Saturday features a Silent Movie Luncheon at 11:45 am in the Music Building Band Hall. Movie goers will get to watch two 20-minute silent films that will be accompanied by live piano playing by four-time champion Adam Swanson.

Slated for Sunday are the Semi-Finals and Finals, a Concert form “Blind Boy” Paxton, and a Post-Concert Reception at The White House on S. Lamar Blvd.

Also on Sunday is the Cutting Contest at 10:30 am. This contest will involve contestants taking turns attempting to outplay each other by increasing the complexity of the arrangement or changing the key and tempo of it.

Organizers have high hopes for attendance this year, even with the drastic change in location.

“One can never be sure about these things,” said Ballard. “We have always had a great audience for our contest festival and hope to do the same this year. We hope to have at least three to four hundred attend.”


Weekend passes and single event tickets to The World Championship Old Time Piano Playing Contest and Festival can purchased now online at oldtimepianocontest.org/tickets. The Local Voice Ligature

North Mississippi Hill Country Blues Picnic is June 23–25, 2016
Batesville Springfest 2016 May 13–14 Presented by Batesville Main Street

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About the Author

Brittain is an associate editor of The Local Voice, ex-journalism student, and bad noise maker from the highway town of Brandon, MS.

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